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4.7 out of 5 stars17
4.7 out of 5 stars
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2012
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.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 2000
If you have to see one film in your lifetime, make it Pasolini's Medea. It has everything - superb plot, location, acting, direction - and more. Maria Callas, magnificent on the screen as the abandoned wife Medea, steals your breath away as she first betrayes her people to help Jason steal the Golden Fleece, and then wreaks a terrible revenge when she is in turn betrayed by him for another woman. Pasolini's direction is gentle yet precise, allowing Callas to unfold in all the vehemence of her passion, elciting from her a great performance. A must for all lovers of great films!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 February 2012
It helps to be familiar with the basic story of Medea and Jason and the Argonauts, the latter on their quest to find the Golden Fleece, as, especially in the early section of the film, there is virtually no dialogue. The film used the stunningly stark scenery of the Cappadocia region in Turkey as a backdrop for sorceress, Medea's domain, adding an other-worldly quality. Maria Callas exudes mysterious allure in the title role. The costumes of the elite characters are sumptuous and inventively eye-catching for the rest of the populace. Altogether the film is a visual feast that adheres fairly closely to the version by Euripides.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 6 March 2012
After their crops fail again, despite human sacrifice to the ancient gods, an archaic rural civilization vilify their high priestess, Medea. So when Jason & his Argonauts come pillaging & looking for the golden fleece, she goes off with them. But, unable to adapt to her new life in Jason's more modern walled city society, she calls once more upon her ancient gods to help enact a terrible revenge....

A very welcome BFI release to a Pasolini classic that has been conspicuously absent on DVD. "Medea" (1969) is a reworking of the Greek play / myth and as such is a companion piece to the earlier "Oedipus Rex" (1967). "Medea" still belongs very much to Pasolini's `serious' so-called Marxist / Freudian period rather than the bawdy popular farces of the later `trilogy of life'.

Pasolini clearly enjoyed recreating his archaic society in the extraordinary Turkish landscape - the cinematography is in vivid 1960s colour, the costumes are wonderful, as is the very striking soundtrack drawn with a wilful lack of authenticity from traditional music of Bali, Bulgaria, Tibet etc. And of course Maria Callas is perfect as the regal but bewildered Medea. Perhaps the second half of the film in the walled city of Corinth is less engaging - Pasolini was obviously less sympathetic to this modern (!) culture & concentrates instead on playing out the inexorable revenge plot of the myth.

Pasolini's main points appear to be that archaic society is, via its myths & rituals, more in touch with the sacredness of being & nature than commercial rationalist modernity and that any belief system (rational or mythological) only has meaning within its culture and is meaningless & impossible to access outside that specific culture. In "Medea" these themes are presented in a very knowing & effective way, although there is always something dubious about Pasolini's nostalgia for the primitive & his glorification of primal violence.

The second half of the film is sometimes strangely soporific (but not at all boring!) & there is a discussion of this in the BFI booklet essay. Right at the beginning of the film when the child Jason is listening to the centaur telling the tale, Jason keeps nodding off and the film itself takes on a hypnotic dream-like ambience - in particular there are various strange dislocations & doublings of time, place & plot in the narrative, which are quite disorientating. Some extended episodes are played out from different perspectives, in Medea's imagination & then in reality, which can really confuse anyone watching for the first time. There were actually intertitles between episodes, clarifying the narrative, which might have helped, but these were suppressed from the director's cut (they are included as an extra on the DVD).

This BFI edition, using a restored master, is excellent. I can't comment on the Blue Ray but the DVD is fine (both Italian & English audio versions) & the full colour booklet very informative, with several essays & an interview with Callas.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This film is not going to score as highly as it might with western audiences bereft of the connections to religion and family that reigned in Euripides's time. But its locations and recreation of Greek and Colchian life (in spirit if not to the letter - the Argo is a big raft) are striking. The themes of betrayal and a loss of home do shine through, and the child-killing parent is not unknown in our time. Pasolini films move at their own somewhat dreamlike pace which heightens the feel of being from another era. The style is spare but full of strong images - the ritual slaughter of the youth in the Sparagmos and Omophagia will remain with me for some time.
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on 5 July 2015
Not one of Passolini's best films but fascinating if only for Maria Callas in the title role.
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on 17 May 2015
Wonderful film of the old Greek myth
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on 7 July 2015
Dramatic version of play.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 4 May 2012
An interesting film of one of the most important diva's of the opera world. Whilst there is no powerful music vocals in this production, the production and stage craft of La Diva is undisputed. What a pity that only a few of this remarkable woman's appearances on stage managed to be recorded in film or video. If you have the opera recording of Callas in MedeaMedea (Dallas Opera 1958) it is a good introduction to the film. Made more for the fan of 'La Diva', but still worth watching.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 7 March 2012
Useful for comparative interpretations and presentations of Greek Drama. As a Classical Studies student I found it interesting and affordable.
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