Sunday, January 26, 2020

Theo Angelopoulos: The Great Poet of Cinema

The 24th of January marks the death anniversary of the acclaimed Greek film director Theo Angelopoulos. He was killed by a motorcycle on January 24, 2012, while he was attempting to cross a busy road in Piraeus.

Being one of the last and most characteristic representatives of modernism in Cinema, Angelopoulos was, without any doubt, the most internationally respected Greek filmmaker and one of the greatest directors of his generation. He received numerous awards with the most notable being the prestigious Palme d’Or award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival for his remarkable film “Eternity and a Day”. 

Born in Athens on April 27, 1935, he studied Law at the University of Athens and continued with Literature, Filmology and Anthropology and the University of Paris (Sorbonne). He soon dropped out to study film at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinematographiques (IDHEC) before returning to Greece

Theo Angelopoulos never hide his left-leaning sympathies. In one of his interviews, on the occasion of the release of his film “The Weeping Meadow”, he had called himself “a leftist by emotion”. His filmography, poetic and full of allegories, is deeply affected by Greece’s modern political history; the WWII resistance, the 1946-’49 Civil War, the communist political refugees, the 1967-1974 military dictatorship. 

Theo Angelopoulos with prominent Greek actor Manos Katrakis
during the shooting of the film
Voyage to Cythera" (1984).
Upon his return to Greece, he worked as a film critic at the left-wing newspaper “Dimokratiki Allagi” (1964-1967) and at “Modern Cinema” magazine. 

His first film “Reconstruction” (1970) received numerous awards at the Thessaloniki Film Festival as well as abroad. From then onwards, he began an impressive career in cinematography that established him as one of the most influential european filmmakers. 

One of his greatest films – actually a milestone in Greek cinema history – was “The Travelling Players” (1974-75). The movie, which traces the history of mid-20th century Greece from 1939 to 1952, has been characterized by numerous film critics throughout the world as a “masterpiece”. 

During his career, Theo Angelopoulos collaborated with some of the best actors and actresses of international cinema, such as Marcello Mastroianni, Harvey Keitel, Bruno Ganz, Jeanne Moreau, Maia Morgenstern, Willem Dafoe, Michel Piccoli, etc. 

Apart from film critics, Angelopoulos’ cinematography has been praised by many of his own colleagues. According to American film director Martin Scorsese, Angelopoulos was a “masterful filmmaker”. Legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman had characterized Angelopoulos’ “The Beekeeper” as a “masterpiece, an unbelievably sensational experience”. For Emir Kusturica he was “a great personality of European Cinema” while German filmmaker Wim Wenders had called “Ulysses’ Gaze” as “a film that will go down in cinema’s history”.

Angelopoulos was something more than a film director; he was a poet of filmmaking. “Prizes are prizes, but I still need to tell that story. And being simple is the hardest thing” he said once. 

If you regard cinema as something more than plain entertainment, far from Hollywood-style predictable and purely profit-making movie industry, you must watch the following Theo Angelopoulos’ films: “The Travelling Players” (1975), “Ulysses’ Gaze” (1995), “Eternity and a Day” (1998), “The Weeping Meadow” (2004).