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Alexandre, a TV reporter, is working for a few days in a border town, where a lot of refugees from Albania, Turkey and Kurdistan are packed in. Among them, he notices an old man and thinks he is an important Greek politician who disappeared mysteriously a few years ago. Back in Athens, he asks this politician's former wife to come and identify him. A slow and dry meditation about inhumanity of borders. Written by
Not my favorite Angelopolous, but grew on 2nd viewing
On first viewing, this was not an Angelopoulos film I loved. Of course it looks great, that's a given. But the first time around, the seeming central story line seemed almost tacked on. A journalist is tracking Marcello Mastroianni, who may or may not be a famous politician and philosophic author who simply vanished one day, to a refugee zone on the edge of the Greek border, where he lives in squalor with the others there. The problem, for me, was that the Mastroianni mystery was far less powerful and interesting then the stories of those around him, who aren't refugees by choice, but in order just to survive. So, for me, it felt we were focused on the wrong plot, or certainly the more intellectual, less moving one.
Also, the dubbing of Mastroianni is pretty awful, to the point of being distracting. Oddly, that's something I didn't find in the earlier "The Beekeeper" (in fact, it was so good in that film, I thought perhaps Mastroianni spoke Greek, and was able to do his own lines).
But on second viewing I realized the film is really a chance for Angelopoulos to ask important and pointed questions about the nature of borders; national, emotional, racial, from ourselves, between men and woman. The 'main plot' is just the skeleton to hang the meat of the film on.
There are, memorable and lovely scenes here. An amazing tracking shot as the camera goes by box car after box car housing refugees from different places, deliberately and chillingly recalling the trains of German WWII, as if to ask, have we really left that past behind? The wordless slow seduction of the journalist in a restaurant is odd, and amazingly tense, as the two people simply look at each other in fairly wide shot for the longest time, the tiniest shifts in body language and facial expression telling the kind of story that is usually filled with bantered pointless dialogue. And the film's opening and closing images are particularly powerful.
Seeing it again, knowing up front the film wasn't really about the mystery it sets up, didn't solve all my problems with it, but certainly made it a much stronger experience the 2nd time around.
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