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Zacharias Mavroeidis The Summer with Carmen Review


The Summer With Carmen | 2023 Venice Film Festival Review

The Summer With Carmen | 2023 Venice Film Festival Review

The Write Stuff: Life Becomes Art in Mavroeidis Sun Dappled Debut

Zacharias Mavroeidis The Summer with Carmen ReviewHindsight is 20/20, especially when it comes to using romantic liaisons as creative fodder in Zacharias Mavroeidis’ debut The Summer with Carmen. Two gay best friends decide to revitalize their creative collaboration on a new film project based on a shared experience two summers prior, one thematically defined by a titular canine. The project proves to be a meta approach for Mavroeidis, who fluidly moves between time periods as their internal narrative unfolds even as they follow a basic screenwriting formula, lending the film an overall template of catharsis born through creativity. Reflections on masculinity and compromised relationship objectives set to the eternal beauty of Bizet’s Carmen guide both men in their fluctuating understanding of one another.

“Fun, sexy, Greek and low-budget,” appear to be the only parameters which Nikitas (Andreas Labropoulos) has been given from an off-screen producer offering to finance his first feature. He’s experiencing a bit of writer’s block, as readily deduced by his best friend, Demosthenes (Yorgos Tsiantoulas), who the film informs us is a former actor now working as a public servant. The two men met in film school and became fast friends, and Demosthenes uses the opportunity to vocalize his desire to return to the realm of creativity as they languish on a nude gay beach in Athens one lazy day. He suggests Nikitas allow him to assist in writing his script, crafting it around a somewhat intense summer they shared two years prior, when Demosthenes was embroiled in a break-up with his boyfriend of four years, Panos (Nikolaos Mihas). Nikitas reminds his friend they had also been collaborating as writing partners back then, which ended disastrously, but they’re both intrigued at the prospect of revisiting an integral time from the recent past.

Zacharias Mavroeidis The Summer with Carmen Review

The Summer with Carmen plays like the less cynical, more congenial cousin to Sebastian Silva’s recent Rotting in the Sun, which also delves into metatextuality regarding a filmmaker floundering for creative expression through the prism of scripted reality. Like Silva, Mavroeidis finds inspiration in the cruisy queer energy of a nude beach, though here, the bitter remonstrances are more verbal than visual. Both films delve into the vacuous vortex casual sex can inspire when, subconsciously, someone might be yearning for something more meaningful or intimate. Though fleeting, there are moments reflecting the fear of repudiation for those who define themselves through sexual congress, and thus the film is also somewhat in keeping with Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger By the Lake (2013), as well.

An earlier staged production of a play called Sissies they were both involved in provides additional subtext for both men, where femininity symbolizes both a sense of desired liberation as well as a cautionary tale for those yearning for companionship, socially defined as an emasculating inclination. Nikitas ends up taking a backseat to the travails of Demosthenes, the object of affection for himself and various lovers. All we really learn about this burgeoning director is his aspiration for a career resembling Xavier Dolan (a poster of 2014’s Mommy looming in his bedroom).

After its initial set-up, where Carmen the dog arrives as merely a symbolic catalyst for Demosthenes’ contradictory emotions, Mavroeidis loses some of the initial playful energy as we oscillate between the two time periods, always returning to the contemporary episode’s writing process, paralleled with life lessons they vocalize as they draft.

More authentically awkward than funny, The Summer with Carmen exudes an authentic charm in its deliberation on how we eventually deduce the difference between defining who or what we really want vs. what we’ve been taught to expect based on whatever labels are placed upon us. It’s most interesting in showcasing a spectrum of complexity in relationships between gay men we usually don’t get to see, shining a light on those platonic, supportive connections which provide a sustenance most often relegated to the sideline for comedic relief.

Reviewed on September 7th at the 2023 Venice Film Festival – Giornate degli Autori. 106 Mins.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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