Special thanks to Tony Simonelli and Xploited Cinema for providing me yet again with these rare Greek DVDs. What a treat!!
There was a time when Greek director Theo Angelopoulos was amongst the most outspoken critics of the DVD format demanding that his films are to be seen only in theaters. Well, it is all history now! Theo Angelopoulos' films are indeed being digitally restored, under the director's supervision, and a small fraction of his work is already on the Greek market.
Mia Aioniotita Kai Mia Mera a.k.a Eternity and a Day (1998), winner of the coveted Palm d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival, tells the story of aging and seriously ill writer Alexandre (Bruno Gantz, Downfall) whose days are numbered. On the way to his daughter's house Alexandre encounters a young Albanian boy who as we later find out is in Greece illegally. The two form an unusual bond, even though they don't speak the same language, and travel across Greece learning about each other.
Often compared to Bergman and Fellini Greek director Theo Angelopoulos is indeed a person whose talent defies categorization. His films reveal characters and stories that Hollywood will likely find boring, confusing, and lacking potential. Which translated into the language of the knowledgeable cineaste usually equates a cinematic work well worth seeing.
Eternity and a Day (together with Theo Angelopoulos' recent Ulysses' Gaze) is arguably the Greek director's most notable work. Filled with heavy symbolism, critical of a Europe torn by social injustice (the film spurred countless discussions dispelling the myth about "united Europe"), and above all beautiful to behold this was the film that put Greece back on the map of European cinema. The resounding success the picture had at the Cannes Film Festival proved that Theo Angelopoulos is indeed "a dinosaur".
I don't quite know how to properly describe this film so that you, the reader, can get an adequate idea as to what Eternity and a Day strives to achieve. In it there is poetry, music, politics, myth, and reality, all mixed in a sea of unforgettable images. I suppose an accurate description of Eternity and a Day (which could easily be applied to just about every other Angelopoulos film) would be filmed theater, with hundreds of different decors, and hundreds of different "actors".
To me personally the work of Theo Angelopoulos has always had a special meaning. His ability to intertwine Greek history, past and present, with themes that are universal (poverty, injustice, war, etc.) always resonate with me in a most unusual way. I feel as if part of me, part of my life, part of my struggles have been captured on film. I feel as if someone is speaking a language I can understand.
In Eternity and a Day the language Alexandre and his little friend speak is that of gestures and made up words only they can understand. It is also the language of friendship, the language of humanism. Faced with a disastrous present (Alexandre is slowly but surely dying while the young boy is dealt on the black market) the two will find hope in a future full of happiness.
Winner of the Palm d'Or Award as well as the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the Cannes Film Festival (1998). The film also on the Best Film Award at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Greece (1998).
How Does the DVD Look?
I could not wait to get my hands on the second batch of Greek DVDs from New Star and now having three of the four new discs in my hands feels like having Christmas a month earlier. First thing first...let's just say that this new transfer of Eternity and a Day simply blows away every other DVD version I have seen (that would be a total of four) and will surely meet the expectations of the more pretentious amongst us. The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and has been enhanced for widescreen TV's. This is quite interesting indeed as I do believe that the original aspect ratio of this film is 1.66:1 yet the presentation here was supervised by Theo Angelopoulos and I am willing to accept that this is how the film must be seen.
The technical presentation is near flawless!! First of all this is a native progressive PAL print which automatically takes care of the problems the R1 disc reveals. Colors are lush and stable, detail enormously impressive, contrast is of exceptional quality. Edge-enhancement is also hardly an issue here and those of you with larger TV screens and more sophisticated home theaters will be quite impressed. In addition the disc truly does justice to Angelopoulos' complex use of colors – the variety of blues and grays that Eternity and a Day is known for is finally treated as it should have been. As a result the "foggy" scenes are utterly impressive.
Finally, even though this new print has been personally supervised and approved by Theo Angelopoulos I must note that there are a few very minor scratches in the opening few minutes of the film. Still, I am extremely pleased by New Star's treatment and can hardly wait to spend the weekend with the remaining two discs. Region 2, PAL-encoded.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Greek distribs New Star have provided this DVD with two audio tracks: a Greek 5.1 mix and a Greek 2.0 mix. Both sound exceptionally good. The audio is crisp and crystal clear and yes it is much fleshier than what New Yorker offered on their disc. All you need to do is listen to the violins(s) theme that perpetuates throughout the film-there is so much more to hear! Finally, I am also very pleased with the optional English subtitles as there weren't any syntax issues to report. The Greek producers have provided optional French and English subtitles.
Those of you familiar with Theo Angelopoulos' philosophy regarding "extras" should know what to expect - none are to be found on this Greek DVD.
Digitally remastered from the original 35mm negative and personally supervised by Theo Angelopoulos Eternity and a Day looks fabulous!! I have absolutely nothing negative to say about this Greek DVD and how could I when Angelopoulos himself is behind the entire restoration process. From what I understand the third and final installment from New Star-Greece (which should put the remaining Angelopoulos films on the market) is currently being finalized. Let's just hope that we won't have to wait too long as I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to own all of the Greek director's films on such splendid looking discs. Who would have thought??!! DVDTALK Collector Series!!