Source: Filmicon, Issue 2
Narratives, themes and heroes from ancient Greek drama have been present on screen from the first years of early cinema to the present day. A list of films based on Greek tragedy reveals sacred or sacrilegious works, auteur masterpieces or educational television adaptations, avant-garde films, mainstream productions, parodies, and even comic twists of the tragic. In his recent exemplary book that revisits the relationship between ancient drama and film, Pantelis Michelakis shows a wide spectrum of cinematic versions of Greek tragedy, while exploring new questions and perspectives.
Despite the large number of film adaptations, rewritings and influences from ancient drama, only a limited number of monographs are exclusively devoted to tragedy in film. While there are numerous studies that examine the role of antiquity, mythology or ancient themes in film, television and popular culture [i], just a few of them elaborate in depth on the cinematic adaptations of Greek tragedy. The two major monographs date back from the 1980s: Kenneth MacKinnon’s Greek Tragedy into Film (1986) and Marianne McDonald’s Euripides in Cinema: The Heart Made Visible (1983). Both studies construct the object of tragedy into film as a homogeneous entity, through the selection of their corpus and through the categorizations they propose. This kind of construction of a homogeneous corpus is evident in McDonald’s study, which examines what can be called an auteur art-house canon, based mostly on Pasolini’s, Cacoyannis’s and Dassin’s versions of Euripides’s plays. Similarly, although MacKinnon’s book discusses a wider range of films and approaches, the distinction she proposes between what she calls films in the “theatrical mode”, films in the “realistic mode” and films in the “filmic mode” still constructs a rigid homogeneous corpus of study. ... More
Almost 25 years after the release of Jennie Livingston’s unapologetic documentary Paris is Burning (1990) and Judith Butler’s groundbreaking book Gender Trouble (1990), one might wonder what happened to the queer project. Born out of the discords of postmodern identity politics and the frustrations of AIDS activism in the late 1980s, the queer movement evolved and flourished throughout the 1990s, introducing a radical critique against the dominant heteronormative and homonormative culture and politics, as this was hammered through the movement’s unique amalgamation of theory and aesthetics (particularly if one bears in mind how queer theory has inspired New Queer Cinema’s filmmakers and vice versa). But it was not long before Hollywood contained the oppositional energies of a Gus Van Sant, a Todd Haynes, a Gregg Araki, reducing the movement to a moment, as Ruby Rich, who coined the movement’s cinematic epithet, laments (2000). However, this brief essay is not meant to be a eulogy. It is more of a re-evaluation of the way theory has engaged with the queer aspects of cinema in the last 25 years, as well as an investigation of queerness’s value at a theoretical, aesthetic, and political level in the contemporary neoliberal context where politics is replaced by “technocratic, corporate, post-political governance”, the so-called “governmentality of the crisis” (Butler, 2013). ... More