10 March 2024. It’s early Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, when only two announcements from the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are left, concerning the 2024 Academy Awards.These are the categories of Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Motion Picture of the Year. The suspense for the Greek cinephiles who lie awake in front of their screens has now reached its peak. Yorgos Lanthimos’ name is on the Academy’s top five for both the Best Achievement in Directing Oscar (among such great directors as the likes of Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Glazer and Martin Scorsese) and the Best Motion Picture Oscar. Although Lanthimos’ film could not beat the undisputed achievements of Christopher Nolan’s biographical epic “Oppenheimer” (which ultimately won the Oscar for Best Picture), the Academy members showed their support for Lanthimos’ leading lady, Emma Stone, against all the predictions and the SAG awards that pointed to a trend in favour of Lily Gladstone, star of Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. Admittedly, Poor Things, a satire on male-dominated societies and a meditation on female empowerment and freedom, is one of those works of art that speak directly with the masterworks of Luis Buñuel, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Mel Brooks. With Emma Stone’s Oscar, Yorgos Lanthimos is even more firmly established in the international film world as a director of powerful female performances.

Born in Athens in 1973, Yorgos Lanthimos followed a long path from Pagrati to the red carpet of the Oscars. Following in the footsteps of his basketball player father, Antonis Lanthimos, Yorgos played basketball as a teenager before turning to film directing (attending the most prestigious school in Greece, the Hellenic Cinema and Television School Stavrakos). His first contributions were as an assistant director and editor on Lakis Lazopoulos‘ groundbreaking television revue Deka Mikroi Mitsoi, while the same creator would inaugurate Lanthimos’ entry into feature film directing (in 2001, with the comedy film My Best Friend, written by Lazopoulos and co-directed by Lazopoulos and Lanthimos).

Kinetta (2005) | MUBI

Kinetta, 2005

Continuing his career in television commercials and directing music videos (with pop stars such as Sakis Rouvas), Yorgos Lanthimos will not be in a hurry to take his next step. After serving in 2004 on the art team that designed the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games, he will make his first solo directorial debut in the 2005 feature film “Kinetta“. The film seems to be inspired by Theo Angelopoulos‘ “The Reconstruction” and Michelangelo Antonioni’s detached look and is a precursor of the cinematic movement called the Greek Weird Wave. In “Kinetta” the viewer becomes familiar with the surrealistic universe of the creator, the intense physicality of the performances and of course the irony and the peculiar black humour.

All these are elements that can be traced in the work that skyrocketed Yorgos Lanthimos’ career, “Dogtooth” (co-written with Efthymis Filippou). A film inspired by the theatre of the absurd and a scathing satire on the institution of the family and power, it gave its creator the prestigious Un Certain Regard award at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Dogtooth also captured the attention of the Academy, which included it in the top five for the 2011 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Yorgos Lanthimos and Greece will not manage to win the Oscar, but “Dogtooth” is already considered one of the most influential art-house films of its decade. The influential avant-garde director of satirical comedies, John Waters, described “Dogtooth” as a film “hilarious, original and discomfiting, the way movies should be.”

Dogtooth, 2009

After reflecting on the concept of mourning with the elegiac satire “Alps” (2011), Yorgos Lanthimos, having identified the inability of the Greek state to support Greek filmmakers, will now turn abroad. With the very first script he writes with Efthymis Filippou for a foreign production, “The Lobster” (2015), he wins his first personal Oscar nomination in 2017 for best original screenplay, while the freedom with which he coordinates his actors is immediately recognized by important people such as Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz. In “The Killing of a Sacred Deer “(2017), Yorgos Lanthimos emerges as a camera wizard inspired by the genius of a Stanley Kubrick, while eliciting stirring performances from Nicole Kidman and Barry Keoghan, who is considered one of the most talented young actors of his generation.

2018 should be considered as a milestone year in the work of Yorgos Lanthimos, as his collaboration with Australian screenwriter Tony McNamara and American actress Emma Stone, who seems to be evolving into his ultimate muse, is about to begin. “The Favourite“, a quirky dramatic biopic with a plethora of satirical elements about the personality of Queen Anne, earns 10 Oscar nominations and places Yorgos Lanthimos in the pantheon of the most important contemporary directors. Lanthimos’ direction, his use of wide-angle lenses, the emergence of Greek editor Yorgos Mavropsaridis as a crucial collaborator in Lanthimos’ oeuvre, and star Olivia Colman’s sweeping Oscar win-again against all odds-are all elements that make the film a favorite among lovers of classic cinematic storytelling.

The Favourite': how Yorgos Lanthimos made a 20-year-old project his own | Features | Screen

Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone in the set of The Favourite

In “Poor Things“, Yorgos Lanthimos proceeded to a radical reading of Alasdair Gray’s novel of the same name. Leaving the political-historical events of the original story’s era in the background, screenwriter Tony McNamara allowed the fictional characters to develop in full synch with the improvisational spirit that Yorgos Lanthimos followed in rehearsals with his cast. It is perhaps this playful, libertine mood that distinguishes Yorgos Lanthimos from the other auteurs of his generation and perhaps reminds his actors that acting is not just a profession, but an exercise of the soul, mind and body. Emma Stone plays Bella Baxter with an openness and a bravery rarely seen in performances today (whether male or female).

Emma Stone is astonishing in

Emma Stone as Bella Baxter in Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things

Following the four Oscars that his most recent feature received at the Academy Awards on March 10 (for Best Actress, Cinematography, Costume Design and Make-up), Yorgos Lanthimos is looking to the future with more energy than at any other point in his career. Guided by the inspiration of his muse, he is already working on two more films with her, “Kinds of Kindness” and the remake of “Save the Green Planet“, while his fans are looking forward to enjoying his next achievements more than ever.

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