Medea (1969)

I wish Madman had utilised a less grotty print than the one they did for their DVD, a non-anamorphic apparently hard-matted thing that leaves a few things to be desired, as I might’ve got into this a bit more had it been presented better. As it is, it’s still quite fascinating. I always have some trouble visualising the old classical legends, if you know what I mean, and I seem to have similar trouble imagining classical drama in performance too, what I read on the page is something I can’t really see. Pasolini’s rendering of Euripides is too far removed from the text to help me with the latter, but in terms of visually rendering the mythological world, it helps me beautifully. Gino Moliterno’s DVD commentary says something about Pasolini refusing to turn the story into a peplum, which is such a good point I wish I’d actually thought of it myself; I’m sure it would’ve been easy to just go sword-and-sandal on the tale, but instead Pasolini gives us something that one feels might actually have been filmed in the “real” locations of the story (Turkey standing in for ancient Thessaly and Georgia). Moliterno says something else about the story being, on a deeper level (and according to Pasolini himself, I think), about the conflict between archaic sacred consciousness and modern secular consciousness, which offers an interesting way of looking at it all… and it must be said the commentary generally does a lot to illuminate some of the more puzzling aspects of the film; I only had a very sketchy knowledge of the story and Pasolini doesn’t really make it easy on you if you don’t know it, a lot of business is elided. But it’s an intriguing watch (though, as I said, I wish Madman’s print had been better), and of course it has the fringe benefit of Maria Callas in her only film role (and the perversity of someone else dubbing her voice)…

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