Venus in the Garden

Video by Telémachos Alexiou
Text by Danny Calvi

That’s handsome actor Alex Vardas, as prostitute Nikos, feasting on figs as if he hadn’t eaten in days. The clip is from Greek filmmaker Telémachos Alexiou’s avant-garde feature, ‘I Afroditi Stin Avli’ or ‘Venus in the Garden’. It shows this week at Queer Lisboa, the Lisbon Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

BUTT fans will immediately get into the black and white cinematography and theatrical staging of this drama about two handsome call boys and their female pimp. Their tense love triangle plays out like a sixty-three minute Calvin Klein Obsession commercial from the ’80s, but then Telémachos isn’t selling fragrance.

At 26, Telémachos is already quite adept at fleshing out the intricacies of Greek identity — big, classical themes like desire, family and commerce — in his rather ambitious little art film. As a kid, he thought fig trees and their fruit looked both magnificent and alien. Kids in primary school would call him fig, or fig tree, a euphemism for ‘faggot’ in Greece apparently. Later, he discovered how sexy, how ass-like they were.

BUTT favorites Peter de Rome, Ira Sachs and contributor Antonio da Silva will also be presenting films at the festival this year, so if you’re in Portugal, don’t miss it.

‘Venus in the Garden’ plays tomorrow, Tuesday 25 September from 7:15 P.M. at Queer Lisboa. The festival ends Saturday. For more info, check out the full program. Or you may watch the entire film on MUBI until 5 October.