Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tribeca ’15: Wednesday 04:45

Stelios Dimitrakopoulos is a jazz club owner in Greece. It should therefore come as no surprise to learn he is a terrible businessman. With his debt to a Romanian gangster about to come due, Dimitrakopoulos will scramble to find a way to save his club while also fulfilling his more mundane responsibilities in Alexis Alexiou’s Wednesday 04:45 (trailer here), which screens during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.

Dimitrakopoulos has great taste when it comes to identifying emerging Balkan jazz talent, but he is not so hot at the rest of club management. Through Vassos, an old crony-gone-more-crooked, Dimitrakopoulos arranged a loan from “the Romanian.” Naturally, he cannot pay, so he passively agrees to sign over his club. Being Greece, this turns out to be quite a complicated process. In his dealings with Vassos, Dimitrakopoulos crosses paths with Omar, an Albanian who also owes money to the Romanian. However, Omar is not so accepting of the situation.

Eventually, high tempers and deep debts lead to violence. It all rather baffles Dimitrakopoulos as he tries to run his more workaday errands. Of course, it is just a matter of time before the bedlam completely engulfs him.

Alexiou practically screams at the audience, it is all about the austerity program. However, German and American audiences might have trouble ginning up either sympathy or outrage for Dimitrakopoulos’s plight. Not to defend loan sharks, but generally speaking, it is understood when someone borrows money they will eventually have to pay it back, with some sort of interest. Dimitrakopoulos seems to understand this only slightly better than the Greek government. Frankly, considering who he is in hock to, he is getting off quite easy.

Nevertheless, Alexiou’s noir style and thriller mechanics are quite strong. The Athens backdrop gives it an almost postindustrial-dystopian-noir ambiance, sort of like Godard’s Alphaville, but more neon. Cinematographer Christos Karamanis makes the rain-glistening streets and hazy nocturnal club scenes look great, in a genre appropriate way. The acts Dimitrakopoulos books also sound quite intriguing based on snippets we get to hear.

As Dimitrakopoulos, Stelios Mainas is a droopy-eyed middle-aged anti-hero in the Jean Reno tradition. He looks the part as he steadily ratchets up Dimitrakopoulos’s resentment-stoked intensity. In some ways, 04:45 compares to Schumacher’s Falling Down, at least until Alexiou unleashes his inner Johnnie To with a storm-drenched rooftop confrontation. Altogether, it is a distinctive thriller. Recommended for noir fans who do not consider the Regal Battery Park prohibitively inconvenient, Wednesday 04:45 screens again tonight (4/21), as part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.