Review: Broadway


When you hear the word “Athens,” what comes to mind? The cradle of democracy (as long as you were a free male citizen)? Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey? Alexander the Great? Philosophers Socrates and Plato? The Parthenon (whose marble sculptures were swiped by the Duke of Elgin and are now in the British Museum)?

All true – but that was Athens’ golden age. Modern day Athens has become a gritty concrete jungle, with Greece’s unstable government and precarious economy preventing progress.

It’s in this modern Athens that we meet a small group of small-time crooks – pickpockets – who live together in a decaying theater complex called Broadway. They are led by Marcos, who can be charming or brutal, with mercurial shifts between. Marcos (Stathis Apostolou – “Whack”) fancies a young woman, Nelly (Elsa Lekakou – “Persephone”), who works as a stripper at a local club. He persuades her to join the gang at Broadway, and they become lovers.

Soon after, a beaten man, Jonas (Foivos Papadopoulos – “Marionetes”), seeks shelter in the complex. As he heals, it is revealed that he is hiding out from a major criminal leader in the city, the mysterious Maraboo. Marcos wants to kick Jonas out because he will be a burden on the rest of them, but Nelly convinces him that the man can contribute while hiding in plain sight – if he becomes another woman in their street act. Thus Barbara is born.

This act involves first Nelly and then both she and Barbara (Jonas in drag) performing suggestive street dances that attract crowds. Then, while the watchers are distracted, the rest of the gang steals wallets. This is how they make their living. Eventually, Jonas gets caught and sent to prison. Nelly is caught, too, but in a hilarious sequence Jonas recruits the city’s cross dressers to attack the police as a mob, allowing Nelly to escape.

With Marcos gone, Nelly and Barbara develop their own relationship. But then, Jonas is released from prison and returns.

Director/writer Christos Massalas (“Copa-Loca”) has given us a brooding, sensual look into a group of small-time social outcasts who are making a living on the edge of society. The piece is beautifully filmed by Konstantinos Koukoulios (“Citizen Europe”), and the action is beautifully counterpointed by a haunting recurrent theme as well as energetic dance number music, thanks to Gabriel Yared (“The English Patient”).

We are voyeurs as Nelly turns Jonas from a wounded man hiding for his life into a sexually ambiguous dance partner and finally lover, all expertly choreographed by Massalas. The exploration of personality and relationship is accomplished as much in silent expression as it is in words.

This is a beautiful film in all ways, but is slow to develop. The patient viewer will reap rewards.

Be aware there is strong sexual content and brief but brutal violence. After all, this is Athens.

Runtime: One Hour, 37 minutes
Availability: Theaters now / Digital and DVD, May 16, 2023

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