Dead Wax: A Nikos Nikolaidis Double A-Side

Nikos Nikolaidis (1939-2007) is one of Greece’s most masterful and subversive filmmakers, yet his work remains inexplicably neglected abroad. Best known in the States for his transgressive, kinky horror-noir pastiche SINGAPORE SLING, his distinctive oeuvre encompasses many works embraced by radicals, outcasts and misfits, while earning an unexpected place within the pantheon of critically acclaimed national cinema of his native country.

Screen Slate and Spectacle are proud to spotlight two of Nikolaidis’s misanthropic early works: THE WRETCHES ARE STILL SINGING and SWEET BUNCH. Both are unavailable outside of Greece despite SWEET BUNCH recently being included in the Greek Film Critics Association’s list of its all-time top ten films. Steeped in nostalgia, cynicism, perversity, and vintage rock ‘n’ roll, they offer a perfect entry point into Nikolaidis’s warped world.

We gratefully acknowledge the participation of the artist’s son, Simon Nikolaidis, for providing these stunning 2K restorations as-yet unshown anywhere in the world.

Dir: Nikos Nikolaidis, 1979.
123 min. Greece.
In Greek with English subtitles.


In this perverse and darkly comedic elegy for an apolitical generation’s spiritual death, a group of friends in their 40s gather to try to rehash the glory days of their old gang, The Wretches, and lament lost friends. It bears a superficial resemblance to The Big Chill, which it pre-dates: a killer soundtrack packed with 50’s rock and R&B, a return to youthful games, and earnest revelations—but that’s where the similarities stop.

Opening with the solitary host’s suicide and apparent rebirth, it continues as the three fellow Wretches show up one-by-one and their strange gathering takes on a purgatorial character. Fracturing time, perverting language into a code of pop culture-referencing in-jokes, and full of stark narrative ruptures and abject disregard for conventional morality, THE WRETCHES ARE STILL SINGING presents an alternately buoyant and vile universe of ghosts, regrets, and fatalistic jokes.

According to the director, it’s perceived immorality and sympathy toward faded revolutionaries provoked the film’s theatrical banishment by the right-wing government; only after left-wing critics rallied to its cause was the film available to be shown, garnering best picture awards from the Athens Film Critics Association and the Thessaloniki Film Festival. These are the film’s premiere New York screenings.

Dir: Nikos Nikolaidis, 1983.
154 min. Greece.
In Greek with English subtitles.
New restoration presented in HD.


Nikolaidis’s most acclaimed film charts a string of increasingly bizarre circumstances in the lives of four misanthropic housemates. An episodic, surreal, and offbeat paranoid epic in the spirit of Celine and Julie Go Boating, SWEET BUNCH weaves various plot strands as the characters cheat, steal, sleep, swindle and dance their way to oblivion, represented here by an extreme climax that clarifies the title’s allusion to Sam Peckinpah.

Veering between magical effervescence and hard-bitten cynicism, SWEET BUNCH is a neon-bathed yowl from a generation born into immediate obsolescence; what Vrasidas Karalis calls “an elegy and farewell to the innocence of a forgotten generation through poetic realism and colorful expression.” It’s further distinguished by nimble performances; a rich pop soundtrack; deftly choreographic sequences that would make Scorsese blush; and vintage-vortex production design encompassing offbeat knicknacks, Victorian junk, and jukejoint neons.

In it’s most recent list the Greek Film Critics Association (PEKK) ranked SWEET BUNCH among the country’s ten greatest films, and its idiosyncratic influence lingers in the work of Athina Rachel Tsangari and Giorgos Lanthimos. Nevertheless, SWEET BUNCH remains unavailable on DVD outside of Greece and has not been shown in New York in nearly 13 years. Here’s your chance to catch up on a national classic all-too overlooked outside its borders.

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