Theo Angelopoulos: 1935-2012.

“Theo Angelopoulos, a renowned director whose films explored the human condition in general and the condition of modern Greece in particular through haunting imagery rooted in myth and epic, died on Tuesday of injuries suffered in a traffic accident near Piraeus, Greece. He was 76. Mr. Angelopoulos was struck by a motorcycle earlier that day while crossing the street, police and hospital officials told The Associated Press. He was on location near Piraeus, the port of Athens. The driver of the motorcycle, who was injured in the accident, was later identified as an off-duty police officer.” – New York Times, January 26, 2012.

“Theo who? Exactly. Because his output has been little seen other than at festivals or, just occasionally, on television, the sixty-year-old writer-director hasn’t received anything like the recognition he deserves. Prejudices about Greek movies haven’t helped; nor, probably, have his concerns – the spiritual, moral, and political condition of modern Greece and Europe, filtered in part through allusions to ancient myth – or his style, whereby naturalism, Brechtian theatricality, and wordless reverie are seamlessly integrated by means of long, fluid takes whose complexity, elegance, and audacity outdo even the celebrated travelling shot that opened Welles’s Touch of Evil.” – Geoff Andrew, “Homer’s Where the Heart Is: Ulysses’ Gaze”, 1996.

“Too few students, or even film teachers and scholars, care passionately about movies. My…fear is that all the significant movies have already been made, but then I’ll see a film like Kusturica’s Underground (1995) or Angelopoulos’s Ulysses’ Gaze (1995), and I’ll know the medium is still powerful and alive.” – Ted Perry, My Reel Story, 2001.

“If this is what you have to give me, I have nothing to say.” – Theo Angelopoulos, winning the Grand Prize of the Jury but losing the Palme d’Or to Underground at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.

“Because it is a noble epic set amid the ruins of the Russian empire and the genocide of what was Yugoslavia, there is a temptation to give “Ulysses’ Gaze” the benefit of the doubt: To praise it for its vision, its daring, its courage, its great length. But I would not be able to look you in the eye if you went to see it, because how could I deny that it is a numbing bore?….What arrogance and self-importance this film reveals.” – Roger Ebert, review of “Ulysses’ Gaze”, Chicago Sun-Times, 1995.

“This filmmaker’s eloquent, abstract, trance-inducing work so eschews the mundane that it can barely be watched in any earthbound way. So at the screening I attended, a man who had shown signs of vigor as he entered the theater began conspicuously fighting sleep as the film got under way. Take that as an indication of the film’s method, not its merit: Mr. Angelopoulos’s meditation on the meaning of one man’s life is genuinely hypnotic in its way of transcending ordinary narrative. The camera casts a spell as it wanders gravely through the central character’s most essential thoughts” – Janet Maslin, review of “Eternity and a Day”, New York Times, 1999.

“When Angelopoulos moves, he is sailing in time as well as space….This is engrossing cinema, not fast or fluent….It is hard for anyone to study Angelopoulos properly. The films deserve large screens – but one would settle for wretched video versions. Film culture has come a long way since the days when it was impossible to see “old” films in any form. Nevertheless, it is the case that many people who take the medium seriously have scarcely heard of, let alone encountered, the work of a master. And there are so few masters left now.” – David Thomson, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, 2004.

“My cinema is not psychological, it is epic; the individual in it is not pyscholanalyzed but placed within a historical context. My characters assume all the elements of epic cinema or, if I may say so, those of epic poetry, typically featuring clear-cut persona….Cutting real time into small time pieces, focusing only on the climax of each piece and eliminating the breath at the beginning and the end of each shot, this, in my eyes, was a bit like raping your audience, forcing yourself on it. The logical explanation for this preference of mine came later, but I could feel it in my bones already then….I am a melancholic. And according to Aristotle, melancholia is the source of the creative spirit. I must also say I do not feel that all the record-breaking blockbusters succeeding each other should worry us overmuch. Some films may be tremendously successful but are soon forgotten; others are seen by only a few and yet they leave their mark on the history of cinema….I am not a missionary. I don’t want to educate people; I try to find a way from chaos to light. We live in confused times where values do not exist any longer. Melancholy goes along with confusion and disorientation….I am equally pessimistic and optimistic about our abilities to find ways out of the confusion of time. But I deeply wish that people would learn to dream again. Nothing is more real than our dreams.” – Theo Angelopoulos, Interviews, 1999.

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