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Archive for July 7th, 2015

landscape

by Anukbavkist

Arguably the last of the great 20th century modernist filmmakers, or as David Bordwell once wrote, “the last believer in a cinema of heroic statement,” Theo Angelopoulos was nothing if not an artist with something to say. His cinema was one that had literary aspirations, drawing from as much Greek history, culture and mythology to try to comprehend the modern world. With each perfectly crafted tableau, often filmed in perfectly orchestrated long take(s) and/or employing heavy allegorical or symbolic meaning and imagery, films took on the weight of epic poetry: A disembodied statue of a hand airlifted from the ocean; The mourning of a fallen horse amid a wedding celebration; Time complete frozen at the first snowflake of winter. However when Angelopoulos’s intellectual side got the better of him, his art often felt incomplete; Striving to be  masterpieces but instead existing on the line that separated genius and pretension. It was only when the humanist in Angelopoulos came out, did his work live up to his reputation as one of the great filmmakers of his generation. Humanity takes form in 11-year-old Voula and her 5-year-old brother Alexander, two siblings who leave home in search of a father who may or may not exist. They travel by foot, hitchhike, and train-hop, eventually running into/befriending a young itinerant actor, Orestes. Traveling with his acting troupe family, previously chronicled by Angelopoulos in his 1975 masterpiece, The Traveling Players, Orestes becomes a lone guiding light on the children’s unforgiving odyssey. Transforming contemporary Greece (or 1988) into a sort of cultural wasteland haunted by the ghosts of 20th century Greek history and myth—deserted beaches, overcast skies, freight trains, longs stretches of empty road and colossal industrial machinery, out in the distance like ruins of the modern age—Theo Angelopoulos’s Landscape in the Mist exists somewhere between allegorical fairy tale and existential nightmare. Angelopoulos was able to weave an episodic narrative that traverses an innocent child’s worldview with that of a harsh reality (best exemplified in what may be the film’s most infamous sequence, a one and a half minute long take of the back of a concealed truck while sexual assault takes place inside). And finally Angelopoulos, and cinematographer Giorgos Arvanitis, save their finest stanza for the end: An eternal embrace that could easily stand on its own as a cinematic mini-masterpiece.

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