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Dogtooth: A Pussy Is a Big Light 

Sex, violence and pop culture: A Cannes winner finally comes to L.A.

Thursday, Jan 6 2011
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A 2009 Cannes winner just now having its L.A. premiere (it opened in New York last summer), Dogtooth is hyperrealist sci-fi detailing an (anti)social experiment gone awry. The matriarch and patriarch of an upper-class Greek family have taught their three nameless, college-age offspring an alternate language: A sea is a leather armchair, "like the one we have in the living room." A pussy is "a big light." A cat is a cat, but it's also "the most dangerous animal there is" — and if you're at all squeamish about bloodshed involving house pets, this might be your cue to stay away.

The invented lexicon serves to protect a larger deception: that the world outside the family's high-walled home is so treacherous that the "kids" won't be mature enough to explore it until one of their canine teeth falls out. The clueless guinea pigs while away their days playing mostly innocent, if bizarre, games of endurance and submission, often monitored by their father, who offers sparkly stickers as prizes for a job well done — and enforces the boundaries of the closed state with violence.

But this dictator's efforts are no match for the trifecta of threats to his fascist regime: free-market trading, sex and American popular culture.

click to enlarge Dogtooth, playing all week at Cinefamily
  • Dogtooth, playing all week at Cinefamily

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With his deadpan wide-angle-lens compositions that split the difference between Wes Anderson and David Lynch, director Giorgos Lanthimos lays out the rules largely through action rather than exposition, which allows Dogtooth to play as a richly satisfying, blackly comic mystery in spite of its delayed, horror-sourced house-break plot.

This pastel-colored portrait of disaster capitalism was made long before the Greek (or worldwide) economic crisis, and that's something of a relief: Straight parable could never feel as urgent and unexpectedly moving as the eldest daughter's desperate drive to escape into Hollywood movies — not just by watching them but by pretending to live them.

One of Dogtooth's most memorable, manically weird scenes has sparked a wave of "remix" vids on YouTube; in a just world, these will replace the deluge of Downfall Angry Hitler clips as the WTF? foreign film–turned-massive web meme of the moment.

DOGTOOTH | Directed by Giorgos Lanthimos | Jan. 7-13 | Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre

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