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O Thiasos (The Travelling Players)

Posted by martinteller on May 3, 2008

In the immortal words of Casey Kasem: “This is fucking ponderous, man… ponderous, fucking ponderous!”.  Great movies can be long, and great movies can be slow, but when it’s long AND slow, you better have a damn good reason for it.  And Angelopolous does not appear to have a good reason.  I could have cut these 4 hours down to about two, no problem… maybe even 90 minutes.  Endless shots of people walking from one place to another.  I understand these are the “travelling players”, but what we need here is more play, less travel.  The problems escalate during the second half.  At first, the film centers around the performers and their travels.  It’s your standard concept of using the lives of ordinary people to reflect the political, social and military turmoil of the times.  I’m a little sick of that kind of thing at the moment, but since some of my favorite films (Underground, Devils on the Doorstep, etc.) are based on the same principle, I’m willing to go along with it.  But somewhere during the second hour, we start to lose focus on the lives of the players and it becomes more and more overtly political.  I didn’t care about modern Greek history that much to begin with, but at least it was palatable when there was more of a human element involved.  By the final hour of the film, I had pretty much tuned out.  The final big stumbling block is that it requires some knowledge not only about mid-20th century Greece, but ancient Greek mythology.  It seems to be assumed that the viewer has brushed up on his Aeschylus.  I had to consult a plot synopsis to pick up many of the references.  I won’t deny that there are some interesting scenes.  The performance on the beach and the dancehall scene come to mind.  But the boring stretches in between are too great, and it’s not worth the wait.  I hope that the critical community eventually realizes that we don’t have to canonize EVERY epic-length film.  Not as painful as 1900, but not much better either.  Rating: 4


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