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
A far-reaching book printed in the UK and the US by a prestigious publishing house has been at last dedicated to contemporary Romanian cinema. It is a well-deserved and long-awaited one because Romanian filmmakers have strongly asserted themselves in the last decade or so. In order to better understand that this is of international significance we should notice that Romanian cinema – similarly to other Romanian arts – has never benefited from the honour of having a book entirely dedicated to it in English or other international language.
Dominique (Domnica) Nasta is a Professor of Film Studies at Université libre de Bruxelles and the author of two books: Meaning in Film: Relevant Structures in Soundtrack and Narrative (1992) i and New Perspectives in Sound Studies / Le son en perspective: nouvelles recherches (2004) ii, dealing with film music and sound. She has also contributed extensively to several encyclopedias and dictionaries on cinema (for instance the chapter on Romanian cinema in Storia del cinema mondiale  edited by Gian Piero Brunetta iii). Perhaps not coincidentally, the author is of Romanian origin and lives in Brussels. Being an ‘outsider’ to some extent is both an advantage and disadvantage involving a certain distancing and lack of bias, but requiring great endeavor to see and review a long list of Romanian films and access a long bibliography in Romanian. In addition, Nasta returned several times to her native country to meet filmmakers and obtain important details from the directors Nae Caranfil, Radu Gabrea, Lucian Pintilie and Corneliu Porumboiu, as well as from the scriptwriter Razvan Radulescu and the cinematographer Oleg Mutu. ... More
Reading the book World Film Locations: Athens – part of Intellect Books’ World Film Locations series that includes, among others, New York, Paris, and London – feels like riding a hop-on hop-off bus through time and, of course, space. The editors write: “A kind of urban nostalgia, a constant comparison between the present and the past of the city can be traced in many of the texts that comment on the films and in the photos of the locations in their contemporary state, attesting to an aesthetic and political re-evaluation of cinematic urban forms of the past and present”.
This constant comparison is evident in everyday life, still and always: A friend walking his dog in front of the Acropolis museum was approached by a family of Russian tourists. He was asked for directions towards the “Old Athens”. He tried to define what type of “old” they were looking for. Ancient old – meaning ruins and marbles and the Parthenon – or the Old City like Plaka and Monastiraki? Alas, as much as my friend tried, the Russians’ command of the English language was quite poor so that the communication ended up fruitless. Yet the city of Athens is truly old. It can afford to be divided into periods of ancient, post-revolutionary, pre-modern, quasi-modern, and what-have-you. Cinema on the other hand is – in comparison and as the cliché has it – pretty much like a baby. That does not mean, however, that it does not have a past of its own, not that it is any less intriguing. Together, they make for an exhilarating combination. ... More
Eleftheria Rania Kosmidou’s book European Civil War Films: Memory, Conflict and Nostalgia is a monograph on the study of the neglected subject of European civil war films that attempts to displace frameworks for the understanding of historical trauma and its role in cultural memory from a preoccupation with World War II and the Holocaust to the subject matter of Civil War.
The book examines the problematic of cinematic postmemory through a series of comparative case studies of late twentieth-century European films about the civil wars in Spain, Ireland, Former Yugoslavia, and Greece. Through a close study of Fernando Trueba’s Belle Époque (1992), José Luis Cuerda’s Butterfly’s Tongue (1999), Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom (1995) and The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006), Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins (1996), Emir Kusturica’s Underground (1995), Danis Tanović’s No Man’s Land (2001), and Theo Angelopoulos’s The Travelling Players (1975), Kosmidou explores how these films break with historical taboos of representation, what type of historical allegorizations they advance and what kind of cultural memory they create. According to the writer, the films make use of various stylistic and representational elements and succeed in making decisive contributions to cultural memory. Film narratives often take a romanticised and melodramatic approach to the Spanish Civil War, the Irish Civil War is pictured through personal and family relations, satire and comedy are prominent modes of representation in the films about the Former Yugoslavian Civil War, while Theo Angelopoulos’s Brechtian treatment of the Greek Civil War invites critical distance from the audience. ... More
Source: ΧΡΟΝΟΣ online magazine
Vangelis Calotychos’s new book is a study of the negotiations and metamorphoses of images of the Self and the Other in the changing post-1989 contexts of Europe and the Balkans. Read against the background of Greece’s position in the immediate Balkan vicinity as well as within the broader European project, Calotychos analyses how semantics of sameness and difference and their corresponding “gazes” of recognition and distance were generated in Greek society in the late 1980s propelled as much by the shifting contours of the regional and geopolitical contexts as well as by the inflow of mass immigration from neighboring countries. The book’s analytical standpoint is rooted in the tradition of postcolonial studies dealing with the colonization of the imaginary and a strand of research inquiring into the historical contingencies against which the colonization of the mind took place. Taking the year 1989 as a watershed, Calotychos’s central argument claims that the fundamental negotiations in Greek society concerning issues such as modernization and Europeanization were made through and by reference to Balkan themes and contexts of signification, a point that is convincingly argued throughout the whole book. Indebted to cultural studies, Calotychos’ includes in his analysis political and popular discourses, literature and film. His take demonstrates an interdisciplinary engagement and includes next to cultural theory and comparative literature, the social sciences and anthropology, history, politics and psychoanalysis. ... More
(Editor’s note: The following text is excerpted from the introduction of Masculinity and Gender in Greek Cinema by Achilleas Hadjikyriacou. Reprinted by permission of Bloomsbury Publishing, © 2013).
Between the end of the civil war (1949) and the Colonels’ military coup (1967), Greece went through tremendous political, economic and social transformations which inevitably influenced gender identities and relations. During the same period, Greece also witnessed an unparalleled bloom in cinema productions. Based on the recently established paradigm that cinema and popular culture viewed as social institutions can inform a historical project, this book explores the relationship between Greek cinema and the society within which it was created and viewed with an emphasis on gender issues. This exploration focuses on the ways in which a specific social context informed popular cinema productions and vice versa. The investigation of the interaction between social and filmic worlds aims to provide insights into how masculinity and gender relations as social, cultural and visual products were negotiated and transformed. As far as masculinity is concerned, there is a particular focus on the analysis of the processes through which a state of a crisis may ensue. Such a crisis could be defined as a state in which the definition of masculinity becomes obscured, uncertain and problematic, causing men to feel uncertainty and anxiety about what constitutes their gender identity.
More precisely, this book explores firstly how Greek popular films of the time represented masculinity and gender relations within a context of negotiation
between tradition and modernity. It also addresses how class and locality were represented in relation to gender identities. Additionally, throughout this
exploration, the ways in which cultural transfers impacted cinematic images are under scrutiny. Importantly, the question of how masculinity is represented
in films is paired with an investigation into how these representations relate to their historical context.
Wag the Dog : A Study on Film and Reality is a book that explores the evolving relation between cinema and reality through the close study of Barry Levinson’s film Wag the Dog (New Line Cinema, 1997). Eleftheria Thanouli maintains a dual focus throughout this monograph; she analyzes Wag the Dog as a case study and also the cinema/reality interplay that is reflected in and reflects upon the film.
According to Thanouli, Wag the Dog allows us to reconsider the ways in which art imitates life and vice-versa. The film tells the story of an
American president who stages a fake war against a distant foreign country to keep public attention away from his sexual life. Released in the theatres a
few weeks before the outbreak of the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the press, the film accidentally reduced the distance between reality and fiction. The real
life occurrences, namely President Clinton’s sexual affair with a White House intern and his subsequent attacks against foreign distant targets, seemed
outright inspired by the movie plot, causing the film to become a popular entry in the political and cultural dictionary worldwide.