Tim Markatos at Commonweal:
When a niche director is rescued from the dustbin of film history, it’s fair to ask: Did they end up there for good reason? The late filmmaker Nikos Papatakis is one such long-forgotten artist, his five films difficult to track down in English until they were restored in 2018 for a brief theatrical run in New York City. This year they entered the streaming market for the first time, landing on the Criterion Channel as a presumptive first stop en route to an eventual home-video release. In a featurette shot for the Criterion retrospective, Greek filmmaker Athina Rachel Tsangari recalls some foreboding advice Papatakis passed down to her at the start of her career: “Don’t try to imitate life. You’re a descendant of Euripides and Aeschylus—it’s all about creating this archetypal violence. Make the audience uncomfortable!”
Les Abysses (1963), Papatakis’s first film, wastes no time in fulfilling the latter part of that maxim. The movie opens with a swift camera pan to a woman clinging to a staircase as she unleashes a scream, by no means the movie’s only, or even most bloodcurdling, one.