On the island of Mykonos, Andonis Kioukas owns Cine Manto, which is about as perfect as a place can be without sitting atop Mount Olympus itself. “Mykonos is a labyrinth and this used to be jungle”, says Kioukas, shrugging at his surroundings as if they were just an average suburban garden, weeded and given a skin-deep spruce to encourage a quick sale. In fact, Cine Manto is quite possibly the most beautiful place in which you could hope to watch a film: it’s a botanical garden with a silver screen and director’s chairs.
Entering through one of those skinny island alleyways, the prospective moviegoer is greeted by a 200- year-old cactus resembling a redwood, well-sprung fish pond in which koi tamely play and a hand-built
cabana-style bar – well stocked with cocktails. Underfoot, clean white gravel crunches beneath holiday espadrilles and the scented smoke of souvlaki grill wafts the nostrils as couples and children prepare for the 21.00 show. Tonight it is an American animated feature that forms the arc light in which the month’s flutter and the bats swoop to catch them. It’s a picture. “Come into my office,” says Kioukas, leading us to a table beneath the artfully up-lit palms and pines. It’s a nice office. A laptop and a notebook are the only items that sully the general feeling that is, in fact, the best table in a good restaurant, within easy finger-clicking range of the barman and the grill chef.
The manna on offer: perfectly torched lamb, steak, boar sausage (and the best sort of taramosalata), fassolakia lathera and tzatziki trim mings. “I have 10.000 books in my library”, says Kioukas. “Books are for the spirit but a garden is for the soul”. As the beads of condensation run down MONOCLE’S chilled glass of Mythos, we find it hard -churlish even- to disagree. Cine Manto feels venerable but isn’t old. After quitting the Thessaloniki Film Festival and Athens Fashion Week (“There’s no such thing as Greek fashion,” he tells us; maybe this is why he quit), Kioukas returned to the island where he grew up to turn “the birds and the weeds” into a cinema in 2011. Before Mykonos was a young child in a poor suburb of Athens where he remembers stealing into the cinema in the 1960s to watch the audience’s faces. “They were laughing and crying,” he says. “I told my teacher I wanted to make films such that people couldn’t hide the way they felt.” In fact, when not teaching at the Thessaloniki Film School, this ponytailed Greek philosopher in a T-shirt and linen slacks tends to
mostly make people smile.
Words by Robert Bound