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March 27, 2000 11:30pm
''Sex'' is great in Greece
Source: Reuters/Variety
by: David Stratton

(BERLIN) -- Outgrossing even ``Titanic'' in its native Greece and currently the most popular film ever released in that country from any source, ``Safe Sex'' is a local blockbuster.

Made independently, with no input from the Greek Film Center, backer of most quality Greek pics, the film is a most impressive achievement by any yardstick. Finding theatrical bookings in other territories may not be so easy, however, as sketchlike pic, which comically explores the sexual hang-ups of a cross-section of familiarly drawn characters, isn't especially original. There are, however, strong prospects for TV and video sales in many territories for this cheerfully slapdash, but really rather chaste, comic romp.

Writers-directors Thanassis Papathanassiou and Michalis Reppas bring a TV-scale sensibility to eight interconnected stories concerning sexually frustrated or voracious contemporary Athenians. ``Short Cuts'' approach is hit-and-miss but pays off in the protracted climax when most of the characters, seen separately till then, come together.

Gallery of types includes Costas, a middle-aged married man who gets a charge out of phone sex and who, one day, dials a wrong number and finds himself talking to Panayota, a dowdy middle-aged woman who quickly assumes the identity of the imaginary Dorothy, who's as sexy and beautiful as Panayota is plain and plump. Costas becomes enamored with the fictitious Dorothy. His wife, Georgia, meanwhile, is a TV soap addict, given to fantasies about her favorite actors.

Georgia's brother, Yannis, is a failed artist who lives with Anna, a successful ad agency exec; Anna's boss, Phedon, is a womanizer who likes to personally check out the bust sizes of models his company employs for ads. He also makes passes at his pretty secretary, though the erotic messages he sends her wind up in the computer of repressed, spinsterly Katy, who naturally thinks she's caught the boss's roving eye.

Yannis and Anna are friendly with their neighbors, Panos and Alexis, an apparently contented gay couple; they in turn spend time with Vera, a soap actress (featured in the show Georgia watches regularly) and her husband, Stathis, but there's a crisis when Alexis and Stathis have a fling. Then there's Anna's mother, Rena, who owns a private clinic and is extremely jealous of Apostolos, her younger husband, a surgeon.

The paths of these characters, and others, cross in the last half hour of the cheerfully chaotic film, in which, during a single night, partners swap and all manner of complications ensue.

One of the more amusing sequences involves the shooting of a commercial for a sunburn cream that is interrupted when the actor at the center of a group of lissome babes, all clad in swimwear, is deemed by the director to have too modest an appendage, whereupon a female assistant is dispatched to a porn shop to acquire a dildo to boost the actor's image - with predictable results.

Essentially, ``Safe Sex'' is an old-fashioned film, rather flatly directed and played. But it bubbles merrily along, accompanied by a lively soundtrack of popular songs, and - though far from original and certainly not the least bit explicit or generally erotic - succeeds on a frankly adolescent level of humor.

Technical credits are modest but adequate.

With: Mina Adamaki, Alexandros Antonopoulos, Kostas Grekas, Vaso Wilielmiaki, Haris Grigoropoulos, Mary Kavogianni, Eleni Kastani, Krateros Katsoulis, Kostas Koklas, Vicky Koulianou, Vladimiros Kyriakides, Thodoris Kotsis, Renia Louisidou.

A Papandreou S.A.-Mega Channel presentation of a Tassos Papandreou production. (Intl. sales: Papandreou, Athens.) Produced by Elena Hatzialexandrou.

Directed, written by Thanassis Papathanassiou, Michalis Reppas. Camera (color), Kostis Gikas; editor, Joanna Spiliopoulou; production designer, Evelyn Sioupi; sound, Dinos Kittou. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Market), Feb. 11, 2000.

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