Rampant tourism is one of the themes writer/director Peploe addresses - via an engagingly silly subplot that pits Irene Papas as a xenophobic native against Paris Tselios as her hustling, entrepreneurial son. Peploe, whose first feature this is (and who is married to filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci), addresses other issues: the way some people cling to the past while others look to the future; the way plumbing works (or doesn't); the way six young English women wear bikinis (single-breasted).
Bisset plays Katherine, a photographer and U.K. expatriate whose coffeetable book The Light of Greece is getting great reviews but isn't selling. She is separated from her husband - the cynical artist Patrick (James Fox), whose Claes Oldenburglike sculptures (he's working on a giant ashtray with cigarettes called The Unknown Smoker) are the antithesis of her unpeopled studies of thistly hillsides, crumbling acropolises and Dodecanesean dawns. The couple's adolescent daughter, Chloe (Ruby Baker), flits between them, blissfully unconcerned with the marriage's breakdown.
Maybe it's the bouzouki music, or the ouzo in the tavernas, or those waves lapping up the shoreline, but just about the entire cast of High Season appears blissfully unconcerned - or, at the very least, blissfully distracted - by the mundane traumas of life: financial ruin, adultery, betrayal.
And so even this movie's small dramas take farcical turns: A British traitor ends up on a trawler, bound for the Soviet Union with an armload of blue jeans; a prized Grecian urn (and excuse me, but how much does a prized Grecian earn?) on which Katherine has staked her financial security is shattered - only the vase is a fake.
And the inebriated English couple who not-quite-accidentally break it turn out to be a low-level secret operative and his wife. (Kenneth Branagh, as the bungling Anglo spy, evinces a knack for comedy every bit as keen as his dramatic turn as the troubled archaeologist in this year's A Month in the Country.)
High Season, which was shot in the coastal town of Lindos and the inland village Lahania, is a rapturous travelogue - photographed by Oscar-winner Chris Menges - teeming with craggy-faced natives, baying goats and honking donkeys.
It's also teeming with likable, eccentric characters, all deftly realized by a fine group of actors and an assured director.
It's an arch, breezy outing, punctuated with moonlight swims and balalaika rave-ups and everything else you won't find on the sweltering city streets this summer.
HIGH SEASON * * *
Produced by Clare Downs; directed by Clare Peploe; written by Clare Peploe and Mark Peploe; photography by Chris Menges; music by Jason Osborn; distributed by Hemdale Releasing Corp.
Running time: 1 hour, 44 mins.
Katherine - Jacqueline Bisset
Patrick - James Fox
Penelope - Irene Papas
Basil Sharp - Sebastian Shaw
Rick - Kenneth Branagh
Parent's guide: R (adult situations, language)
Showing at: Roxy Screening Rooms.