Monday, February 27, 2006

Promise: A beautiful fairy tale but what else?

Promise is a Chinese fairytale that has all the ideas and images a western expects from a Chinese myth. A poor girl is offered a chance from a goddess. She is offered the chance to be the most beautiful woman of the world and to attain fame and riches. In return everyone she will love will lose to death. The girl takes up the offer only to regret it, when she is old. Her lover manages to turn back time and offer her the opportunity to choose again her destiny.

If the spectator accepts from the beginning the fact that he watches a fairy tale and suspends his disbelief he will be able to enjoy the beautiful symbolic images that the film offers. For example the girl when is captured by the evil duke is kept in a golden bid cage and is dressed in white feathers. Another astounding idea and image is the one of the slave of the duke. A man captured and forced to serve in exchange for his live. He wears a cape made of black feathers which keeps his severely injured body alive. When he gives up the cape his body bursts up in flames.

Promise is a film that is definitely well thought aesthetically. Every scene is a beautiful painting, colorful and magic. On the other hand, it has no meaning, no soul. It doest manage to move the spectator.

According to Chinese Philosophy ever person has a destiny, a fate that he can not change. He can, though, make different choices. He can’t change his fate all together and be something completely different but he is offered some important choices. Making though a choice and committing to a path means that he has to face the consequences of his choice. He cant evade them. Promise is a film that supports this idea. And it is a fairy tale because it offers her heroine a second chance in order for her to reconsider her choice since through time she gained the knowledge of her own future. A second chance that few of us get in real life.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Munich: Keep Spielberg away from politics

Growing up Spielberg was my favorite director. Every year waited anxiously his film, expecting to be enchanted by his amazingly executed fairytales. E.T., Indiana Jones, Close Encounters of the third type was the bed time stories of a generation and the fun time of the adults. Spielberg was always a master –technician with flair on the fantastic.

In the recent years, however, Spielberg, unfortunately –at least on my opinion- decided to grow up and do adult films with political messages. His “serious” career kicked off with Schindler's List, moved on to Amistad and Saving Private Ryan, ending to Munich. All these films were perfectly executed showing mastery in the art of directing and an excellent following of the golden rules of Hollywood mainstream films. Adventure, romance, suspense, tension and quick rhythm mixed up together in order to create films that easily and pleasantly watched. After though the two hours of enjoyment, what else do they have to offer? Their subjects are highly political, and supposedly have an important humanitarian message for the spectators. In Munich’s case the “deep” message is that violence brings more violence. The message is well known, politically correct and is repeated over and over through the film. Art should have a deeper meaning. In Spielberg films though, the deeper meaning is there on the surface, repeated often enough and obvious enough so that even the densest spectator can not miss it. And then it is always over dramatized and over simplified so that no arguments against could be made. Spielberg has no ability to see all the shades of gray that exist between the black and white opposites in political situations. His characters are always positive clean cut heroes. The assassins are presented as people with families, ethic. Every time they have to commit a murder they try to make sure that no innocents are killed. They suffer for every bullet they throw and wonder if their executions have helped to make the world a better place. The over dramatization of the murder of the Munich athletes creates a counter effect eventually. All have recognized that the athletes were innocents and there was no justification for their deaths. The way, though, Spielberg uses the scenes of their assassination and his effort to present them as martyrs, transforms the film to propaganda and provides a sided view of the whole political situation. In this film the isolated incident is presented without referring at all to the facts that led to this terrorist act. In this light we tend to forget that these nations have long since been in war and bloodshed.

I can still admire Spielberg for his exquisite mastery on the technical side of directing. As an auteur however, he has not the necessary qualifications. He is not intellectual enough to handle delicate issues of politics. My advice to him would be to abandon his aspirations for great heavy adult films and return to his fairy tales for children. His simplistic view of life fits perfectly children’s entertainment. Besides entertaining children and capturing their imagination is not a lesser nor a smaller goal for the art of cinema.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Match Point: Woody Allen asks one of the biggest philosophical questions

Woody Allen has a long career both as a film director and actor. He has managed to create his own unique style and create movies that have gained him a spot in the film-history. He is famous for his intellectual comedies which criticized erotic relationships. In this film, though he abandons his favorite style, the erotic comedy, and his natural environment, Manhattan, to make a dramatic film placed at London.
An Irish tennis player manages to marry into money. Thanks to his father in law he climbs the social ladder rapidly gaining a well-paid work in the business world and a life-style fit for a class that has assimilated wealth through several generations. He makes though, a fatal mistake. He fell in love with his brother-in –law girlfriend and starts an illicit relationship. When his mistress threatens to tell his wife, he murders her in order to be able to keep his job and social status.
Woody Allen has done an incredibly suitable casting. Great actors give great performances. The spectator understands the kind of life that tempts the hero to murder. In this case luxury and wealth are the means not for over consumption and vulgarity but the way to insure a higher way of living by having access and enjoying higher art. Opera, music, theatre, refined taste in food and clothing are the motives that push the hero to murder. Contrary to the mass believes that wealth can provide the privileged ones with a better car, a luxurious house and maybe a boat, Allen’s hero pursuits more spiritual goods.
In reality Match Point is the re-working of an older Woody Allen film, Crimes and Misdemeanors. In Crime and Misdemeanors a middle aged man hires a professional assassin to kill his mistress. He lives in terror waiting to be discovered and punished for his crime until he realizes that nothing is going to happen and goes back to his life. Both films are actually philosophical analyses. The question asked is whether there is higher power or not. If there is no god and no higher justice then what stops from committing a crime? If we actually believe that there is no justice in the world than we can do whatever we want and get away with it. If there is no fate, all we have to be is lucky. In both films the killers are never punished. On the contrary after their deed they manage to remain guilt-free, happy and to prospect economically and socially. So what does Woody Allen tell us? That there is no God and we are free to conduct ourselves as we wish? If that was true though, we would live in a world without restrain, a world full of crimes and violence. But then again we already live in a violent world don’t’ we? The choice to believe or not to believe is personal. If you don’t believe you are free to choose your morality. In the end living by a moral code is also a personal choice.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Σημερα 1 Φεβρουαρίου ξεκιναω μαθήματα Ιστορίας Τέχνης στο Πνευματικό Κέντρο της Ν. Ερυθραίας, Βίλα Κώστα, στις 8.00 ώρα. Πρόκειται για 12 μαθήματα που θα καλύψουν την ιστορία της Δυτικής τέχνης από την εποχή της σπηλαιογραφίας ως και τον εικοστό αιώνα. Θα προσπαθήσω στη σειρά αυτή των μαθημάτων να διδάξω την ιστορία τέχνης όπως νομίζω οτι θα έπρεπε να διδάσκεται, με πολλές εικόνες, με αφηγήσεις, με μια αίσθηση συνέχειας προπάντων. Αντίθετα, θα αποφύγω να ανφέρω πολλές ημερομηνίες και ονόματα. Μέσα απο τα έργα τέχνης μπορούμε να γνωρίσουμε διαφοερετικές κοινωνίες, άλλους πολιτισμούς, οι οποίοι είχαν διαφορετικά ιδανικά και διαφορετικές αλήθειες από τη δική μας. Εκτιμώντας την τέχνη τους, θα μπορέσουμε να αποδεχτούμε και το διαφορετικό πνέυμα που τους διακατείχε. Με τον τρόπο αυτό η ιστορία Τέχνης μπορεί να μας διδάξει την ανοχή στο διαφορετικό.
Η ιστορία της Τέχνης είναι πάνω από όλα η ιστορία της ανθρωπόητας μέσα από τα πιο όμορφα επιτεύγματα της. Ιδέες που αλλάζουν και επανέρχονται. Σύμβολα που παραμένουν ζωντανά μέσα στους αιώνες άλλοτε με το ίδιο νόημα και άλλοτε κρύβοντας διαφορετικά πιστεύω. Μια αλυσίδα ανθρώπων που εμπνέεται ο ένασ από τον άλλο και λειτουργούν σε δημιουργική επανάλληψη. Η ιστορία τέχνης μπορεί να είναι ένα συναρπαστικό μυθιστόρημα. Θα προσπαθήσω να σας το αποδείξω.
Σας περιμένω.