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Suspended Step of the Stork (Greek Release), The
Somewhere on the Greek-Albanian border Alexandre (Gregory Karr) is shooting a documentary about a group of immigrants willing to enter the European Union. Without legal papers or savings the men are desperately trying to survive. But there are hardly any jobs.
While shooting with his camera Alexandre sees a man who reminds him about a famous Greek politician (Marcello Mastroianni, La Dolce Vita) who has been missing for years. Convinced that he has found what no one else has been able to see Alexandre contacts the Greek politician's widow (Jeanne Moreau, Elevator to the Gallows). Unsure what to make of Alexandre's discovery the widow arrives at the border town where the first snow has already fallen.
A gritty tale about a group of people forgotten by the Greek authorities in no-man's land To Μετέωρο βήμα του πελαργού a.k.a The Suspended Step of the Stork (1991) leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Greece, the entry point to the EU for many illegal immigrants from Eastern Europe and Asia, has long been suffering under the weight of a cruel political system forcing people into terrible death. As a result for years the country and its leadership were scrutinized by international organizations angered by the unbearable conditions in the notorious "border camps".
What Theo Angelopoulos shows in The Suspended Step of the Stork certainly looks like something that can be discovered only in Greek history annals. A town which does not exist on official maps, built by immigrants, and ruled by the army certainly sounds like something more appropriate for a third-world country. Yet, it exists right where democracy was born!!
In a typical for Angelopoulos manner The Suspended Step of the Stork follows a few "major" stories – the fate of the missing Greek politician, Alexandre discovering an undergounrd society hidden inside his own country, the widow's struggle to find peace. Yet, these are all fragments of a much bigger and serious tale about human beings' inability to act humane.
Not surprisingly The Suspended Step of the Stork is also a film full of heavy symbolism. In fact, I do not know how easy to decipher some of the scenes in this film would be for those of you who have little knowledge of Greece and its culture. Suffice to say however religion and morality have big parts here (pay close attention to the scene where the old Muslim women are left to cry over the dead body of an unknown man).
Finally the superb cast Angelopoulos has gathered for this film is hardly even noticeable. Yes, Mastroianni, Moreau, and Karr are all impressive as the characters they play yet they often step back leaving the Greek director to follow a different route. As a result The Suspended Step of the Stork quickly falls into the favored by Angelopoulos, evoking meditation, groove where images not characters are the focus of attention.
Nominated for Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's this DVD reveals the same criterions we already noticed in the first batch of Angelopoulos titles: progressive anamorphic transfer, excellent contrast, lack of disturbing edge-enhancement, excellent color-scheme. Once again this newly-restored transfer has been personally supervised by the Greek director and I tend to believe that a better treatment of this film will not be produced. This may sound as a "too-definitive" for some statement but I do believe that there is a great deal of care which the Greek producers have put into this DVD (esp. the color-scheme of this film) and I found this to be of paramount importance when it comes to "evaluating" Angelopoulos' work. Finally, I must note that once again I was able to spot a few very minor scratches here and there but as far as I am concerned the overall quality of this Greek disc is as solid and impressive as the initial DVDs we reviewed during the summer. In other words: a solid addition to the Theo Angelopoulos collection. Region 2, PAL encoded.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with two separate tracks: a Greek DD 5.1 and a Greek DD 2.0 (with partial French and Farsi) this disc sounds impressive-crystal clear and easy to follow dialog is what you will find here. There is good activity coming off the rears and I could not detect any disturbing hissing(s) or pop-up(s). This being said I am a bit unhappy be the new large white subtitles the Greek distribs are now favoring. I am not quite so sure what happened with the small font they used in the first batch but there you have it: a large, almost SONY-like type of font that may anger some of you. This being said the optional French and English subtitles are of excellent quality (and without disturbing syntax issues for the English track).
Following their policy (and Angelopoulos' lack of interest to comment on his film which he believes "speak better than I do") the Greek distribs haven't provided anything in terms of extras.
Yet another marvelous disc courtesy of New Star-Greece is what we have here. I do not know why it takes these folks such a long time to come up with the "next batch" but I sure am happy with their work. Take my words for granted: these Greek DVDs are a wish come true for the knowledgeable film-collector. Highly-Recommended.
This review was made possible with the kind assistance of Xploited Cinema.