I wasn't 20 when I walked into Iliadis' bedroom. It was during one of the raucous parties that he threw with his brother at their bachelor-pad of a home in Athens; their father being the prime playboy then. Drinking, making out, and vomiting were part of the scene, but what gripped me the most was a framed photo on Iliadis' desk. There, Iliadis posed buck-naked on a motorbike; his blond curly hair and torso were thrown on the tank; ass just slightly up in the air. I remember studying this half-Botticelli, half-Pirelli-calendar photo realizing that there was more there than I could work out.
After the parties slowed down, Iliadis made movies. Tough ones: Hardcore and The Last House on the Left had both commercial and critical success -- a damn rarity. Once in a blue moon we'd run into each other in random places: airports, barren New York streets, Greek celebrations. Iliadis -- always a beautiful girl by his side -- would be as elusive and stern as the characters in his movies. "Are you a sex addict?" he asked me, seriously, in a church in New York, moments before the resurrection of Jesus. Bitch, I thought. "Comes with the territory," I mumbled. But film directors can ask anything.
Last month, I went to the screening of his new feature, Plus One, in New York. The film starts out with a vicious fencing match that turns into a fervent mix-up which ends the relationship of the protagonist, David (Rhys Wakefield), with his girlfriend Jill (Ashley Hinshaw). To fix things, David goes to a party where the world, as he knows it, comes to an end: a smashing meteorite creates a time dilation. Suddenly, partygoers coexist with themselves of 20 minutes ago. To make things even more frantic, every five minutes a meteor aftermath lets the replicas (i.e., the kids in the recent past) to move closer in time to the kids in the present. As the time gap starts to shrink (15 minutes, five...) the original and past characters are on a head-on collision into a spacetime singularity. Under these circumstances, the partygoers start acting in different ways. Soon, they, and we, doubt who and what is real or present. Everything becomes relative.
"This was an intense, ambitious, mind-screwing ride," I tell Iliadis at our catch-up dinner. "Plus One kept me processing."
Iliadis nods. "Yes. It makes people react," he says.
He is right. Plus One asks questions. Maybe lush ones, but still stimulating. How would you react if you ever faced yourself? How could you react?
"Time travel works," I say, genuinely.
"Tell me more!" he encourages me.
"Well, we live in apocalyptic times. We spot new planets every week or so. You can travel in time. Sergei Krikalev traveled 1/48 of a second into the future.'"
"He did?" Iliadis asks.
"He spent two years in space. Look him up," I say. "Of course your plot is way, way more complicated. By crunching that 20 minutes of time gap, Plus One swings between the grandfather paradox and a potentially collapsing multiverse. Which brings up good questions. How you coexist with yourself? How do you deal with that?"
"People have a hard time accepting philosophical questions when they are wrapped in, say, a keg party, or in suspense," Iliadis says. "We are conservative that way. It's a shortcoming, I think. I love to clash things."
"For me, Plus One is less a sci-fi, and more a sci-ethics film. I see time as the ultimate exploration, the ultimate experimentation. Time is what gives us regret," I say, smiling. Iliadis smiles back, and I can't help but psychoanalyze him. Could Plus One be the famously non-committal bachelor's (now happily married with children) way of looking back at his partying days with regret? "The harsh lights, the almost exfoliated faces of your actors, the women objectification, they all contribute to a frost portraying of the Instagram generation," I say.
"Really? You think so? You noticed that?" Iliadis gives me his ambiguous lines.
I elaborate, "One could say you judge them. You judge their privileged provincialism. Most of them end up being savages. There were scenes that I had a hard time watching. These kids turn out to be stunningly narrow-minded."
"That's not correct," Iliadis says. "There is darkness but it's mixed with love. The young girl's reaction, the scene on the sofa, is juxtaposed with the horror. There is a mix. There is hope."
I tell Iliadis that I was intrigued by David's (the protagonist) effort to work the time travel situation and get back with Jill. "David is self- and short-term centric during a momentous event. There's manipulating behavior that could be generation-specific."
Iliadis plays with his phone for a moment. Then he shows me a photo on its screen that ranks illegal downloads. Plus One tops the list, beats Hangover III.
"Wow!" I'm dumbfounded. Who is manipulating whom, now? "You are sitting on a new hybrid. A new genre. You know that?"
He makes his Gioconda smile.
"Will you pose naked for me on a bike?" I ask. I remind him of the photo I saw, years back, on his desk.
"My mother took that photo," Iliadis says.
"Really?" I laugh.
"She was a free spirit. She spent time in Brazil."
"So, let's time travel the shot," I say, heartily. "Find the original and we re-shoot it now."
His body language shows hesitation. "I'd need some work out time to remake that photo today," he says, and his shyness breaks through.
"I want you to pose the way you are. You're an artist. Working out for it would be silly."
"I'll have to look at my old boxes to find that photograph," Iliadis says.
"So, it's a go," I say.
+1 is now available on iTunes and VOD.