Sunday, 5 February 2012

death of a master

Upon the sad demise, a week or so ago, of one of the world's last indisputably great film directors, I'd meant to post some sort of comment, however sadly inadequate. But I did read some decent Obits, and meanwhile have been entranced, watching again (or in some cases seeing for the first time), various masterpieces (The Travelling Players; Landscape In The Mist, etc) by the man who was Greece's finest filmmaker, Theo Angelopoulos. At least he'd have had the brief satisfaction of seeing his films collected as dvds in three boxed sets, the last of which is generally available this month.

What a way to go, however! Angelopoulos was aged 75, directing his new film in Piraeus, when run down by a motorcyclist who turns out to have been an off-duty policeman. Road accidents of one kind and another, so often seeming absurd and arbitrary as well as particularly shocking, have curtailed any number of formidable creative talents (Nathanael West, Camus, Pollock, Clifford Brown, W.G. Sebald etc): you're left thinking 'I wish there'd been more time, more work, more opportunity to relish what might have come next'.

Still, the legacy of Angelopoulos, those long, slow, remarkable and remarkably complex films, may now be properly assessed. He was a true original, and anyone interested in the art of cinema will be fascinated by his work. You don't have to know about Greek myths, history or politics, but the more you do know or care to find out about Greece's past and troubled present, the better. If you want lots of violence, fast editing, loud music and all the other obvious and banal aspects of the current mainstream, you won't like Angelopoulos's unique style or his exquisite and original use of landscape, and the emotion and poetry will pass you by. Time and patience are required in order to appreciate to the full the imaginative and innovative cinema of Angelopoulos: one is drawn into these lives and images gradually, frame by frame… And like all true artists he creates an atmosphere, a special world that fascinates and almost hypnotizes: it's a genuine and extraordinary experience that, as they say 'grows on you', and one which you can grow with. 'Caviare to the general' maybe, but a taste very well worth acquiring.

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