Romance and confetti are in the air in “Paradise,” the second feature from Greek scribe-helmer Panagiotis Fafoutis (“The Heir”). Set against the madness of the carnival in Patras (a celebration to rival the more famous ones in Venice and Rio), pic traces the interconnected stories of two couples and two one-sided obsessions. Colorful floats and costumes and pumping music are a constant, even as the first hour’s solid crosscutting gives way to a more muddled and protracted second half that quickly diminishes the pic’s emotional resonance. Local cinemas, mainstream-oriented fests and satcasters are the likeliest takers.The four stories are connected to a Paradise-themed carnival float in the Patras parade, which occurs on the last day before Eastern Orthodox lent. Pic is set during the intense few days of preparations and parties that precede the parade, as well as the eye-catching spectacle itself (“Production value!” as the budding filmmaker protag of “Super 8″ would say). London-based Marianna (Natassa Zaga) has returned to surprise her b.f., the party-loving DJ of the float, Mihalis (Mihalis Fotopoulos). Both have secrets: Uber-busy Mihalis hasn’t quite quit using drugs, while Marianna, who bought a one-way ticket, quickly realizes that coming back for good unannounced was perhaps not such a great idea. Eugenia (Maria Skoula), who helps out with the Paradise costumes, has started an affair with the handsome but slightly younger float organizer, Antonis (Andreas Konstantinou). She’s afraid to tell her rebellious teen daughter (Lila Baklesi), who — in one of the pic’s most contrived developments — has the hots for Antonis, too. A gay cook (Constantinos Avarikiotis) is secretly in love with his handsome straight boss, Socrates (Christos Loulis), while the middle-aged float driver, Ilias (Erricos Litsis), still pines for his ex-wife (Olia Lazaridou), a singer who’s scheduled to perform at various parties. Scribe-helmer Fafoutis (whose first name is occasionally transliterated as Panayotis) handsomely sets up the four stories and, together with editor Panos Voutsaras, agilely cuts among them as they build momentum. The large cast of characters and their quandaries are quickly and vividly sketched. But about an hour in, it becomes clear that the loosely connected yarns aren’t all going at the same speed or even building toward one big crescendo. The storylines of Eugenia and Socrates are too dependent on their big reveals and peter out shortly after. And the impact of the tragedies of Ilias and Mihalis could have been amplified if Fafoutis had drawn clearer parallels between the young guy unable to appreciate what he’s got and the old man realizing too late what he used to have. Acting is solid across the board, and other tech credits are strong. D.p. Yorgos Papandrikopoulos’ lighting of interiors is especially noteworthy, though some of the outdoor crowd scenes on the (overcast) day of the parade were clearly shot with inferior equipment. Ioanna Tsami’s costume designs are excellent and also a source of unexpected humor, such as in a shot where a nurse has to tend to a partygoer dressed as the same.
A Strada Films release of a Pan Entertainment production, in association with Greek Film Center, Ert Hellenic Broadcasting Corp., Guanaco, Homemade Films production. (International sales: Pan Entertainment, Athens.) Produced by Maria Drandaki. Executive producer, Constantinos Moriatis. Directed, written by Panagiotis Fafoutis.
Camera (color), Yorgos Papandrikopoulos; editor, Panos Voutsaras; music, George Pallikaris; production designer, Pinelopi Valti; costume designer, Ioanna Tsami; sound (Dolby Digital), Dimitris Kanellopoulos; Aris Louziotis, Panos Voutsaras. Reviewed at Thessaloniki Film Festival (Greek Films), Nov. 8, 2011. Running time: 108 MIN.
Natassa Zaga, Mihalis Fotopoulos, Olia Lazaridou, Erricos Litsis, Christos Loulis, Constantinos Avarikiotis, Maria Skoula, Andreas Konstantinou, Lila Baklesi, Vaggelis Alexandris, Thanassis Vlavianos, Liza Neohoriti.