Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Callas, Medea

To win the kingdom his uncle took from his father, a tale told to him by the centaur Chiron who has reared him,  Jason must steal the golden fleece from the land of barbarians, where Medea is royalty and a powerful sorceress, where human sacrifice helps crops to grow. Medea sees Jason and swoons, then enlists her brother's aid to take the fleece. 
They flee and elude capture by her beheading her brother and she becomes Jason's lover. Back in Greece, the king keeps the throne, the fleece has no power, and Medea lives an exile's life, respected but feared, abandoned by Jason. When she learns he's to marry the daughter of the King of Corinth, Medea tames her emotions and sends gifts via her sons; then, loss overwhelms her and she unleashes a fire storm on the king, the bride, and Jason. That's an outline of the plot...

Laurent Terzieff as the Centaur
 Despite being set in Ancient Greece Pasolini's film is from that time he was fascinated by the peoples and landscapes of Turkey and North Africa, where a lot of this was filmed. Again we have barren landscapes, curious dwellings carved out of caves, discordant sounds and a very graphic human sacrifice to ensure a good crop - thats just for starters.  The first half hour is rather incomprehensible as one imagines this is the kind of arthouse stuff that used to sometimes infuriate one, but once Maria Callas as Medea takes centre stage it becomes a mesmerising experience. Laurent Terzieff (see below in LA NOTTE BRAVA) is the centaur, and Guiseppe Gentile (an Olympic triple-jumper from the Mexico City Games in 1968) is Jason - we get ample opportunity to appraise his stunning legs. Callas of course is mesmerising; as that song from the musical of SUNSET BOULEVARD puts it "With One Look" she commands the screen. The plotline seems rather jumbed though - I did not realise 10 years had passed and she and Jason now had children ... the deaths of the princess and her father the King of Corinth (Massimo Girotti)  are enacted twice - first as fantasy and then reality, which was rather confusing initially.
Callas & Pasolini
Pasolini began of course script-writing for movies like Loren's WOMAN OF THE RIVER, 1954 and that 1959 discovery of mine last week - LA NOTTE BRAVA, see review below - before his first acclaimed films ACCATONE and MAMMA ROMA in 1961. I have not seen those but we all highly regarded his 1964 THE PASSION OF SAINT MATTHEW and then those arthouse hits OEDIPE RE in 1967 and TEOREMA, a sensational film in '68 (Silvana Mangano label), I missed MEDEA at the time but saw his PIGSTY in 1969 - not one I think I would care to revisit - and then in the '70s he embarked on those decorative period pieces THE DECAMERON, THE CANTERBURY TALES and THE ARABIAN NIGHTS.
Silvana as the Madonna
We found his DECAMERON "interesting" but the others seemed more of the same at the time .... Pasolini after his years of realism seemed to be in search of mythical worlds full of pretty people and erotic fantasies. The grimly realistic, if not notorious, SALO though in 1975 was one we decided we could live without seeing, and Pasolini himself was murdered later that year. Was it some rentboy pickup that went wrong or more politically motivated?  Like Fassbinder at that time his films polarised viewers as his politics got more extreme ... now we just have the films. I do want to see the fascinating OEDIPE RE again, and its good to finally experience MEDEA and the stunning presence of Maria Callas.

No comments:

Post a Comment