Mop-topped Marina (Labed) may seem a bit strange; like an ill-tempered alien plopped down upon the shores of Greece, she views every act of human intimacy through a lens of remote scorn. When her waitress friend, Bella (Randou), teaches her how to French-kiss, the 23-year-old virgin recoils from the slobber. But in between grim trips to the hospital with her dying father, Marina begins a tentative but tender affair with a visiting engineer (Dogtooth director Lanthimos) who shares her love for '80s electropunk band Suicide---the soundtrack for Marina's reckonings with sex and death.
Two films deep into the Greek New Wave, there's a whole lotta weirdly stunted sexuality going on, and Attenberg shares with the Oscar-nominated Dogtooth a weakness for overgrown innocence and deadpan perversity. But director Athina Rachel Tsangari distinguishes herself from her predecessor's freak-show formalism with an underlying humanism and freewheeling playfulness. Marina may be an odd duck---she live-narrates her lovemaking and, inspired by David Attenborough's nature documentaries (hence the malaprop title), slips into improvisational barking. She's also furiously alive, however, discovering emotions and her own body before our eyes: In a recurring interlude, Labed and Randou silly-walk toward the camera in matched patterned dresses, bastardizing Jacques Demy as a silent Greek chorus of defiant and captivating absurdity. Even Tsangari's affectations feel liberating.
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