The Hunters (Theo Angelopoulos / Greece, 1977):
(Oi Kynigoi)

The fly in the ointment is the partisan’s corpse found in the ice, which figures in the bourgeois New Year’s ball like a dead stripper in a bachelor party. The year is 1976, the body is a memento from the Greek Civil War of 1947 but looks as if the killing had taken place the day before; a "historical error," yet there he is, laid on a table at the lodge (a handful of balloons hilariously adorn the grim hall). The dead man is an accusatory presence, the industrialists, collaborators, and assorted reactionaries start to crack: "It’s our fault! Screw our military revolution," one screams. Memory and guilt are the themes, Brechtian tableaux and glacial circular pans are Theo Angelopoulos’ tools. The end of WWII finds U.S. forces pacifying the locals with a screening of Casablanca while imposing a new political regime; the Papandreou democracy and the ensuing military junta are part of the whirlwind, Greece is a manse in its many guises (bombed-out building, jaunty ballroom, peepshow, funeral parlor, haunted saloon). The scarlet curtains transform the hall into a stage, but the upper-crust hunters assembled around the tell-tale cadaver are static rather than traveling players -- they’re so frozen by complacency that an American tourist swans by mid-confession, marveling at the "antiques." In one of Angelopoulos’ most startling visions of temporal continuum, the camera glides from 1949 to 1963 while following two characters, a decade and a half timed to a walk from the beach to the village. A work of murky meetings, "psychotic anguish," exiles and homecomings, remembrances of things past shaped like red sails on the horizon. "We cannot escape history," says Lincoln. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Saura’s La Caza, West Side Story even (shabby, black-suited assassins do a choreographed turn while striding down the street). The characters will their own demise, and are revived. Dreams? Specters? The body is reburied. With Vangelis Kazan, Betty Valassi, Giorgios Danis, Mary Chronopoulou, Ilias Stamatiou, Aliki Georgouli, Nikos Kouros, Eva Kotamanidou, Stratos Pachis, Christophoros Nezer, and Dimitris Kamberidis.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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