Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Maria Callas, Massimo Girotti, Laurent Terzieff, Giuseppe Gentile, Margareth Clémenti
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
The only movie made by Maria Callas, Medea nevertheless contains not a note of the great diva singing. And yet her presence is stunning, with a face (often seen in close-up) that cuts across the frame like a great phenomen... more »
MEDEA, one of Pasolini's greatest films, finally on DVD
J. Clark | metro New York City | 12/31/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Pasolini has the dubious distinction of being the only great filmmaker who was murdered, possibly at the behest of a right-wing faction which loathed the openly gay, Marxist, atheist - and popular - artist. Whatever the facts of his death, his reputation as one of Italy's greatest talents is based securely on his poetry, novels, works of critical theory and, in particular, the 25 films he directed. They include such stylistically diverse works as Accatone (1961; adapted from his own novel about life in the slums of modern Rome), The Gospel According to Matthew (1964; a beautiful, moving film about Christ), a stunning version of the Arabian Nights (1974), and his last film, the most nauseating masterpiece I have ever seen, Salò (1975; the Marquis de Sade's 1780s novel updated to Mussolini's Fascist Italy). But Pasolini's most underrated film is his startling version of Medea (1969). Its recent release on DVD (from Vanguard-Cinema) makes this is an opportune time to revisit the ultimate incarnation of the adage, Hell has no fury like a woman scorned.Pasolini takes a unique approach to Medea. He jettisons all but a few lines of Euripides, and begins the narrative many years before the action of the play. Most strikingly, he shoots almost the entire film in a documentary-like style. And, with a couple of notable exceptions, he creates a picture with almost no dialogue, although the soundtrack features an astonishing musical score (put together by Pasolini) of native North African wind and percussion music (20 years before Peter Gabriel's score for Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, which was clearly inspired by Pasolini). If that was not enough to offend purists, in the title role he cast perhaps the most famous opera diva of the century, Maria Callas, in her only film appearance, and then gave her almost no lines (and the few she had were dubbed). Perhaps if audiences had known a bit more about what to expect from the film, they would have seen what was on the screen, instead of what Pasolini consciously - and often brilliantly - stripped away from his sources.He opens with a witty prologue in which an unforgettable Centaur lectures baby Jason about his mythical lineage. So many gods and goddesses are mentioned in this breathless monologue, that the overwhelmed kid falls over backwards, sound asleep. (There is perhaps as much dialogue in these first three minutes as in the rest of the film.) Then Pasolini plunges us into Medea's world. In one of the film's most astonishing sequences, we witness, and feel, every moment of the ritual sacrifice of a young man, whose blood the people of Colchis smear over the plants and trees, to ensure the continued fertility of their land. Pasolini's artistry makes this event as poetic and authentic (indigenous North Africans, not extras from Central Casting, enact the Colchians) as it is gruesome. You may have read about such ancient rites in anthropology, but Pasolini depicts it unflinchingly. And he shows us, in visceral terms, exactly what kind of world produced Medea, whose revenge will be enacted years later on her faithless husband.Throughout, Pasolini invests every shot with a haunting, ripely sensuous look, almost always grounded in a cinéma vérité style. The film literally glows like burnished bronze, with many shots done at the "magic hour," just before sunset, which naturally provides an orange/gold sheen. The major stylistic exception is the scenes in the court of King Creon (played by Massimo Girotti, star of Visconti's 1941 film Ossessione), where Pasolini drolly mimics Eisenstein's expressionistic designs from that masterpiece of political intrigue, Ivan the Terrible (1943-1946).Much of Medea's enormous power comes from the naturalistic performances, ranging from the leads to the many minor characters. This is what the Argonauts might really have been like, a group of mostly quiet young men, doing their jobs, enjoying the thrill of battle when the opportunity arises, and gawking at the strange sights of Colchis's radically foreign culture. Giuseppe Gentile creates a complex Jason whom we believe a powerful woman like Medea could fall passionately in love with, who is devoted to his children, yet who is so fickle, not to mention hungry for power, that he would throw over his wife of 10 years to marry the daughter of his enemy, King Creon, as a backhanded way of regaining his throne.Pasolini draws a monumental performance from Maria Callas, who uses her few lines of dialogue to great effect. Simply by using her face and body, Callas suggests - with a subtlety unexpected from an opera diva - Medea's immense range of emotions, from heartbreaking tenderness to volcanic rage.Perhaps the best way to enjoy Pasolini's Medea is to put aside thoughts of Euripides, and later versions by such dramatists as Seneca, Pierre Corneille, and Jean Anouilh, not to mention Hollywood extravaganzas like Jason and the Argonauts (whether the fun 1963 version, with Ray Harryhausen's special effects wizardry, or the bland TV mini-series from 2000). Experience Pasolini's mesmerizing film on its own starkly beautiful terms, and you will find a unique vision not only of the ancient Mediterranean, recreated with what feels like astonishing fidelity, but of the tortured interplay of love, desire, and unspeakable revenge, which can be as current as the latest crime of passion."
Barbaric, Raw and Brilliant
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 09/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw Medea in college and was highly critical of it, finding it disappointing on almost all counts: terrible sound editing, cheap film stock, over bright lighting, bizarre, amateurish acting styles, inadequately edited, etc. Then there was the extended murder scene of Glauce and Creon going seemingly on forever, and then . . . wait; what's this? It's repeated all over again? Did someone get the wrong reel into the house?
Another ten years went by before I watched it again and after the second viewing, found myself emotionally drained, my jaw on the floor with the realization that I'd just finished a film that alternately horrified, fascinated and astonished me.
Medea is a grim, violent, film, minimally processed which only adds to its gruesome, wild rawness. This is Pasolini's Medea, not Euripedes and it is not easy viewing. Its wild, African/Middle Eastern score with the nasal bleating of women's voices in near pre-historic sounding rhythmic chant adds further to the element of being "out there" this film produces: This is about as far away from popular cinema as one can get. Medea doesn't easily compare to films of any other style or genre; not even with some of Pasolini's other work. But, if you can succumb to its hypnotic, mesmerizing pace at once both frenetic and static - you will realize this is as about as close to a hallucinatory experience one can achieve without the use of an illegal substance. Granted, not everyone wants that experience.
As Medea, Callas is simply amazing. Oddly, when the film came out she was roundly criticized for not being able to transfer the magic she so naturally gave on stage to the big screen. I will strongly disagree. The more I watch this film (which is probably several times a year for well over a decade), the more amazed I am by her performance in it. Where I, too, had first been critical of her languid weirdness, I've grown to see her
commitment to the role. I've come to be riveted to her painfully expressive mask as she completely inhabits this character who is, quite literally, capable of everything (yes - everything is the right word here).
Where I was once critical of the lighting, I've grown up to realize what Pasolini did; why he chose to film at the times of day he chose, and the resulting, fascinatingly brutal and surreal luminosity that bathes the entire film and the almost palpable sense of its visual texture. Stunning. The landscapes Pasolini chose to film in are as brutal and as vital as the characters of the tale. His near excision of all spoken text ( the screenplay is nearly dialogue free) brings us into a timeless, yet somehow ancient world where all is understood without the use of verbal communication. The savage, bloody rites of sacrifices for fertility and harvest initially seem barbarous then become somehow beautiful and fascinating. Then they make one cringe with the realization of how, not so long ago, this was us.
A remarkable, savage and beautiful film."
A must-see for Callas and Pasolini fans
Anna Shlimovich | Boston, MA United States | 10/15/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Callas is great as Medea; that was one of her most riveting roles on the opera stage. Here one can sense what a unique artist she was, as she is incredible in this dramatic role. Other than Callas's participation, it's a beautiful piece of cinema, it's shot similarly to Oedipus Rex by Pasolini, so you wil enjoy it if you like Rex. Writing this review, I am thinking again of why films like that are not made anymore...It is for a serious movie buff, so give it a miss if you like Hollywood mass production."
A film that mesmerizes, and provokes questions
cherubino | Houston, Texas United States | 09/19/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Previous reviewers have given much thought and details about the film that surpass what I could possibly say; instead, I wish only to share my reaction to this film.
It does not bother me that the dialogue is minimal. Anyone who really wants to know can read the original play, or listen to Callas' recordings of the operatic rendition by Cherubini. What does bother me is why Callas was dubbed. She knew Italian, and surely could have delivered the lines in a capable manner. What was Pasolini's intent?
The landscapes that we see in this film are often breathtaking. The land is harsh, often barren, but with a starkness and magnificence that beguile you.
I was also struck by how the characters moved, particularly the servantwomen, with their sudden running motions. It certainly distances you from modern-day life, to see people act in this manner.
For the DVD release, they should have interviewed a film scholar, to shed light on Pasolini's technique and artistic choices. Instead, we are just left with the film itself, without having our questions answered.
It is so jarring to see La Divina in this film. She has been mostly experienced through her recordings; in this, we SEE her, frame by frame. Her beauty is not confined to the numerous, sleek photographs taken during her singing career. She is a paragon of meditteranean beauty.