The male ego has rarely been so blatantly stroked as in Nikos Panayotopoulos’ “Dying in Athens,” an upbeat musical meditation on a serial philanderer’s confessions. Pic wants to be a Greek “All That Jazz” with a touch of Jacques Rivette’s “Up, Down, Fragile,” but despite genuinely lovely moments under the vet director’s skilled supervision, the attractive packaging is hollow. Big production values may get locals into cinemas, while fest appeal could ride on Panayatopoulos’ rep.
Teaching art history must pay one heck of a salary for middle-aged Andreas (Spyros Papadopoulos) to afford the fab apartment he shares with wife Anna (Maria Nafpliotou), not to mention the regular love nest he rents in one of Athens’ finest hotels for trysts with student Lia (Vicky Papadopoulou). Plus, he’s supporting longtime mistress Camille (Maria Solomou), who selflessly gave up her job so she could always be available.
Unexpectedly diagnosed with terminal leukemia, Andreas decides to tell Anna everything. Of course, she knows about Camille, but the news of young Lia is something of a shock. Still, living with Andreas and his lies is better than not having him at all, Anna tells him. And in sisterly solidarity, she’s the one to tell Camille about Andreas’ illness.
Camille in turn tells Lia, and everything works much better than even Andreas could have expected. In the hospital, the three women band together to fill his final weeks with love and good cheer.
Panayotopoulos (“Delivery”) gives his paean to male fantasy a sprightly musical overlay, creating a world where young lovers suddenly dance in a downtown square or Anna sings of her all-encompassing love. These scenes are mostly handled with an infectious brio — though dancing, smoking surgeons seem to have jeteed from a Rosa von Praunheim film.
However, the trouble isn’t with the singing and dancing, but with the representation of women, all shown as willing sufferers of their man’s emotional cruelty. In a line guaranteed to make Betty Friedan spin in her grave, Lia tells Andreas that women like it when men put on an act. As a cherry on the cake, Panayotopoulos even throws in a last-minute lesbian scene.
Femme thesps are all warm and attractive; but while Papadopoulos has a certain appeal, it’s hard to see why he’s such catnip to the ladies. Aris Stavrou’s widescreen lensing is the pic’s best asset, making Athens look chic and attractive, and investing even snow-filled scenes with a welcoming warmth.