Before checking himself into a hospital for treatment of a terminal illness from which he may never recover, celebrated writer Alexandre spends one last day wandering about town and reminiscing about his past, trying to capture one perfect moment of happiness from his memories.
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First Angelopoulos film for me and I'm already in love with a new auteur. I felt a slight resemblence to some of the work of Raul Ruiz in this film. It's easy to see why it won the palme d'or this year, Bruno Ganz gives another great perfomance in this amazing work.
It's long, it's haunting, it's gorgeously shot, it's beautiful, it's poetic, it's powerful. An incredible film. And that scene on the bus is just one of those rare moments in cinema history that contains a momentum of beauty and simplicity that is purely astonishing.
His extended takes flow between past and present as seamlessly as the mind does. I'm haunted by two shots in particular, juxtaposed against each other: the children clinging to the fence at the Albanian border, and the children hugging the railings of the tiered balcony in the abandoned building.
Not the strongest Angelopoulos by a long shot, its golden plant notwithstanding. This is a filmmaker who I always revere above all else for his tremendous virtuosic streak (evident above all else in the deployment of peerless sequence shots). There is some of that here. Naturally. But there is also a lot of visually drab downtime. And much of this is the ponderous hackneyed stuff of weak Greek verse. You may wince.
Angelopoulos takes us through a final day with such elegant grace and poetry. Truly a Humanist masterwork that pays tribute to the bittersweet beauty of life. Ganz is fantastic despite being dubbed (though it is a little distracting). Inflections of Tarkovsky, but overall unique, tender and more abstractly constructed - which lends to the idea of the bleeding of time's linearity when facing a perceived ending.
"Why does one have to rot in silence torn between pain and desire?" I appreciate the foley, the poetic nature of the film, and Angelopoulos' trademark depressing street parade, led by an unenthusiastic accordion player, ostensibly celebrating a happy event. The protagonist, however, is fairly odious, some writer asshole with bourgeois regrets. Two and a half Ks.
Theo Angelopoulos' avoidance of editing is mesmerizing at its best. At worst, it makes my mind wander away from the story - not unlike the distracted old poet played by Ganz in this film. "Ah, those were the times" - I can read similar sentiments between many of the long takes, and unfortunately a lack of faith in tomorrow. Up close, I enjoyed the presence of the Albanian boy. He is not allowed much, but brings hope.