While Pasolini's Trilogy of Life films were a staple of the repertory cinemas in the mid-seventies, Medea was somewhat less ubiquitous as far as I recall. I think I only saw it once in the cinema, therefore it's very pleasing to have this new BFI dual format set. Medea was made immediately before those three works and the genesis of design can be clearly seen.
Pasolini adapted the play by Euripides which takes as its source the epic mythical tale of Jason and Medea. A tale of love, betrayal and revenge, and according to the essayists, controversially cut though with Pasolini's favourite Freudian and Marxist themes. I've always primarily responded to the utter joy of his relaxed handheld widescreen film-making, the incredible locations, the extraordinary costume designs and sheer exuberance of the story-telling while being aware that there may be a subtext that I don't quite understand.
The image and sound quality are excellent and this edition restores the original Maria Callas voice track. She is an imposing presences throughout the film although she says almost nothing at all. In fact, apart from the literate opening sequence, the exposition of the narrative thereafter is almost entirely by means of the visual. This 'prologue' has the centaur telling a very young Jason his family history but feels very much like Pasolini setting out his wares. The sequence ends abruptly with the assertion that, 'there is no god'. The increasingly bleak narrative ends equally abruptly with Medea spitting out the final words, 'It is useless. Nothing is possible now', even as the 'Fine' appears on the screen. In-between, there is much to assimilate.
I would never refer to the look of a film as dated, that's a completely stupid notion to my mind, yet it might be said of some of the special effects in this case. There are some instances in this film where Pasolini is badly let down by the art department. The very poor rendering of the horse end of the centaur's body is a case in point. It's very hard to ignore and hard to imagine that even at the time this was the best they could do, particularly given the splendour of the rest of the design. But these are minor quibbles.
Finally, this is a BFI disc and it is accompanied by very little in the way of interesting or informative video extras, however the booklet is very good.
I have always been an admirer of the director but I have let him slip off my radar over recent years but with this release and the Masters of Cinema editions, Pasolini is very well served at the moment.