Jacqueline Lentzou’s films are imbued with a gamut of fascinating features that seem to have sprung out of a chest packed with little treasures
Jacqueline Lentzou was born in Athens, grew up between Athens and Thessaloniki, graduated from London’s Film School and has been walking down the path of international recognition for quite some time now, as corroborated by the numerous awards, the fixed presence at the most prestigious festivals, as well as the abundance of sorts of honorary invitations. Last summer, London’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) showcased a retrospective on her work, whereas in the same year she had the chance to travel to New York as an Onassis Fellow. Tributes to her filmography have been hosted in Austria, Portugal, Belgium and Canada, while her films have been screened at the leading world cinema platforms, such as Mubi, Le Cinéma Club, E-Flux. She has taken part both at the Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab and the Torino Film Lab, having also served as jury member in many distinguished film festivals.
As for her films, the list of distinctions seems to be literally endless. Has this multifaceted and unabated praise proven to be supportive of her work, enabling her future endeavors? “Logic dares me to reply yes, but life is governed by anything but logic. There’s certainly a growing international interest, the honor and joy experienced are consequently supportive, but never cease to be nothing more than emotions, fluid by definition, whereas the work remains in its essence practical. Recognition, at least in Greece, seems to throw a shroud of confusion over people, companies and institutions — ‘everything is set out for you’ seems to be the constant refrain I receive both verbally and in terms of human energy”.
My first acquaintance with Jacqueline Lentzou’s work came through the short film Fox (2016), a raw and ungarnished coming-of-age story, slowly burning under the August sun of the urban summer, unveiling a filmmaker that had already mastered her personal touch right from her early steps. Taking a close and detailed look at her work over the years, one can’t help but discern a unique and singular cinematic universe that had conquered the point of balance between the subtly uncanny and the soothingly familiar, endowed with a series of undiminished stylistic-aesthetic virtues.
Fox was the first fruit to a tree that bore the short films Hiwa (2017), Hector Malot: The Last Day of the Year (2018), and The End of Suffering (A Proposal) , making a habit out of earning distinctions: back-to-back Golden Athena for Best Short Film at the Athens International Film Festival, Hellenic Film Academy Award for Best Short Film, Award for Best Narrative Short at the Chicago International Film Festival, as well as the top prize at the International Critics’ Week of the Cannes Film Festival, among many others. The time had come for the next step, the familiar adventurous and painful transition for every young and upcoming filmmaker in Greek cinema.
Moon, 66 Questions, Jacqueline Lentzou’s full-length debut, a pervasive and low-key journey into the whirlpool of grief, unhealed traumas, the aching struggle for tolerance and understanding, incomplete love and shattered family ties, was screened at the Berlinale, snatching major awards at the film festivals of Sarajevo, Sevilla and Reykjavik, but most importantly consolidated a long-established certainty. Jacqueline’s rite of passage into the brave new world of the full-length film was a far cry from looking awkward or undaring, despite the intrinsic difficulties and adversities. As she admits herself: “It was one of the most deafening life lessons I have ever gone through and maybe I’m still under its spell. I recoiled, I got scared, I saw things that were not obvious to me before, I was taught a lot, and I can’t wait to show you what I have learnt!”
Over the last years, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of the countless events hosted and initiatives launched with the aim of attracting international film productions in Greece (financing incentives, reciprocal benefits, promotion of Greece as the ideal filming location etc.). What are the feelings triggered by this courageous contradiction in the mind of one of the most promising voices of contemporary Greek cinema? How is it possible to go out of our way to attract international productions while offering the bare minimum support to Greek cinema? Jacqueline Lentzou does not mince her words and replies in all honesty, avoiding any embellishment and smoothing of the rough edges. “I see no contradiction, just consistency. The fundamental guideline of “transforming the city center cinemas into hotels” says it all, regardless of how eloquently you may paraphrase it. The essence of things is crystal-clear for anyone who has the eyes to see it and the courage to stand it.”
Jacqueline Lentzou’s films are imbued with a gamut of fascinating features that seem to have sprung out of a chest packed with little treasures — scary at sight, with a fluid form and shape, nonetheless precious. A never-ending grief, a pending coming-of-age, fleeting moments of a past time that can never be summed up in events and conclusions, but can only be rendered in a fragmented and intermittent way, just like human memory and oblivion. Does cinema ignite a sense of confession and catharsis inside of her? “Yes, in fragments like a dream, in fragments like a nightmare, depending on the moon we’re under. However, life itself – candid, horrifyingly painful, and then radiantly cathartic – serves as a confession room for me, not cinema. I don’t overanalyze cinema, I occasionally discuss cinema, not very fervently to be honest, I hardly take the time to gaze at it. Nevertheless, I observe life incessantly. I observe it for as long as I can remember myself, lazily, vividly, agonizingly or not. And I had nowhere to share my observations, not an ear to hear me out as they say. Cinema became my toy. A toy to manifest my insignificant presence.”