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BLACK NIGHTS 2019 Competition

Review: In the Strange Pursuit of Laura Durand

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- In Dimitris Bavellas’ second feature, two men embark on a cross-country journey after believing they have been “summoned” by their idol, a 1990s porn star

Review: In the Strange Pursuit of Laura Durand
Makis Papadimitriou and Michalis Sarantis in In the Strange Pursuit of Laura Durand

Dimitris BavellasIn the Strange Pursuit of Laura Durand [+see also:
interview: Dimitris Bavellas
film profile
]
kicks off by quoting a statement that for the “runaways from the narrow-minded common sense of three dimensions, truth is of no importance”, so it’s safe to assume that the film, shown in Tallinn Black Nights’ main competition, is not your usual kitchen-sink drama. For all the mentions of some very down-to-Earth struggles, be it financial or health-related, it’s still the fantasy that takes the top spot here – the fantasy promised by one Laura Durand’s husky voice and her innocent stare, as that’s what Antonis (Makis Papadimitriou) and Christos (Michalis Sarantis) seem to remember the best about the forgotten 1990s porn star, who is said to have disappeared without a trace years ago, with just some old photos, faded newspaper clips and videos keeping her memory, and undeniable sex appeal, alive.

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At least that’s the case for these sorry sods: aspiring, or maybe already resigned, musicians, living in a small, shared apartment they can still barely afford and brought together by their love for a woman they have never even met. Love, rather than lust, luckily, as this whiff of unthreatening innocence might be precisely what helps the story navigate any trickier territory – with two men embarking on a cross-country journey after believing they have been “summoned” by their idol, a concept that could be lifted straight from some version of Stalking for Dummies. All things considered, you could easily forget about Laura’s peculiar specialisation, too, as there is only one scene revolving around a so-called “plumbing problem” – the kind that is always solved more effectively while wearing lacy underwear, it seems, and with a preoccupied, attractive flatmate who just happens to casually mention a shower.

With the help of a horde of references, the film doesn’t really hide its cult aspirations – there is a poster for The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension plastered on the wall and a vision of a floating spirit that may very well recall Dan Aykroyd’s inappropriate dream in Ghostbusters. And while it’s all very energetic, teasing a take on what would happen if Bill and Ted, after years of laying low in Greece, suddenly decided to revert back to their old shtick, Bavellas doesn’t fully commit to the craziness. Some structural issues make it more confusing than fun, with personal dramas mentioned and then brushed aside, and while the whole idea of a road movie seems to exist solely so that you don’t have to worry about coherence, each new encounter – rarely as involving as the time devoted to it would seem to suggest – feels like it belongs to a whole different story. Let’s just assume it was supposed to emphasise the diversity of Laura Durand’s actual “oeuvre”, although damn, the outcome of that plumbing crisis still remains painfully unknown.

In the Strange Pursuit of Laura Durand was produced by Gina Petropoulou, Lina Yannopoulou, Giorgos Zervas and the director himself, for Vox Productions.

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