Thursday, 27 November 2008
Angelopoulos, Takeshi Kitano, Cacoyiannis
In yesterday’s Guardian, Ronald Bergen wrote:
‘Thessaloniki's international film festival, which will celebrate its half-century next year, again reinforced its reputation for being a festival where directors are the stars. For example, when one walks up the stairways of the large Olympia cinema, the walls are plastered with scores of photographs of film directors – not an actor to be seen.
‘This year, tributes were paid to the Dardenne brothers, Oliver Stone and Terence Davies, who all gave masterclasses to packed, enthusiastic young audiences, and there was a nine-film homage to Ousmane Sembène, who died last year. Takeshi Kitano was also presented with an Honorary Golden Alexander, for lifetime achievement.
‘Kitano, whose latest film, Achilles and the Tortoise, has Greek connections (the title comes from Zeno's paradox), said that it was a real pleasure to be so honoured especially by Greece, the home of great playwrights and philosophers, and "the cradle of western civilisation". Although these remarks are always flattering to Greeks, they also get on their nerves. It implies that Greece did its bit for civilisation centuries ago and has rested on its laurels ever since.
‘Despite the cradle being a bit battered these days, having gone through wars and revolutions and social and political upheavals, they have still produced many great artists since the days of ancient Greece, including two internationally renowned film directors – Michael Cacoyannis and Theo Angelopoulos, both of whom were represented at the festival.
‘My Life and Times: Michael Cacoyannis, a documentary by Lydia Carras, reminded us how the 86-year-old was once the embodiment of Greek cinema, reaching his peak of popularity with Zorba the Greek (1964). Yet with his Euripides trilogy, featuring the magnificent Irene Papas, Cacoyannis proved that the classic plays on film could still grip modern audiences…’
(Read the article in full here).
Just a couple of additional points.
It’s good to see that Angelopoulos is still going strong. His vision has always been epic, tragic and poetic. Above is a clip from his breathtakingly brilliant Travelling Players (1974) – which is not only the greatest ever Greek film, but also a masterpiece of cinema full stop.
Takeshi Kitano, who has rightly been honoured by the Thessaloniki festival for lifetime achievement for his films – which include Hana-Bi, Sonatine, Violent Cop, Brother, Boiling Point, Kikujiro – is also a visionary filmmaker with a strong sense of the tragic, heroic and poetic. Indeed, it’s worth pointing out that the only civilisation in the world of any significant interest besides that of Greece’s is Japan’s – and, of course, the similarities between Greek and Japanese civilisation are striking.
Finally, regarding Cacoyiannis’ Euripides trilogy – Electra, Trojan Women and Iphigenia; these are all good films, but Cacoyiannis is a filmmaker with a predilection for realism and he misses a fundamental aspect of Greek tragedy, which is that, as Nietzsche says, it takes place in an ‘ecstatic dream world’.