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May 27, 2008
Unseen Europe Hub Page
Introduction: Europe as a Cultural Project
My courses and research projects in general have been to explore developments in European cinema in the five main industrial countries of Europe in the 20th and now 21st centuries. These countries are Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia. This project is based upon a SPECT approach (Social / Political / Economic / Cultural / Textual). This project is of necessity open ended but it is envisaged as part of a necessary cultural project in the interests of developing notions of cultural citizenship and aspects of representation which go far beyond the limitations of instrumentalised commercialism.
This approach excludes a rich and diverse cinematic heritage which extends from Iceland to Poland via Sweden, Finland and Estonia and through Denmark, Holland and Belgium. I have therefore decided to slowly develop what I'm describing as 'The Unseen Europe' as films from smaller countries have severe difficulties in gaining the audience they often deserve.
The European Union is now 26 countries and 26 rich cultural heritages which overlap and inform each other historically. At this time when the sense of direction of what Europe actually is and what it might become is uncertain - because of the rejection by the voters in France and Holland of closer constitutional ties - it is important to prioritise the cultural aspects of these diverse 'nations'.
This cinema is not a cinema concerned primarily with stars and the paraphernalia of commercialism. It is more of an 'art' cinema in the sense of those involved following their individual projects often with the director linked to the production crews and scriptwriters. This is an auteur cinema which people should be proud of. It is a powerful visual heritage which is likely to be remembered and revisted by many in the fullness of time. It is a cinema which will gradually become canonical. These are sentiments and visions which go beyond the 'postmodern' in the sense that one isn't judgemental about the content or targeted audience of a media text. This is to say the content of texts is important and not always easy to deal with. It can make audiences uncomfortable and is frequently challenging in many different ways.
Europe will not become a coherent entity unless it develops a culture which develops both an overarching pan-Europeanism and at the same time is celebratory of difference. This is a tall order and there is no historical precedent for this for the senses of nationhood and national identity are often deeply embedded. At the same time there is a desire for something greater which goes beyond Europe's history of repressive empires all of which came tumbling down either during or in the aftermath of the European 30 years war of the 20th century. The mayhem and carnage following the breakup of Yugoslavia is a salutary lesson about the primacy of the cultural within identity politics.
The importance of Europe as a cultural project rather than a political and economic convenience cannot be overstated if Europe is to become something other than a simple confederation of mainly economically linked countries with regulatory directives to control the worst excesses of capitalism.
In Britain at least, it is very hard to see a good range of films which represent aspects of British life leave alone 'sub-titled' films which deal with historical and national themes which are probably unfamiliar, yet cinema is a great way to learn about and share cultural experiences. Currently DVDs and the occasional TV film are one of the few ways a British audience can learn about other aspects of European culture. Usefully in the UK the government is exerting pressure on TV companies like the BBC to spend more of its film budget on non-Hollywood films although the pressure is on to spend it on british films.
For these reasons it is intended that this blog will gradually develop this page providing resource links relating to directors and national cinemas outside of the 'Big Five'. The first posting has been a resources page on the work of Theo Angelopoulos the celebrated Greek director.
Why Angelopoulos? Well this probably has something to do with spending some time over the last two summers in the Greek Islands. There is a surprise serendiptious memory of our 2006 trip to Koufanissia. On our return ferry jouney a woman and her 9 year old daughter sat next to us. She was a solicitor from Cyprus who had trained in the UK and was a member of the film club in Nicosia. We had a fine discussion about European cinema and the experience was a reminder of the cultural homogeneities which link the countries of Europe in surprising ways as we celebrated the excellent film making of Kieslowski for example. Cultural differences between Greece and Britain, indeed Northern Europe are fascinating yet Europe looks to the Greek city states as the Political and cultural crucible of contemporary Europe.
This is a developing page which will eventually provide links to a wide range of National and European-wide film institutions
Being a small country physically and in population it is of course very hard to develop a thriving film industry because it is such an industrial process which frequently demands high budgets to pay known stars and have a large budget. Even the art-house circuit in the UK at least is increasingly constrained by commercial imperatives (financial targets) rather than cultural benefits which are often unquantifiable. In the middle of the 1990s following near financial collapse in the transitional period from Soviet rule Lithuania could not even afford to make a single film from its cultural budget despite the EU being prepared to underwrite 50% of the costs. However when one visited a museum in those times not only was there a charge (relatively little for a foreigner in terms of real income) but somebody would follow you around turning the lights off and on to save power.
Bradford Film Festival showed several new Lithuanian films in 2005. This programme of Lithuanian films was a first, not just in the UK but also outside of Lithuania. The festival was part of a whole cultural exchange project Visions of Yorskhire and Vilnius.
Lithuania Sociology Magazine Sociumas examines the prospects for Lithuanian cinema.
April 05, 2007
Theo Angelopoulos: The Unseen Europe Part 1
Theo Angelopoulos talking about his filmaking. Film featured Eternity and a Day . Only available in the UK as a VHS video.
This posting is currently provided to give a portal to a range of the best sites on the internet concerning Greek director Theo Angelopoulos. At the time of publication it was probably the best portal on the internet for accessing further information about Angelopoulos. I have now added some YouTube extracts which enthusiasts are posting. In the UK it is currently very difficult to get much of Angelopoulos' work. Hopefully this will help to generate more of a market and provide the investment for digitisation. As I have now devised the 'hub page' system I will start to create separate pages of links on the films when time allows. (Ironic that so much of his work incorporates filmed time!)
Theo Angelopoulos receiving his
honorary degree at Essex University
Andrew Horton (1997) argues that Angelopoulos has made an important impact on cinema in four ways in particular:
- As an innovative film stylist
- As a committed filmmaker
- As an artist able to be able to transcend purely nationalistic boundaries. In doing so to "evoke the ageless, the univerasl and the mythical
- These lead to a 'cinema of contemplation' (history that points to an inner journey).
(Based upon Fainaru, Dan 2001. Theo Angelopoulos Interviews )
- 1935 Born in Athens April 27th into a merchant family
- 1940 Italy invades Greece. Mussolini's army is repulsed. Germany is forced to interverne. This puts back Operation Barbarossa (the invasion of the Soviet Union) by several valuable weeks. This probably saved Moscow and possibly Leningrad from being captured
- 1944 Greece is liberated from the Nazis but enters a protracted cilil war between Communist and anti-Communist forces. The feelings generated by this conflict will last for decades. During the civil war Angelopoulos' father was arrested for no apparent reason. He returned home suddenly after nine months
- 1959 Angelopoulos quits his law school degree nearing graduation in order to complete his military service
- 1961 Angelopoulos goes to Paris to study literature, filmology, and anthropology at the Sorbonne
- 1962 enters IDHEC (Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinematographiques). He has several disagreements with his tutors there. Attempted to shoot a medium length film called 'In Black and White'. It was never completed due to lack of funds. Negative remained at the laboratory
- 1963 moves from IDHEC to courses run by ethnographic filmmaker Jean Rouch at La Musee de L'Homme
- 1964 returns to Athens. Writes film criticism for Democratic Change
- 1965 works on US / Greek production of a fictional film based upon a real pop group the Formix Story. It was supposed to be a promotional film for the band's American tour. angelopoulos was replaced by the producers before completion
- 1967 Greece of 'The Colonels'. This military takeover led to much repression of democratic institutions. Democratic Change was closed down and strict political censorship is enforced upon all the media
- 1968 Angelopoulos completes the B & W short The Broadcast which took 2 years to complete. It is about a radio show looking for the "Ideal Man". It is screened and wins the Greek Critics award at the Thessaloniki Film Festival
- 1970 Reconstruction is released. This is his first film based upon an real event which was the killing of a returned Gastarbeiter. It won several awards at the Thessaloniki film Festival including: best film, best director, best script, best actress and the critics' prize
- 1971 Reconstruction gains some international recognition winning the Georges Sadoul Prize in France and gaining a special mention from the International film Critics (FIPRESCI) at the Berlin Film Festival
- 1972 Days of '36 released. Based upon a real incident which took place in pre-World War II Greece. Wins Best Film at Thessaloniki film Festival and wins FIPRESCI award in Berlin
- 1974. Starts work on The Travelling Players in January. Has to stop in May because of political events; re-starts in November finishing the film in January 1975. It is a great international success garnering awards in Thessaloniki, Cannes, and Brussels
- 1977. Makes The Hunters which is the first film to be produced by his own company with French and German co-producers. It is invited to the official Cannes competition. Wins a Golden Hugo in Chicago
- 1980. O Megalexandros (Alexander the Great [this is a problematic translation]). It combines several Greek myths and is styed in the form of a Byzantine liturgy. It is a co-production with Italy and Germany. Wins Golden Lion and Critics Award in Venice. Also wins acclaim in Thessaloniki
- 1981. One Village, One Villager. Documentary on the theme of the fate of Greek villages abandoned by their inhabitants. Screened by Greek Television
- 1982. contributes to a series of documentaries on cultural capitals. He makes Athens, Return to the Acropolis
- 1983. Starts shooting Voyage to Cythera in January. Had to stop for two months due to bad health. finally finished in 1984. Start of a new cycle of films which are far more personal in nature. shown in Cannes 1985 it marked the beginning of a still ongoing partnership with the Italian poet and scriptwriter Tonino Guerra and composer Eleni Kaindrou
- 1986. The Beekeeper is shown at the Venice Film Festival. works with Marcello Mastroianni for the first time. Mastroainni becomes a personal friend
- 1988. Landscape in the Mist launched at Venice Film Festival. wins the Silver Lion at Venice and selected as Best European Film of the Year by the European Film Academy. The following year if wins a Golden Hugo for best director and a Golden Plaque for best cinematography in Chicago
- 1991. The Suspended Step of the Stork opens in Cannes. Stars Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau. this another cycle of work which Angelopoulos describes as existential. His concerns for the beginnings of the breakup of the Balkans and the beginnings of a disillusionment in politics in general are apparent
- 1995. Named Doctor Honoris Causa by the Free University in Brussels. Makes Ulysses Gaze which uses an american lead for the first time (Harvey Keitel). shoots the film all over the Balkans incorporating past and present tragedies. It wins the Grand Prix at Cannes
- 1998. Eternity and a Day wins the Golden Palm in Cannes. Becomes the president of the Thessaloniki film Festival after having had a troubled relationship with other Greek directoprs complaining that he had stolen the show from them
- 1999. Awarded Doctor Honoris Causa at Paris X University in Nanterre
- 200. Awarded honorary Degree of Doctor of Essex University (Department of Film Studies)
- 2004. The Weeping Meadow. Part one of a projected Trilogy
- 2007/8. Projected release of The Dust of Time second part of the Trilogy.
The Dust of Time (in production release date projected 2007)
The Weeping Meadow (2004) [Part 1 of trilogy] Extract from YouTube below
Extract two from Weeping Meadow Beer Hall Scene English subtitles.
Eternity and a Day (1998)
Lumiere and Company (1995)
The Suspended Step of the Stork (1991). You Tube Extract below.
Landscape in the Mist (1989)
The Bee-Keeper (1986)
Voyage to Cithera (1984)
Alexander the Great (1980)
The Hunters (1977)
The Travelling Players (1975) YouTube extract below
Days of 36 (1972)
Resurrection of a Crime (1970)
Interview with Andrew Horton mainly about Eternity and a Day
More of the interview with Andrew Horton mainly on the visual style of Angelopoulos
Fainaru, Dan Edited: Theo Angelopoulos Interviews. University of Mississippi Press
The Films of Theo Angelopoulos (review)
Journal of Modern Greek Studies - Volume 18, Number 2, October 2000, pp. 468-470 (you will need to part of a subscribing library to access this article).
This search is a selection of the best sites on a Google search to page 20.
Last date of search 5th April 2007
Here is a link to a useful website . You will need an Athens account to access this article. Review article of important films from the Balkans by Diana Iordanova
Official Theo Angelopoulos Website
Angelopoulos' Gaze by Bill Mousoulis from Senses of Cinema
Vicky Tsaconas Landscape in the Mist? Senses of Cinema site
The Strictly Film School Blog entry
The Hellenic Ministry of Culture Site
Guardian review of Eternity and a Day : Bradshaw
International Herald Tribune Cannes Report on Angelopoulos winning the Palm d'Or in Cannes 1998
Text of the awards ceremony at Essex University where Angelopoulos was awarded an honorary degree from the Centre for Film Studies
Link to Thessaloniki Documentary Festival site with links to documentaries about Angelopoulos
Useful page of references from the Film Reference site
Theo Angelopoulos, a man against frontiers: Ulysses's gaze in International Journal of Psychoanalysis Volume 85, Number 4 / August 01, 2004, Pages1017 - 1021
Angelopoulos interview with Geoff Andrew in Time Out magazine Jan 2005
Cinemascope Review of Weeping Meadow
Realtimeplayer interview with Angelopoulos in French from Making of Europe Net
Link to PDF file on Borders & communities in Angelopoulos' trilogy by Lasse Thomassen Dept of Government Essex University
Link to petition to Greek Government seeking to reverse the decision to sack Angelopoulos from his position as director of the Thessaloniki Festival.
Link to BFI site on documentary on Angelopoulos "Balkan Landscapes"
Regular Production Crew
Andreas Sinanos on the following film:
The Weeping Meadow
Yorgos Arvanitis on the following films:-
Eternity and a Day
Landscape in the Mist
Voyage to Cythera
Alexander the Great
Days of 36
Resurrection of a Crime
Eleni Karaindrou : Biographical Notes from ECM