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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RIP Theodoros Angelopoulos -- (27 April 1935 - 24 January 2012) -- One of Cinema's Last and Greatest Masters,
This review is from: The Theo Angelopoulos Collection Vol. 2 [DVD]  (DVD)
When I reviewed Vol. 1 of Artificial Eye's Theo Angelopoulos Collection (which has mysteriously disappeared from Amazon UK's website as of the date of this review, though the review can still be read on my profile page), I stated that that the biggest question with Theo to a new viewer was "where to start?" Well, after completing this volume, I think I would recommend it to newcomers over Vol. 1. Although many hardcore Theo fans might object and state that a handful of his best films, including the magnum opus, The Traveling Players, are on Vol. 1, I feel this set is perhaps more representative of Theo's overall style. It's more accessible with a better balance between his socio-cultural/historical consciousness and his more personal, intimate, metaphysical style. It's the latter that makes his films easier to grasp and "get into" for newcomers more accustomed to, say, the cinema of Tarkovsky, Mizoguchi, OR Hou Hsiao-hsien. While one can't really grasp The Traveling Players without having a knowledge of Aeschylus' Orestia Trilogy and Greek history from '39-'52, no such knowledge is absolutely crucial to the films in this volume, even though having a decent grasp on Greek's social and political status in the 20th Century will still help illuminate the meaning by Theo's often dense, unblinking, challenging, but always beautiful, haunting, lyrical, and poetic gaze.
Alexander the Great:
Not, as one might think, a film about the famous Macedonian conqueror (though certainly an allusion to him), but rather about a leftist leader at the turn of the 20th Century who kidnaps a group of English aristocrats and carries them off into the mountains to a commune in order to demand that they return land that was taken for them. Shortly after the kidnapping, a group of Italian anarchists arrive and integrate well into the commune, where "every man is king." But it's not long before tensions between the authoritarian Alexander and the Italians threaten to rip the community apart.
One way to view Alexander the Great is Theo's "other epic" beside The Traveling Players. It shares a similar length, though clocking in at 20-minutes under Players' 230 minutes. In one respect, Alexander is an even more difficult film. While it's perhaps easier to understand because it concentrates the action primarily to the commune and the power struggle between Alexander's group, the Italians, and the surrounding Greek governmental military, it lacks the sympathetic element that the characters in The Players evoked. Indeed, Alexander may be Theo's most ruthless, cynical film, lacking even the humorous satire of Days of '36. Alexander, who is initially presented almost as a mythical figure bathed in white light in a forest clearing on a white horse, is methodically stripped of his mystique, power, and even his humanity. The final scene with his daughter--without me giving it away--is as devastating as anything else I've seen in Theo's cinema.
Voyage to Cythera:
A Greek filmmaker begins casting for his next film, trying to find a man to play his father who disappeared after the Civil Wars. But suddenly, the father returns and reunites with his long-awaiting wife and daughter. But he soon discovers he has no place in modern Greek society when he seeks to defend a plot of land where he and his comrades had hid and fought during the war. The land is being "bought" by developers seeking to build on it, but the father refuses to sign and let them take it, and is ultimately outcast from the country again.
If Alexander The Great is the "sister" film to Players, then Voyage to Cythera could be seen as a "sister" film to The Hunters, as both films are about modern people trying to come to grips with the past. But just like Alexander scaled down the scope and cast of Players, Cythera is a much more scaled down, intimate version of The Hunters and could even be seen as a transitional film between his historical epics and his more modern, metaphysical film. If Cythera is lacking in anything it's in characterization. His past films lacked this too, as history itself was a character, but Cythera, in lacking that overt historical dimension, really needed more depth with The Father and The Son/Filmmaker to carry the emotional weight. But even with that caveat, Cythera is still a phenomenal, haunting, breathtakingly gorgeous film. The final shot, especially, is permanently seared into my memory.
Marcello Mastroianni plays a man that has become completely disillusioned with his life, and after his daughter's wedding he leaves his wife and job to take to the road without a destination. He visits several old friends in an attempt to come to grips with the past, but still finds no relief. On the way he meets a young, carefree woman and, though initially anxious about getting involved, finds himself magnetically pulled to her exuberance and complete unconcern about either her own past, or that of the country. The "beekeeping" of the title refers to the character's profession that has been passed down through the generations. For him, it represents the weight of the past that weighs so heavily on him. Towards the end, the conflict becomes about whether or not he can reconcile that past with his present and future.
The Beekeeper could be said to be the first real film in Theo's later style, and with Marcello Mastroianni he finally found an actor capable of creating a character out of minimal gestures without the need for expressive close-ups that tell us what to feel. It could also be said to be Theo's first real road movie, somewhat reminiscent of the early works of Wim Wenders. One can feel Theo's tenuousness with the style and subject matter, as if he's not quite still sure about how to balance character with the historical themes that dominate his cinema. Ultimately, The Beekeeper is the weakest film in this set, and perhaps Theo's weakest since Days of '36. But, again, "weak" for Theo is still better than the majority of films and filmmakers out there, and I still found it excellent despite its various deficiencies.
Landscape in the Mist:
Coming off the heels of two stories about fathers who have either left and returned (Cythera), or is in the process of leaving (The Beekeeper), Landscape finally tells the story about fatherly absence from the point-of-view of two children, the young boy Alexander and the young adolescent, Voula. After being told by their mother that their father is in Germany, both leave home in an attempt to find him, meeting Orestes and the rest of The Traveling Players on the way.
This was the second Angelopoulos film I saw, and while I may agree that The Traveling Players is a better, more impressive film, in rewatching Landscape I still may have to admit that it's my personal favorite. But seeing it in the context of Theo's prior films makes it even more relevant, especially considering the crucial allusion to the traveling players and what's become of them. In Theo's other films we frequently get the feeling that there's something going on with the characters we're unaware of, but because in Landscape we can immediately grasp the plight of the children, our ignorance of what's going on around them is more palatable because the kids are ignorant as well; we see and feel what they see and feel. As always there are moments of astounding beauty in the film, but more than ever there's a penetrating sense of a greater something out there that we can sense but never find and never grasp. "Landscape in the Mist" may be the ultimate Angelopoulos title as well, as it seems to encapsulate the feeling of that something being behind the fog of our intuitions and perceptions.
The Suspended Step of the Stork
The first film in Theo's "Trilogy of Borders," it tells the story of a reporter who goes to a Greek border town full of refugees where he finds a man (Marcello Mastroianni) who may be a missing politician. The reporter goes to see the man's wife (Jeanne Moreau) in an effort to find someone who can identify him. Soon, the reporter is caught up in the lingering sadness of the mass of people--practically ghosts--who have no home left to go to.
This may be Theo's most underrated film along with Alexander the Great. While I can understand Alexander's obscurity (its unforgiving length and unsympathetic tone), the obscurity of this film is more mysterious to me. Firstly, in an oeuvre of beautiful films, Suspended Stork is second to none. It also extends the greater focus and characterization of The Beekeeper, while reconciling it better with the social consciousness of his early films. It may lack the aching poignancy of Landscape, but it's no slouch here either, and it contains a number of sequences as remarkable as anything in cinema, including an unforgettable marriage across a river, and the closing long-take of workers putting up telephone lines. It also contains an outstanding performance from Jeanne Moreau as the lovelorn wife.
When I reviewed Vol. 1, I titled that review "A Cinephile's Dream Come True!" Indeed, myself and so many others have waited so many years for the Greek master's films to be available on DVD, and when we finally get our wish, before vol. 3 can even be released, Theo dies in a tragic motorcycle accident during the filming of what was to be his final film, The Other Sea. To make matters even more haunting, I was watching The Suspended Step of the Stork, the final film in this set, on January 24th, probably around the time he died on that same day. In that film, the "missing politician" has been relating a mythological story to a young boy about a kite. Near the end of the film, the boy tells the reporter: "He (Marcello Mastroianni's character) never finished the story." To which the reporter replies: "Maybe he wanted you to finish it yourself." Considering that Angelopoulos died with his final film uncompleted, one can't help but hear the reporter's voice reaching through the screen, speaking to all of us.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great filmmaker's journey continues,
This review is from: The Theo Angelopoulos Collection Vol. 2 [DVD]  (DVD)
This 'middle' set of a great film-maker's career contains some of my most and least favorite of Angelopoulos' work.
But when assessing any great artist's work, even pieces that don't speak to me as personally are always worthy of serious
thought and re-seeing. This is especially true with Angelopoulos' very dense and openly challenging work. I've found, with
almost no exceptions that my understanding and appreciation of what he is trying to do grows on revisiting each film. And
since this was my first time seeing a number of these films, I imagine my passion for some will only grow. So while I'd
probably only give 'Voyage to Cythera' 5 stars (as if one can reduce art to numeric values) the set is worth that rating for
the insight into (and accessibility to) Angelopoulos' evolution and strivings as an artist.
In a way, these box sets from Artificial Eye have been divided strangely. I would argue that the first film on this set. "Alexander
the Great" really belonged on the end of Vol. 1. It's the last of Angelopolous' historical epics. After that his films turned more
intimate, personal, and outwardly naturalistic. So it's a bit out of place here, and very much a piece with the films in the first
In any case, it's very sad that this great artist's works are not more widely known and appreciated. Hats off to Artificial Eye for
making these films easily available, and in good quality transfers. I had only 'Landscape in the Mist' to compare this set with the
legendary Greek 'New Star' releases overseen by Angelopoulos himself, but it was clearly the identical source, right down to dirt
spots at the same frame. The only thing differences were a) he New Star also offered a 5.1 mix, which I actually preferred. I
wonder why AE left that choice off? and b) The New Star disk allotted a whopping 1.8 gigs more to the main feature (which
shouldn't just be the 5.1 mix), and so should theoretically look better. But to my eye, on a 60 inch screen, I didn't notice any
Some comments on the 5 films:
Alexander the Great (1980) Continuing his epic explorations of Greek history in the 20th century, Angelopoulos goes back to the turn
of the century, where a charismatic rebel leader calling himself "Alexander the Great" takes a handful of visiting English upper class
young lords and ladies hostage, in an effort to win back the land that was taken from the farmers by landowners and bankers. But,
of course, in an Angelopoulos film things are always more complex than they first seem, and Alexander, while charismatic, is also
madly ego driven, and encourages a cult of personality around himself.
Returning to his home village, which is experimenting with utopian Communism and shared wealth, Alexander is seen first as a hero,
fighting to help the people achieve their dream society, but eventually he becomes a tyrant as cruel and arbitrary as any master.
This is a central theme Angelopoulos is exploring. Creating Utopian socialist societies almost always demands people of power and
military action, but those same people almost inevitably corrupt the experiment because of the nature of who they are. The very
thing that makes them enablers of a new order also dooms them to destroy it.
This film has a much more straightforward narrative than Angelopoulos' 2 preceding 'history' masterpieces; "The Traveling Players"
and "The Hunters". Unlike those films, It doesn't jump around in time, and we stay pretty focused on this one specific incident, in
this one specific village. And there is a downside to that. At 3 hours and 19 minutes, the film isn't complex enough to stay as
fascinating as its predecessors. It's full of great images and wonderful, often painfully tense scenes. But on a meta level it's pretty easy
to guess where it's all going, and it can get frustrating waiting for it to get there.
Still an excellent film, partly based in truth (although the incidents actually happened in the 1870s), but it lacks the multi-layered
magic of the two films that proceeded it. It also is generally far more naturalistic, so that when the magic and surreal suddenly do
come up, they sometimes feel out of place and un-integrated.
One thought. It's very interesting to compare this and Bertolucci's "1900", which I just re-watched recently. They are both long, epic
films by European masters set at the turn of the century, and exploring the class struggle, and the domination of the farmers and
workers by bigger more powerful forces. Both are very strong films. "Alexander" is the more subtle, complex, intellectual, and thought
provoking, "1900" the more entertaining and emotional. Both are flawed, but well worth your time.
Voyage to Cythera (1984) One of Angelopoulos's most moving and accessible films (which is not to say it doesn't have a great deal of
complexity). A film director is searching for the right old man to cast in his movie (as a father figure?). Suddenly an old man who
is the director's father (or is he?) a political revolutionary and ex-patriot returns home to Greece to reclaim his place. But he is
unwilling to sell his land to make way for a giant new construction project, making him hated amongst his neighbors who are anxious
to get cash for their rocky soil. Before long, the man is found to no longer have standing as a Greek citizen, and his placed on a raft
off shore while the authorities can figure out to do with him. Beautiful, poetic, ironically, darkly funny, absurd, and very touching film
about old wounds, aging, and obsolescence.
The Beekeeper (1986) This is one I may have to revisit. Beautiful, as is all Angelopoulos' work, on a first viewing there just wasn't
enough story or ideas to sustain it's nearly two hour length. It deals with many of the same themes as "Voyage to Cythera" - old
age, obsolescence, but for me, on first viewing, in a less emotional and more simplistic way.
Marcello Mastroianni gives a lovely, if somewhat limited (by the nature of the part) performance as an aging man battling
depression and isolation. It is an intentional isolation as we see him leave his family at the end of his daughter's wedding in a
sequence that starts the film. He heads out, as his father did before him, to bring his bee colonies to different areas so they can
collect different kinds of pollen. Along the way he reluctantly takes on a young hitchhiker (the character is written as if a teen,
but played by an actress who looks closer to 30). He keeps trying to dump her, but their paths keep crossing, and he grows more
and more obsessed with her.
I never really understood why he avoided her obvious signals of sexual interest so long. A sense of propriety, since she seems almost
as young as his daughter? A fear of what re-opening to passion might bring out in himself? The moodiness is very effective, but
much of the film feels like going in circles, or marking time. The ideas are interesting, but I never found myself caught up emotionally.
In Angelopoulos' best films, their is an almost magical integration of the intellectual, the emotional, and the spiritual, that makes his
slow, lengthy approach feel like richness. Not as much here on my first try.
Landscape in the Mist (1988) I seem to have the same reaction to several of Angelopoulos' films; flawed genius. But each time the flaws
and what feels masterful is different.
In this story of a 12 year old girl and her younger brother on a fruitless journey for their non-existent father in Germany what works is
the ultimate emotional impact of the piece (it left me in tears), and (as always) the sheer poetic power of some of the images.
On the other hand, a key supporting character (the youthful actor Oresteis) is thinly written and functions too-overtly as an
overly-convenient plot point. Some of the dialogue and ideas feel heavy handed, some images are lifted from other films. And
the specific references to his own earlier film `The Traveling Players' is an interesting, brave choice, but also a bit distracting and
intellectual. The young girl is generally terrific, but the young boy feels forced at times at times, which doesn't help.
There are scenes I'll never forget -- maybe the most disturbing (yet completely hidden) rape scene I've ever seen.
I will revisit the film. I can easily imagine my esteem for this, already considerable, growing larger. Indeed, I already remember it
with more fondness than I felt while watching it.
The Suspended Step of the Stork (1991) On first viewing, this was not an Angelopoulos film I loved. Of course it looks great, that's a given.
But the first time around, the seeming central story line seemed almost tacked on. A journalist is tracking Marcello Mastroianni, who may
or may not be a famous politician and philosophic author who simply vanished one day, to a refugee zone on the edge of the Greek border,
where he lives in squalor with the others there. The problem, for me, was that the Mastroianni mystery was far less powerful and interesting
then the stories of those around him, who aren't refugees by choice, but in order just to survive. So, for me, it felt we were focused on the
wrong plot, or certainly the more intellectual, less moving one.
Also, the dubbing of Mastroianni is pretty awful, to the point of being distracting. Oddly, that's something I didn't find in the earlier "The Beekeeper"
(in fact, it was so good in that film, I thought perhaps Mastroianni spoke Greek, and was able to do his own lines).
But on second viewing I realized the film is really a chance for Angelopoulos to ask important and pointed questions about the nature of
borders; national, emotional, racial, from ourselves, between men and woman. The 'main plot' is just the skeleton to hang the meat of the
There are, memorable and lovely scenes here. An amazing tracking shot as the camera goes by box car after box car housing refugees from
different places, deliberately and chillingly recalling the trains of German WWII, as if to ask, have we really left that past behind? The wordless
slow seduction of the journalist in a restaurant is odd, and amazingly tense, as the two people simply look at each other in fairly wide shot for
the longest time, the tiniest shifts in body language and facial expression telling the kind of story that is usually filled with bantered pointless
dialogue. And the film's opening and closing images are particularly powerful.
Seeing it again, knowing up front the film wasn't really about the mystery it sets up, didn't solve all my problems with it, but certainly made it a
much stronger experience the 2nd time around.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Angelopoulos Legacy - Part II,
This review is from: The Theo Angelopoulos Collection Vol. 2 [DVD]  (DVD)
Theo(doros) Angelopoulos died in January 2012 depriving us of one of the greatest contemporary voices in cinema. In the last 20 years no other director except for Abbas Kiarostami, Michael Haneke, Bela Tarr and Hou Hsiao Hsien has been quite so uncompromising both in his approach to cinema and to the demands he makes on audiences. He leaves a legacy of 13 incredibly rewarding feature films which we are very lucky to have in 3 cheap box sets coming from Artificial Eye. He worked in loose 'trilogies'. Volume 2 is comprised of works mainly from the 1980s - the completion of his Trilogy of History with Alexander the Great, the complete Trilogy of Silence comprising Voyage to Cythera, The Beekeeper and Landscape in the Mist, and the first part of the Trilogy of Borders, The Suspended Step of the Stork. For the uninitiated Angelopoulos's cinema can seem daunting and I strongly suggest you buy and watch Volume 1 first, paying special attention to The Travelling Players, a key film for unlocking the mysteries of this Greek director's world view. The films in this box (especially the Trilogy of Silence) may at first seem to be simpler to grasp than his earlier work, but this is rather deceptive as they deal with the consequences in Greece of decades of war, Fascism, foreign occupations and general socio-economic (and therefore political) instability. To understand why Angelopoulos's protagonists are often wanderers, strangers in their own homeland, we have to appreciate the historical reasons for this - reasons which are laid out (albeit opaquely) in the Trilogy of History and in The Hunters. I reviewed Volume 1 and outlined some pointers (autobiographical information, references to antiquity, peculiar stylistic tropes, etc) which I think are useful for watching this director's work and I refer you there. Before I examine the films of Volume 2 individually, a word about the DVDs themselves. Each film here is transferred with great care, the picture and sound being very sharp. As with Volume 1 I do have a complaint about the complete lack of extras. These films are tough to watch without some prior knowledge of Greek history, politics and culture. I know Angelopoulos considered himself a poetic filmmaker and expected his audiences to work to meet him halfway, but I really think intelligent commentaries and/or documentaries on all these films would go a long way to making the set attractive, especially to those new to him. The lack of information has led me to make an attempt at filling in some of the gaps in the reviews that follow. Also, I note again the absence of the 3 short documentaries made by Angelopoulos. These are The Broadcast, One Village One Villager, and Athens Return to the Acropolis. Surely it makes sense to release them as extras with these box sets as I can't imagine many willing to buy them separately. I shouldn't grumble though as we have all the feature films of a quite wonderful director presented here at a very cheap price. All 3 volumes are mandatory purchases for anyone interested in cinema as an art form.
ALEXANDER THE GREAT (O Megalexandros)
(Greece/Italy, 1980, 199 minutes, colour, aspect ratio: 4:3)
The last part of the Trilogy of History, Alexander the Great stands out for its apparent simplicity. I say 'apparent' because actually it is every bit as complex as its two (three if you include The Hunters) predecessors. The film is set at the dawn of the 20th century. Greek and British aristocrats are partying up in a mansion while a mountain bandit by the name of Alexander breaks out of jail with his band of followers. They take a group of aristocrats hostage and demand the Greek government return their stolen land and grant them a general amnesty. If their demands aren't met the hostages will die. They journey to their mountain village home where the rest of the film plays out. The village is run as a primitive commune where everyone shares equal responsibilities and the film charts how different political groups (including a party of Italian anarchists) splinter off and destroy each other with government troops looking on.
Angelopoulos dealt before with Fascist dictatorship, World War II, the Civil War and its legacy of guilt, but here he creates a multi-layered allegory on the entire history of Greece. First of all, the title character is an amalgam of two historical figures who between them symbolize the country. The first of course is Alexander the Great, the megalomaniac Emporer from antiquity who expanded the ancient Greek empire as far as India. He is an ever-present myth and a figure of hope for Greeks as shown in the film by the boy in the village of the same name, and in the final image of 'Alexander going into the modern city'. The second figure is Theodoros (a corruption of the name 'Alexander') Kolokotronis, a Greek national hero who was a key figure in the Greek War of Independence (1821-29). A general, he united different Moreot Klepht bands of mountain guerillas and waged guerilla warfare against the Ottomans. He defeated them in the Battle of Dervenakia and liberated the town of Nafplion. Statues of him can be seen all over Greece today and his clothes are on display at the National Museum in Athens. Angelopoulos obviously models his Alexander on these images, the plumed Corinthian helmet, the curved scimitar and pom-pom-adorned shoes being immediately recognisable, especially to Greeks who view him as a kind of national father.
The second part of the allegory concerns the dubious way foreign powers have interfered with Greek affairs over the centuries. As we saw in The Travelling Players Angelopoulos sees Greek history as a sequence of foreign occupations - the Ottomans (the Turks) followed by the Italians, the Fascists, the Germans, the British, the Fascists again and then the Americans. Burning through all this is what historians have called 'The Great Idea' that true Greek patriots have always had of breaking away from their foreign masters. It marked the War of Independence as deeply as it marked the 1944-49 Civil War and Angelopoulos would even have us believe that it goes back to the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) as documented by Thucydides. He portrays the progress of this 'great idea' in the film by using the 1870 Dilessi Incident where bandits took three English noblemen and one Italian aristocrat hostage, eventually murdering them. The incident caused anti-Greek hysteria in Britain, cries from journalists and politicians to occupy Greece, raising the danger of an Anglo-Greek war. Angelopoulos changes the date, bringing it forward to 1900 as he wants to highlight the troubling foreign involvement in Greek affairs which Greeks have always fought against, especially in the 20th century.
The third level of the allegory concerns what the director sees as the essentially doomed nature of any kind of political power in Greece. Angelopoulos has already satirized the ineptitude of central government in Days of '36 with the way they botch a similar hostage situation. Here they prove equally useless. Beyond that though, in the film he examines the nature of Greek political power in the village itself. Communism rises and falls just as it would later do in the Civil War, while he focuses particularly on the cult of personality and how a man degenerates into a tyrant. Angelopoulos says, 'Megalexandros involves the transformation of a person into a tyrant. It does not aim only at the phenomenon of Fascism or Stalinism, but also any type of power. The view expressed in Megalexandros is that of the danger of the transformation of any authority or power'. Despotic delusions of grandeur are not only shown by Alexander's ridiculous Kolokotronis costume. There are two scenes where parallels are made between him and St. George, and even Jesus Christ - the baptism of three children in the river and a recreation of the Last Supper. He maintains power with silent posturing whilst leaving the running of the village to the head of commune (the school teacher) and his armed henchmen who resent coming back to their homes to find all their land and possessions jointly owned by the community. It is the confrontation between these two groups egged on by the foreigners (in this case Italian anarchists) which advances the destruction of the village. Here is a metaphor for the years of National Schism (1915-17) which pitted Greek Royalists against Greek Communists with foreign powers (in this case Britain and Russia) taking sides. The results of the schism would mark the next century of political instability within Greece. The allegory Angelopoulos presents here basically explains the bloody events of the three previous films which in turn forms an explanatory backdrop for the two trilogies that follow it.
I have tried to outline the background information to Alexander the Great because Angelopoulos doesn't trouble to explain any of it clearly - he simply expects us to know everything! I said at the beginning that the film is simple and to an extent this is true. Angelopoulos and Arvanitis deploy typically long and sophisticated sequence shots, but there is none of the time-slipping within single takes that marks The Travelling Players and The Hunters. The action is presented in order as it happens and a rough outline of the story can be easily attained. However, those who haven't grasped the film's central allegory will wonder why the film runs for over 3 hours. Many of the central scenes in the village are obscure in meaning even if we are following closely. I'd be grateful if someone could explain the position of Alexander's daughter within the general allegory. She appears to be incestuously in love with her father as shown by a passionate kissing scene which has them rolling on the ground. She later wears her mother's blood-stained wedding dress when she voluntarily submits to execution. Angelopoulos is obviously referring to something here, but what? The characterization is typically vague in that we never get to know any of the protagonists, not even their names. As per usual with Angelopoulos the camera is distant so that sometimes we don't know who is speaking to whom. Great stress is put on the trappings of ancient Greek tragedy with the villagers playing along as a Greek chorus. Several scenes are worked out through ritual chanting and dancing with the music mostly reduced to a low continuous murmur accompanied by a single note clarinet. This creates a peculiarly exotic atmosphere. The camerawork in this film is truly glorious, the deployment of the 360 degree pan being particularly outstanding. It is an extremely rich captivating experience which I'd recommend to all cinema lovers. Moreover, it's a film which lays out all the themes that will run through the rest of Angelopoulos's work - the toll of foreign involvement in Greek affairs, the ineptitude of Greek central government, the rise and fall of communism, the toll of a bloody historical past on individuals living within borders which are forever changing (this is especially apparent in both trilogies that follow), the demythologizing of personality cults, travelling as a metaphor for self-appraisal, and a fundamental negativity about the hopes of finding a brighter future for Greece. The films are remarkable for their extraordinarily bright and vivid imagery, but the messages they convey are pessimistic in the extreme - so pessimistic in fact that one wonders where the financing was found to make them. The Greek state certainly didn't input any funds. All thanks then to various foreign TV companies (in this film's case, Italy's RAI) for giving Angelopoulos a voice.
VOYAGE TO CYTHERA (Taxidi Sta Kithira)
(Greece, 1983, 133 minutes, colour, aspect ratio: 4:3 / 1.66:1)
With Voyage to Cythera Angelopoulos relents somewhat in his approach to narrative story-telling and character psychology even if his themes remain the same. The film is a simple linear narrative with a clear beginning, middle and end with the characters progressing in a traditional manner. Angelopoulos allows us near them, middle shots predominating over long shots so that we actually know who is speaking to whom and even how they are thinking most of the time. Even the music is a conventional and rather moving score by Eleni Karaindrou. The film is the story of an old man named Spyros (Manos Katrakis) who has returned to Greece after a 32 year exile in the USSR to be reunited with his wife Katarina (Dora Volanaki), his son Alexandros (Giulio Brogi), his daughter Voula (Mary Chronopoulou) and then (when he returns to his mountain village), his old friend from the years of the Civil War, Antonis (Dionyssis Papayannopoulos). Finding his home village about to be turned into a tourist resort, he turns the whole village into his enemy by refusing to sell his property. Fearful for his safety, his wife stands by him and the pair are forced into an odyssey through Greece which ends in his deportation as an undesirable troublemaker. Most obviously here, Angelopoulos is dealing with the fall-out of the bloody Civil War (1944-49), for both the generation that fought in it and the generation that came after it. Thousands of Communists were expelled from Greece when they finally lost the war, most of them relocating to the USSR. Those bold enough to return in the amnesty granted by the Greek government in the 1970s found themselves obsolete in a society which no longer accepted or needed them. Their living anachronism is made clear by Angelopoulos giving Spyros a violin making him a travelling player (from an earlier film!) homeless in his own homeland. When he meets his family he doesn't know how to connect and checks in to a hotel. He discovers human contact only when reunited with his old friend in a moving sequence made via bird-calls (the secret code partisans used during the war), but is rejected by the rest of the villagers because he is a troublemaker and looks like continuing to be so in the future. Ironically the only other villager who he connects with is an old member of the Royalist opposition who he had fought against. The young generation (given most direct voice by Voula) reject both sides who fought in the war as trouble-makers, in effect rejecting history in favor of looking only to the immediate future. For the younger generation in the village the hotel resort project is an opportunity to make money, to look forward. The thoughts and feelings of the old generation go ignored. It's clear throughout where Angelopoulos's sympathies lie as both offspring are depicted coldly. Alexandros is a movie director locked into an empty marriage whose wife no longer comunicates with him. He finds consolation only in screwing an actress in an empty theater. His sister Voula is even more icy as shown by her attacks on her father, her desertion of her parents at a gas station and then by her proclivity for bonking strangers in filthy backrooms of anonymous public buildings. This view of generation differences will stay the same throughout The Beekeeper and Landscape in the Mist.
Behind the film's events are the two usual Angelopoulos concerns - autobiography and myth. Spyros was the name of the director's father, Voula the name of his 11 year old sister who died when Angelopoulos was young, and Alexandros, the film director is clearly a self portrait, a film poster of The Travelling Players hanging in his office to prove it (Brogi - an Italian actor - is even dubbed into Greek by Angelopoulos himself). Angelopoulos's father was arrested in Red december 1944 and returned to an astounded family five years later out of the blue. Though he wasn't a Communist he was a Social Democrat who refused to fight with the Communists in the war - hence a relative informing on him and his consequent disappearance. Growing up fatherless for five years only for the patriarch to return as if from the dead clearly hit the director hard and he returns to the theme many times throughout his work. Angelopoulos clearly loved his sister Voula deeply and by depicting her fictionally in his film as so cold and uncaring is sure indication of the overwhelmingly negative opinion he had of what decades of war, foreign occupation and Fascism had done to his country. By including himself in the film he also returns to the film-within-a-film device familiar from The Reconstruction (a film also concerned with the break-up of village life in Greece and the country's gradual slide into obsolescence) and a degree of Brechtian alienation in which we question if Spyros really is his father or not, and if the film we are watching is not the very one he is directing (one scene sees him listening to a recorded mesage from his producer telling him the film crew have just set sail for Cythera for location scouting). Then there is the use of myth, in this case the return of Odysseus to Ithaca from the Trojan War in Homer's Odyssey. Alexandros plays Telemachus to Spyros's Odysseus here and Angelopoulos makes clear he sees the return as a second departure as depicted in the pre-Homeric version of the myth and in Dante. Angelopoulos says, 'Similar to Dante's version, there is a pre-Homeric version that Odysseus set sail again after reaching Ithaca. So the film becomes more a leaving than a homecoming.' And very moving it is, too. I was totally gripped by the sad fate of the old couple, finding Arvanitis's camerawork to be typically inspired. Many scenes are beautifully achieved - the graveyard greetings to comrades lost in the war, the burning hut, the music show put on by an Angelopoulos-trademark band of travelling players where Spyros's violin answers fro afar his wife's stage dedication, and the final leave-taking, the mooring raft cut clear to drift off into the distance towards 'Cythera', the isle of Greek mythology where one can dedicate oneself to the pursuit of happiness. The performances are all very natural in the film - remarkable for a director who was directing actors in a 'normal' way for the very first time. He was no doubt guided at the script stage by Antonioni collaborator, Tonino Guerra. Angelopoulos sys the film is about 'the silence of history' and he makes clear that from now on his films will be concerned with contemporary problems, the brushing of history under the carpet being just one symptom of a new generation obsessed only wit the immediate future. Traditional Greek culture is left in the hands of the obsolete old folk who are left without a homeland, all at sea, adrift without a paddle. The final scene of this film is overwhelmingly moving, dripping as it is in a melancholy peculiar to this director.
THE BEEKEEPER (O Melissokosmos)
(Greece/France, 1986, 117 minutes, colour, aspect ratio: 4:3 / 1.66:1)
With The Beekeeper Angelopoulos relents even further from the iconoclasm of the Trilogy of History. Not only is the narrative once again linear with traditional character development, unobtrusive camerawork and conventional use of a music score, but the director pushes aside many of his usual thematic preoccupations as well. History is rendered only obliquely, autobiography (aside from the main character being another Spyros) is minimalized, and myth is wholly absent. However, Angelopoulos does concentrate heavily on two of his concerns - traveling as a search for self-understanding and the negativity of any bright future for Greece particularly with regard to old traditional cultural values giving way to the new generation's search for instant gratification. A brief summary of of the plot (a neurotic man alienated from his environment and in deep spiritual malaise drives around Greece looking for motivation but finding only personal destruction) puts us squarely in the world of Michelangelo Antonioni. Tonino Guerra's name appears once again on the credits and there are elements of L'Avventura, L'Eclisse and especially Il deserto rosso in the film, but the work The Beekeeper most connotes is Il Grido, a 1957 film written by Elio Bartolini and Ennio De Concini which centers on another dispirited man wandering around the Po valley in northern Italy. Antonioni treats the spare landscape as revealing the man's alienation from his environment in a very similar manner to the way Angelopoulos reflects his main character in the rough, semi-urban landscape of northern Greece ridden with decaying buildings, run-down gas stations and old factories.
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding films,
This review is from: The Theo Angelopoulos Collection Vol. 2 [DVD]  (DVD)
Another fine collection of some extraordinary films, well packaged and delivered in good time.
An important selection of works by this internationally acclaimed film director.
5.0 out of 5 stars R.I.P. Theo,
This review is from: The Theo Angelopoulos Collection Vol. 2 [DVD]  (DVD)
A genius director who didn't stutter or scare easy.
Killed by accident while filming his last piece in a trilogy ?
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The Theo Angelopoulos Collection Vol. 2 [DVD]  by Theo Angelopoulos (DVD - 2012)