A purloined video camera is the narrative glue in "CCTV," a mostly riveting fake-docu riff on Schnitzler's "La Ronde." After 29 docus, first-time feature director Vassilis Katsikis takes one excellent idea and creatively pursues the hell out of it: A Greek lad's birthday gift camera trades hands like a dollar bill, recording snippets of activity around it.

A purloined video camera is the narrative glue in “CCTV,” a mostly riveting fake-docu riff on Schnitzler’s “La Ronde.” After 29 docus, first-time feature director Vassilis Katsikis takes one excellent idea and creatively pursues the hell out of it: A Greek lad’s birthday gift camera trades hands like a dollar bill, recording snippets of activity around it. Tale with global resonance is kept aloft by a non-pro ensemble cast. Savvy mix of banal, lascivious and political situations, which won Best Greek Film prize at Thessaloniki in 2004, deserves to be shown in theaters and film school classrooms.

Scripted pic, which draws on the actual lives of its cast, begins as a temperamental but still-functioning video camera with a shattered lens is picked up from a London sidewalk. Police rewind the tape stuck inside whose imagery forms the body of pic.

Tape’s first images are a typical home video of a family gathering. But shortly after, birthday boy and his brother accidentally drop the spanking new camera, creating the erratic recording function that seems to give the appliance a mind of its own.

Dad returns it to the shop for repair, but thieves rob the premises and the camera is off on a journey that ranges from the voyeurism of sex clubs to the adrenalin-soaked reality of violent skirmishes in Pakistan and Italy.

Strung-together vignettes are, for the most part, so compelling and so cleverly lensed that suspension of disbelief isn’t a problem. (Did the camera come with an eternal battery? Why would even a hard-up news pro rely on such a dodgy piece of equipment?)

Although the camera is, by definition, a neutral observer, in this set-up it fortuitously looks at a string of truly human dramas, some humorous, some harrowing.

In the wake of this summer’s London bombings and the on-going debate about the legality of urban video surveillance, pic is a terrific conversation starter that also entertains.

CCTV

Greece

Production

A CL Prods. production. (International sales: Greek Film Center, Athens.) Produced by Costas Lambropoulos. Directed, written by Vassilis Katsikis.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, DV-to-35mm), Katsikis; editor, Angela Despotidou; music, Kiltos Kyriakidis. Reviewed at Chicago Film Festival (World Cinema, non-competing), Oct. 11, 2005. (Also in Thessaloniki Film Festival, 2004.) Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Maria Papskeuopoulou, Lefteris Thermos, Olimpia Diamantopoulou, Vlara Crivellaro, Carlos Quintana Perez, Oscar Maes. (Greek and English dialogue)

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