Film

'The Rebellion of Red Maria': A Punk Musical, in which Queer Rebels Turn into Serial Killers

The Guardian characterized Costas Zapa as an outstanding director of the auteur in Greek New Wave and Cineuropa. PopMatters talks with Zapa about his new film, The Rebellion of Red Maria.


The Rebellion of Red Maria

Director: Costas Zapas
US Release Date: 2010-10-28

In a city, with heavy metal music haunting the heroes and the voice of Maria Callas being heard, an aged man, ex-terrorist, who dresses like a woman, the “red Maria”, lives without any law and is hiding in the social shadows as a prostitute and performer. He is dancing in the streets, old and out-dated dances, for the passersby who give him money. In the street he meets a young boy, a street urchin at deaths door after a neo-fascists attack. The boy, alcohol addicted, hears the voice of Maria Callas, speaks with the dead diva, with the mother he misses. In overdose he dreams of the perfect world.

“Red Maria” saves the boy and teaches him the “job”. In order to survive they invade cafes, giving performances that talk for a new, political God, for the political mistake of God, for the end of the ideology. Their world is magical, poetical. And wild. “Red Maria” teaches the boy how to survive. Together they become the magician of the tribe, the holy fool, the rebel. They live a magical personal revolution. But a number of murders will change “Red Maria” and the boy from ideologists into serial killers.

The Rebellion of Red Maria is Costas Zapas’ fourth feature film. Previously he made ‘the family trilogy’, which consisted of Uncut Family (2004), The Last Porn Movie (2006) and Minor Freedoms (2008). The latter was financed and co-produced by Zentropa productions, Lars von Trier’s and Peter Aalbæk Jensen’s production company. The films attracted international interest. The Guardian has characterized him ‘as one of the main protagonists of the burgeoning Greek New Wave and Cineuropa ‘as one of the most outstanding directors of the auteur cinema’.

PopMatters: The last years there is a sense of a new Wave in the Greek Cinema, for example your previous family trilogy, the films of Eva Stefani, last year we had Lanthimos’ Dogtooth, which was very popular. Do you think that the financial crisis (which in Greece takes place for the last three years and is not something that occurred in April as many tend to think) was beneficial for the rejuvenation of Greek Cinema? What I mean is, do you feel that this new cinema reflects a self-criticism on the part of the Greek society?

Costas Zapa: In my opinion the film festivals globally want to justify themselves as Art festivals, because they are funded by the taxpayers. There are fashions that come and go. Now Greek Cinema is a fashion within the festivals, a few years ago it was Danish Cinema that was fashionable, then it was Argentinean and Romanian. My cinema, according to the critics, cannot be classified as national cinema.

Now as far as the second part is concerned, we the Greeks are still unable to engage into self-criticism. It's going to take quite a few years. When it comes to film production, there are only a few filmmakers in this country that have something to say, but they are very isolated and they certainly do not have a good time.

PM: I know what you mean about the festivals creating fashions. Yet despite that, the festivals have helped to promote some good European filmmakers.

CZ: In my opinion the last auteur, in what I define as art cinema, is Lars von Trier. And this is the reason why the popular press condemns his films. We see that filmmakers such as Darren Aronofsky and Iñárritu started making radical movies and then they succumbed to the trend, making works that follow the Hollywood aesthetics.

PM: Could you briefly discuss your new film, The Rebellion of Red Maria? How would you describe it to a non-expert?

CZ: The Rebellion of Red Maria is an anarchist film. It is a story of love and anarchy.

The film is about an ex-terrorist, a man who dresses as a woman and meets with a boy that has been beaten by a group of neo-Nazis. He teaches the boy the ‘job’, which is entering bars and cafes to perform their happenings to make money either thanks to the peoples’ generosity or by stealing. In their happenings they talk about a ‘new political God’, the end of ideology, and the political mistakes of God. They live a magic revolution. It is a film about the limits of freedom, because freedom is the most important thing in life, but to the point that it does not violate the others’ right to freedom. Briefly Red Maria refers to the passage from the ideological person to the ‘superman of the instincts’.

PM: Yet despite being rebels and free they are slaves of money, too. Is there a contradiction in the sense that Red Maria and the Boy are rebels, but their revolution reproduces the exchange-value ethos?

CZ: Well that is exactly what happened in all the revolutions that took place in this world so far. We saw that Communist Ideology turned out to be a Stalinist monstrosity. The same happened in Cuba. Che, who was a visionary rebel, did not stay in the country, and the person who replaced him was an authoritarian figure.

PM: So Red Maria and the Boy start with the best intentions and end up becoming serial killers.

CZ: Red Maria says at one point ‘The Revolution is dead and it has been dead for ever’. Aeschylus says something similar in Prometheus, when the main character asserts that everything is pre-determined, nobody is free -and please do not take that as ‘fatalism’, but as a political thesis.

I am very suspicious of individuals with the best intentions. Take as an example our every-day life. You see that people go on strike and when they get 20 euros pay rise they are the first to oppose other peoples’ right to go on industrial action. The problem for me lies in the fact that even nowadays the human instincts prevail over our efforts to build a civilized society.

PM: Are Red Maria and the Boy slaves to their instincts?

CZ: Red Maria is a former ideologist who saw his dreams turning into monstrosity. This made him a terrorist, and in the end the uncertainty that pervades our globalised environment turns him into a serial killer. The Boy, on the other hand, is not politically conscious and is ready to accept and follow anything. And this can be seen in light of the de-politicization that characterizes young people nowadays.

Next Page
Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

Beware the seemingly merry shades of green and red that spread so slowly and thickly across the holiday season, for something dark and uncertain, something that takes many forms, stirs beneath the joyful facade.

Let's be honest -- not everyone feels merry at this time of year. Psychologists say depression looms large around the holidays and one way to deal with it is cathartically. Thus, we submit that scary movies can be even more salutary at Christmas than at Halloween. So, Merry Christmas. Ho ho ho wa ha ha!

1. The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932)

Between Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale made this over-the-top lark of a dark and stormy night with stranded travelers and a crazy family. In a wordless performance, Boris Karloff headlines as the deformed butler who inspired The Addams Family's Lurch. Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas and Ernest Thesiger are among those so vividly present, and Whale has a ball directing them through a series of funny, stylish scenes. This new Cohen edition provides the extras from Kino's old disc, including commentaries by Stuart and Whale biographer James Curtis. The astounding 4K restoration of sound and image blows previous editions away. There's now zero hiss on the soundtrack, all the better to hear Massey starting things off with the first line of dialogue: "Hell!"

(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

In the category of movies that don't explain themselves in favor of leaving some of their mysteries intact, here's Olivier Assayas' follow-up to the luminous Clouds of Sils Maria. Kristen Stewart again plays a celebrity's lackey with a nominally glamorous, actually stupid job, and she's waiting for a sign from her dead twin brother. What about the ghostly presence of a stalker who sends provocative text messages to her phone? The story flows into passages of outright horror complete with ectoplasm, blood, and ooga-booga soundscapes, and finally settles for asking the questions of whether the "other world" is outside or inside us. Assayas has fashioned a slinky, sexy, perplexing ghost story wrapped around a young woman's desire for something more in her life. There's a Cannes press conference and a brief talk from Assayas on his influences and impulses.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

(Available from Arrow Video)

​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

When a young man goes skinny-dipping with a mysterious stranger (Rod Steiger) who's covered with tattoos, the pictures comes to life in a series of odd stories, all created by Ray Bradbury and featuring Steiger and Claire Bloom in multiple roles. Nobody was satisfied with this failure, and it remains condemned to not having reached its potential. So why does Warner Archive grace it with a Blu-ray? Because even its failure has workable elements, including Jerry Goldsmith's score and the cold neatness of the one scene people remember: "The Veldt", which combines primal child/parent hostilities (a common Bradbury theme) with early virtual reality. It answers the question of why the kids spend so much time in their room, and why they're hostile at being pulled away.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

6. The Hidden (Jack Sholder, 1987)


In one of my favorite action movies of the '80s, a post-Blue Velvet and pre-Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan plays an FBI agent who forms a buddy-cop bond with Michael Nouri while pursuing a perp -- a bodiless entity that plugs into the human id. In the midst of slam-bang action comes a pivotal moment when a startling question is asked: "How do you like being human?" The heart of the movie, rich in subtext, finds two men learning to embrace what's alien to them. In pop-culture evolution, this movie falls between Hal Clement's novel Needle and the TV series Alien Nation. On this Warner Archive Blu-ray, Sholder offers a commentary with colleague Tim Hunter.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Speaking of Twin Peaks, here we have a textbook example of a movie that pleased almost nobody upon its release but has now generated such interest, thanks in large part to this year's Twin Peaks revival, that it arrives on Criterion. A feature-film prequel to David Lynch and Mark Frost's original TV serial that answered none of its questions and tossed in a raft of new ones, the film functions as one of cinema's most downbeat, disruptive and harsh depictions of a middle-class American teenage girl's social context. Sheryl Lee delivers a virtuoso performance that deserved the Oscar there was no way she'd be nominated for, and she wasn't. The extras, including a 90-minute film of deleted and alternate takes assembled by Lynch, have been available on previous sets.

(Available from Criterion Collection)

8. The Green Slime (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968)

Incredibly, Warner Archive upgrades its on-demand DVD of a groovy, brightly colored creature feature with this Blu-ray. As a clever reviewer indicated in this PopMatters review, what director Kinji Fukasaku saw as a Vietnam allegory functions more obviously as a manifestation of sexual tension between alpha-jock spacemen competing for the attention of a foxy female scientist, and this subconsciously creates an explosion of big green tentacled critters who overrun the space station. While we don't believe in "so bad it's good," this falls squarely into the category of things so unfacetiously absurd, they come out cool. There's a sublimely idiotic theme song.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

If the idea is that earth, water, fire, air and space constitute the core elements of life, then these five songs might seem as their equivalents to surviving the complications that come from embracing the good and enduring the ugly of the Christmas season.

Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image