Star Yiannis Niarros impresses as a method actor who finds himself becoming unable to separate performance from real life in writer/director Antonis Tsonis’s mesmerizing film.
Intense and ambitious actor Luca (Yiannis Niarros) spends his days rehearsing and watching recordings of lectures by Stella Adler, the legendary acting teacher. He is so absorbed in his craft that he also breaks into monologues and performance art at a moment’s notice in the streets of his Athens neighborhood.
Luca’s ultimate goal is to get to New York where he hopes to make his mark. His brother, Alekos (Kostas Nikouli), with whom he shares a modest apartment, is amused by his ambitions, but supports him nevertheless.
One day, Luca receives a call from an acting studio in New York. They’ve reviewed his application and are extending him an offer to audition for the studio’s two-year training program. He’s thrilled, but how he can possibly raise the money to get there?
Alekos is all in to help his brother, but they need to get cash quickly, so they formulate a desperate plan to commit an armed robbery — but it all goes wrong. Even with a gun waving in his face, their victim fights back aggressively. During the subsequent brawl, Luca accidentally shoots an innocent passerby, Ilias (Alexandros Chrysanthopoulos).
They manage to elude the police, but Luca worries that Ilias had seen his face, even though they were wearing masks. He tracks the man down at a hospital trauma ward, intending to finish the job he started. Ilias doesn’t recognize him, though, and Luca can’t bring himself to go through with it.
Instead, he keeps coming back to visit Ilias, and they gradually forge an offbeat friendship. And how different can they be? The rich guy with a death wish and the intense actor from the other side of the tracks.
Brando with a Glass Eye has much for film lovers to savor. The script is well-crafted, with moments of quirky humor — and it takes off in unexpected directions. Of course, it’s loaded with references to other films and filmmakers. One standout sequence features a surreal birthday celebration that would fit snugly into a Fellini movie.
Brando also benefits from a strong cast. As Luca, Niarros delivers a star-making performance, and he’s supported by other talented actors who make all the relationships convincing.
From a production standpoint, the film looks and sounds great, with sharp cinematography by Jörg Gruber and evocative music by Alexandros Livitsanos.
Reviewed for Slamdance 2024 (world premiere). It screens Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 6:45 p.m. at the Lumix Theater @ the Yarrow Hotel. More information can be found on the Slamdance website.
Photos courtesy of Ficino Films.