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Eternity and a Day
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 Film Look?
This disc is a mess!! Presented in an aspect ratio gravitating around the 1.64:1 mark the film has NOT been enhanced for widescreen TV's. Which creates a whole lot of issues here in addition to the fact that Eternity and a Day has also been brought up from a PAL master. In fact, I am so tired of New Yorker porting European films with terrible, artifacts-ridden, transfers that I would suggest that the company don't even bother with some of them. At all!! There is absolutely no point messing around with the work of such reputable director as Theo Angelopoulos where colors, contrast, and detail are of paramount importance. Because what this disc offers is so laughable and disturbing I won't even bother describing to you how the image looks blown out through a digital projector-suffice to say the result(s) is/are insulting!!
Also using the ARTE-FRANCE transfer and not making the "extra" effort to adjust the PAL-NTSC format discrepancy (especially when the French disc is anamorphic) leaves a bad taste in my mouth. This is not how you "produce" your own version, this is how you try to make a quick buck from the name of a well-known director who (I would assume) if provided with this DVD transfer will have quite a few things to say about the manner in which his work is being treated!!
How Does the DVD Sound?
Provided with its original DD Greek 2.0 track and optional English subtitles the audio mix is mostly fine. I did not detect any disturbing hissing or pop-ups and for the most part the dialog is easy to follow. The English translation is of very good quality.
The one bright area in this DVD is the extras department where there is some worthy of our attention supplemental material. First there is a video introduction by Andre Horton (author of "The Films of Theo Angelopoulos") where he attempts to quickly deconstruct the creative world of the Greek director and how his films affect those who see them. Next, there is a short segment which has been taken directly from the ARTE-FRANCE release (you will even see burnt-in French subs during selected interviews) from the French TV program Metropolis. Last but not least there is a short segment of poetry by Greek masters.
What a duff!! A typical New Yorker DVD release: cheap (not price-wise), poor, and anything but representing of the creator's talent. As Eternity and a Day is set to be released any moment now as part of the second batch of Theo Angelopoulos films produced by New Star-Greece my advice is wait for the director-supervised disc. Until then the most you could do with this disc is rent it.