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Director and writer Dimitris Bavellas received widespread praise and several awards for his debut feature Runaway Day, back in 2013. However, it would seem the Greek filmmaker hasn’t lived up to that promise with In the Strange Pursuit of Laura Durand.
Borrowing heavily from The Big Lebowski – a masterpiece you could watch ten times over and not get bored – it’s pretty much a lost cause.
Two struggling musicians, Antonis (Makis Papadimitriou) and Christos (Mihalis Sarantis) reminisce about the titular Laura (Anna Kalaitzidou), a porn star from the 90s now in obscurity. When she’s then reported as missing, the hapless pair vow to find her and are catapulted into a Cohen-esque world, containing a spectrum of very different characters.
It’s difficult to buy into their mission, especially as they never really earn the tag of ‘lovable losers’ at any point: comedy or not, the audience needs to be on their side. We therefore start to lose sight of the journey they’re on, and with that it quickly descends into a patchwork of sketches, instead of a stand-alone movie. It’s actually better if viewed this way, but that’s beside the point. You get what’s going on (just), but you’re always wondering what the point of In the Strange Pursuit of Laura Durand is.
Basically, it’s not entertaining, original or funny enough to pass muster, and so the off-the-wall feel falls flat. Even the cinematography fails to escape criticism; why not use the picture-postcard scenery that Greece has in spades, even if only now and again? Often the camera angles are strange, with the players too much in the distance in certain scenes – why?
Once the surrealism dies down a bit – just shy of two-thirds of the way through – it becomes more watchable, but it’s all a bit too late by then. Plus it’s not long before it reverts back to type – with a vengeance! Was this a last-ditch attempt to save the film? If so, it’s backfired spectacularly. Now the audience is well and truly lost, as is the storyline.
The last 25 minutes carry a more melancholic tone, but again this is far too late on. So even this aspect doesn’t make us warm to the dynamuc duo: who cares if they find Laura Durand? This takes away any tension that’s been building up as we reach the climax. A shame? Not really, and it’s all its own fault.
Yet this review isn’t all about abject cruelty. Having Antonis’s straight man play alongside the more madcap character of Christos is a good move and is quite amusing in places – just not enough to save it. The best thing about the movie is the synthesiser-heavy soundtrack, which coupled with everything else means a two-star rating would be too generous. However, there’s just enough mildly funny dialogue to take it over one, so one-and-a-half stars it is.
In the Strange Pursuit of Laura Durand is out now, but you’d be better off reminding yourself of the brilliance of The Big Lebowski, even if it is for the tenth time.
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