Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Pasolini, Maria Callas - Medea (1969) 10/12

The king and his daughter die- this time it's more squalid than sorcery.

Things reach their tragic conclusion as Medea kills her children and sets their home on fire to burn within.


Holly said...

I've just watched all this, and have not yet thoroughly collected my thoughts, but I do have a question. The blond houseboy... he is a slave?

Holly said...

OK. Now I have collected my thoughts.

The conversation between Jason and the two aspects of the centaurs seems to be the core of this film, and all the cinematography and wild costuming are really just to back that up. (Section 6, Minute 8)

That conversation works on multiple levels--it is apparently about the characters in this drama, but also about people in their individual lives, and then additionally, about the legacy of people in all of time.

Also, the bit where Jason tells off Medea, saying, look, whatever you did, you did for my body, with the implication that his willingness to barter that way should well have signaled to her that he would continue to use that currency to get other things he wants. (Glauce, for instance) And she gives it back in full measure, because surely he can't be surprised when someone who dismembered her own brother for a smooth get away would kill 5 people in 24 hours just to get the last word in.

What's fascinating about this is that all the heroics are missing. The years where Medea's sorcery saved the Argonauts repeatedly is omitted entirely. It's as if the film revolves around the concept that our epic grandiosity is pretty ugly when it comes down to the daily grind of it.

Rufus said...

What I found interesting is that the film is filled with ritual, but largely lacking in magic. I liked how the "real" poisoning just resulted in Glauce throwing herself off a cliff, instead of bursting into flames, which is what happened in the play, and apparently what Medea expected. Even the centaurs are seemingly unreal.

What's interesting to me is that a big theme in the film seems to be what historians call "the disenchantment of the world"- the widespread death of religious belief- which Pasolini seems to be mourning, in spite of the fact that he was both a Marxist and an atheist. I like that he sees it almost as a sort of imperialism.

I would also note that this film is sort of in the middle of Pasolini's other films. I think his best film is Accattone, and Salo is... not his worst film necessarily, but probably the hardest to watch.

Holly said...

I don't know that the centaurs were unreal, more of a flexible reality? This is the nature of spirituality, if it's not very adaptive, it goes away. But I agree that Pasolini is mourning here. A sense of Place seems to play a large role in this, as well. The fleece not working out of it's land, exile, fleeing from regicide and not being able to recover the throne, stripping Medea of her material connections to land, and certainly not trivial, that when Jason had been traveling and came back, his centaur had undergone some kind of disunity.

A large portion of this film would be undecipherable without knowing in advance what the premise is, who the players are, what the Euripedes story was. That definitely restricts the watchability, it's kind of had the effect of ready the 3rd book in a series without reading the first 2.