Peter Strickland: One of the most fascinating, radical and idiosyncratic filmmakers of the last fifteen years outlines an uncanny, experimental and highly demanding personal path

The 63rd Thessaloniki International Film Festival is welcoming one of the most fascinating, radical and idiosyncratic filmmakers of the last fifteen years, hosting a full-scale homage to his work. British (with Greek roots) director Peter Strickland, who will be honouring this year’s Festival with his presence, has built a passionate fan base, eager to follow him in all his bizarre, unconventional and adventurous endeavours. From queer chamber dramas and stylized horror grandeur, all the way to dark realism and his sui generis humour flirting with avant-garde, Peter Strickland outlines an uncanny, experimental and highly demanding personal path.

His fervent passion for sound and music is all over his work – so no surprise there that Björk entrusted him with directing Björk: Biophilia Live – as is his love for the craftsmanship process of filmmaking. Peter Strickland’s world is composed of fragments of terror and mystery, as he roams around the darkest corridors of the human mind, interweaving dream and reality. Within the framework of the 63rd TIFF’s tribute to Peter Strickland, five feature films and six short films will be screened. In the list of the tribute’s films stands out his most recent creation, Flux Gourmet, starring Greek much-revered actor Makis Papadimitriou and Arian Labed, among many others.

Feature Films:

Katalin Varga / Romania-UK, 2009, 84’

Banished by her husband and her village, Katalin Varga is left with no other choice than to set out on a quest to find her son’s real father, Orbán. Taking Orbán with her under false pretence, Katalin travels through the Carpathians where she decides to reopen a sinister chapter from her past and take revenge. The hunt leads her to a place, she prayed eleven years before, that she would never set foot in again.

Berberian Sound Studio / UK, 2012, 88’

The year is 1976 and Berberian Sound Studio is one of the cheapest, sleaziest post-production studios in Italy. Only the most sordid horror films have their sound processed and sharpened in this studio. Gilderoy, a naive and introverted sound engineer from England is hired to orchestrate the sound mix for the latest film by horror maestro, Santini. Thrown from the innocent world of local documentaries into a foreign environment fuelled by exploitation, Gilderoy soon finds himself caught up in a forbidding world of bitter actresses, capricious technicians and confounding bureaucracy. The longer Gilderoy spends mixing screams and the bloodcurdling sounds of hacked vegetables, the more homesick he becomes for his garden shed studio in his hometown of Dorking. His mother’s letters alternate between banal gossip and an ominous hysteria, which gradually mirrors the black magic of Santini’s film. As both time and realities shift, Gilderoy finds himself lost in an otherworldly spiral of sonic and personal mayhem, and has to confront his own demons in order to stay afloat in an environment ruled by exploitation both on and off screen.

The Duke of Burgundy / UK, 2014, 106’

Evelyn, an amateur lepidopterist in her early thirties, cycles to the house of an orthoptist called Cynthia where she undertakes various household chores. Cynthia is around fifteen years older than Evelyn. Her cold and unscrupulous conduct belies her elegance, yet Evelyn tolerates the ill-treatment. In between various excursions to study butterflies and moths, Evelyn returns to the house where Cynthia subjects her to increasingly humiliating treatment. The tasks Evelyn has to perform become increasingly intimate, bordering on degrading, but she never protests. Cynthia and Evelyn love each other. Day after day, the couple act out a simple ritual that ends in Evelyn’s punishment, but Cynthia yearns for a more conventional relationship. Evelyn’s obsession quickly becomes an addiction that pushes their relationship to the breaking point.

In Fabric / UK, 2018, 118’

A haunting ghost story set against the backdrop of a busy winter sales period in a department store that follows the life of a cursed dress as it passes from person to person, with devastating consequences.

Flux Gourmet / UK-USA-Hungary, 2022, 109’

A haunting ghost story set against the backdrop of a busy winter sales period in a department store that follows the life of a cursed dress as it passes from person to person, with devastating consequences.

Short Films:

A Metaphysical Education / Hungary, 2004, 4’

A champion runner finds himself torn between winning a race and compulsively amassing any object he finds on his way. The film came about from a workshop run by Balázs Lóth in Budapest called Celluloid Műhely. Each participant was given complete freedom to make anything as long as the production didn’t exceed one roll of 16mm film, which was donated by the workshop.

Berberian Sound Studio / Hungary, 2005, 1’

Two foley artists make sound effects for a cheap B-movie. A teaser (or perhaps appetiser) for Peter Strickland’s masterpiece, manages to contain his intoxicating, immersive universe in one single minute.

Cobblers’ Lot / Hungary, 2017, 12’

Very loosely based on a traditional Hungarian fairy tale, Peter Strickland’s contribution to the omnibus film The Field Guide to Evil, this is an abstract retelling of a folktale about two shoemaker brothers battling for the hand of a beautiful princess. Told in a silent movie style, with beautiful and ornate cards that spell out the story, Strickland’s singular vision is at its peak here. With characteristic grotesqueries coupled with a healthy sense of humour, this story perfectly closed out a weird and scary set of stories to haunt your dreams.

GUO4 / Hungary-UK, 2019, 3’

A confrontation between two swimmers in a locker room ends in tears in this highly imaginative morality tale. Presented as a beautiful combination of homoerotic photography and noise music, the Strickland comments relentlessly on the impudence of “manspreading” in public spaces.

Cold Meridian / Hungary-UK, 2020, 7’

Autonomous Sensory meridian response (ASMR), which has grown to become a YouTube sensation, can be defined as the tingling sensation on our scalp, cervix, and upper spine, followed by a feeling of slight euphoria and relaxation. In this entrancing short film, a series of repeated ASMR rituals immerse us in a hallucinatory and hovering world. Within this dreamlike and voyeuristic maelstrom, all certainties seem to take the form of distorted fantasies.

Blank Narcissus (Passion of the Swamp) / UK, 2022, 12’

An ageing porno director (played by Michael Brandon from Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet) makes a commentary in 2022 for the DVD of an underground 16mm film he made in 1972 and was recently rediscovered. As the beautiful stud in the film undergoes a series of erotic reveries, the director laments his doomed love affair with his protagonist.

The 63rd Thessaloniki International Film Festival will be held from Thursday 3 to Sunday 13 November 2022, both in physical spaces and online. Within the framework of the 63rd TIFF, 199 full-length and 68 short films will be screened in the time-honoured home ground of the Festival, theatres Olympion, Pavlos Zannas, the theatres situated in the Port of Thessaloniki, Frida Liappa, Tonia Marketaki, John Cassavetes, Stavros Tornes, as well in the movie theatre Makedonikon. In addition, the audience will have the chance to watch 93 films online, through the digital platform of the Festival,

Multifaceted and stunning Charlotte Gainsbourg will attend the Festival, on the occasion of the screening of her film, Passengers of the Night by Mikhaël Hers, within the framework of the Open Horizons section of the 63rd TIFF. Moreover, lifelong friend of both the Festival and the city of Thessaloniki, Fatih Akin, will land in Thessaloniki to greet the audience in the screening of his latest film, Rhinegold.



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