Writer-director Jacqueline Lentzou was developing her cinema long before her debut feature Moon, 66 Questions. By age 14, filmmaking was second nature, thanks to one of her favourite toys – a hi-8 camcorder.
She emerged in her late twenties with her 2018 short film Hector Malot: The Last Day of the Year, which was awarded the Leica Cine Discovery Prize at Cannes. Her other short films have appeared in Berlin, Toronto and Locarno, including 2020’s The End of Suffering, a subtle work about anxiety and being attentive to our natural world. One of her mentors on the script for her debut feature was Paul Thomas Anderson, whose feedback was: “You don’t need an advisor. Go do it. Just go and do it.”
Moon, 66 Questions follows twentysomething Artemis – a moving performance by Sofia Kokkali in her third collaboration with Lentzou. After years away, she returns to Athens to care for her father, Paris (Lazaros Georgakopoulos), whose multiple sclerosis has left him unable to move or talk. Artemis spends a long, hot summer caring for him, playing ping pong and re-enacting uncomfortable conversations from their past. In this confined and challenging environment, a revelation about her dad leads to a new stage of daughter-father bonding.
Mixing in experimental sequences, VHS footage and glittering pop music, this debut film puts a different side of Greek cinema back into the spotlight. In a recent interview with Dazed, Lentzou expressed her doubts about the existence of the so-called ‘weird wave’ in Greek film. Yes, there’s a new wave that’s intoxicating, romantic, thoughtful and funny. You can see it in the cinema of Yorgos Lanthimos and Athina Rachel Tsangari, as well as in more recently emerging talents, such as Christos Nikou, Michalis Konstantatos and Yannis Veslemes. You can see it in Lentzou’s cinema too. But there’s nothing weird about it.
Tell me about your interest in astrology, dreams and naturalism. How do these themes influence your work?
I don’t see them as themes. More like different touches, different textures, small brushstrokes. All these ideas reflect on my personality. Up until now, I’ve been working with a very steady crew; they are like my people. This gives me a sense of familiarity when I’m on set. It’s like being at home. Now, if I’m about to shoot something bigger in a studio, I’m not sure if I’m going to have the confidence to add my own sparkle all around.
What’s the current condition of filmmaking in Greece from the perspective of a female filmmaker?
Even if you are a man, a woman, a child, any type of filmmaker, you face similar problems. The difference is that, yes, Greece is a very sexist country, so if you are a girl, chances are that until you bring many awards back, they don’t take you seriously. This was my case, but I never cared about these opinions. But about the filming conditions specifically, it’s very easy if you are coming from abroad, because there are many legislations and tax rebates. You just come and shoot and get your money back. But if you’re a Greek filmmaker, it’s not that easy. You still face the same delays and difficulties, and it’s very unfriendly.
I guess it’s even harder when your film is about gender equality and rights?
Unfortunately, yes. I say unfortunately because I think it’s already too late. Greece saw the murder of [LGBTQIA+ rights activist] Zak Kostopoulos in 2018. It was after this tragic event that some people started thinking about it in this country. Only recently some people started saying, “Okay, let’s do a campaign or let’s do something about it.” So now, you turn on the TV and you can see very expensive commercials that talk about gay rights. But it’s 2022!
It’s very late, and I’m afraid that it’s not happening because of the problem and the pain that the LGBTQIA+ community faces is being understood. I think it happens because some people think they should do it as a responsibility, not as a genuine response to the problems of the community. Because most of my friends – also some family members – are members of the community, I know what’s going on. I know the struggles that real people are facing first hand. It’s very tough.
On the other hand, we are very lucky, because many LGBTQIA+ people are creative people. Not only with film but also with music, performance, fashion, poetry. It’s very interesting to see what they’re creating, independently of course, without any official institutional fund. I’m very hopeful that they will get stronger and stronger. It’s great to see that they somehow don’t care about any obstacles.
The music in your films is very specific. You must have a love for Brian Ferry.
I grew up with Roxy Music, Talking Heads, Brian Eno. They are in my head. And I was very lucky to grow up with a mother who listened to good music 24/7.
How did your collaboration with the music producers The Callas come about?
Thank you for asking, because I’d like to send them my respects, even through this interview. They have been very generous with me. The Callas are two brothers, Aris and Lakis [Ionas]. They are a multi-talented duo: visual artists, filmmakers and musicians. In the past, they also used to have a small publication called The Velvet.
They were real visionaries back then. They brought a vibe to the city [Athens]. We spoke about making something together back in 2016. They had a song, ‘La Jalousie’, which was inspired by French modernist writer Alain-Robbe Grillet’s book of the same title. The book was a very weird one, not necessarily pleasant for me to read, a hard and dangerous narrative. But I kept its voyeuristic element and I applied it in the hi-8 film that I made for their song.
Ever since we became friends, and they gave me their music for free, both for my feature film and for the trailer. I would really like to say a big thanks in bold letters.
In your credits you also list Chantal Akerman and Roland Barthes. What was their influence on you?
I consider Chantal Akerman and Roland Barthes my friends in a way. I mean I don’t have a personal relationship with them, but at the same time I have. This is the biggest treasure of really relating to someone’s text and someone’s work. The friendship that arises is a very particular type of friendship. With Chantal, I really fell in love while I was a student in London. Then I discovered that we share the same birthday, which was even more crazy for me. For some years I thought that I was Chantal Akerman. It was very strange.
I have a very close relationship with my mum, and Chantal also had a similar relationship with her mum too. So we have many things in common, including a very particular sense of humour. Sometimes, it’s misunderstood as cynical, but it’s not cynical. It’s unusual humour. And I think I have been influenced by her sense of bravery. Chantal was a very brave filmmaker. She never cared about impressing people. She was doing what she wanted to do. I would really like, one day, to be considered as brave as her.