To reconstruct the father is to reconstruct history, says Theo Angelopoulos. His screen proxy (Giulio Brogi) sits in the studio and goes through rows of elderly actors, none of them gets the pronunciation right yet the shaky vendor who wanders in and out of the café fits the bill nobly. The old man (Manos Katrakis) is next seen disembarking from a vast ship, reciting the line nobody could: "I’m here." Homecoming or meta-fantasy? Either way, Katrakis -- elongated, snow-bearded, swathed in grays -- comes to embody Angelopoulos’ vision of a fragile cultural dinosaur, less Lear or even Homer than a wizened Neptune stranded in the desert. The family reunion is cut short, the father is an exhausted ex-revolutionary with "no nationality" but who must "keep searching." His native meadow has become parched and is now up for sale, visualized in terms akin to the Baudelaire poem that gives the film its title: "The banal Eldorado of old bachelors / Look at it; after all, it is a wretched land." Katrakis’ refusal to sell it ("You’ve just got to hang on to something") invokes the wrath of the community and the frustration of Brogi and his sister (Mairi Hronopoulou), both tired of "running after ghosts," but the matriarch (Dora Volanaki) stands by his side, even if it means drifting into the void. The idea is to elevate Griffith’s query (What Shall We Do with Our Old?) onto a metaphysical plane: The threat of forgetfulness looms large, graveyards and overcast docks are prevalent. The protracted view of a sharp horizon sliced by dozens of villagers ambling toward the camera was dilated into the opening of The Weeping Meadow, and there’s a rare Angelopoulos gag as the camera slowly transverses a doleful feast and a door is opened and promptly closed after it exposes a sailor shtupping one of the guests against the wall. The closing image is one of fragile, even doomed connection, and it can take its place next to Lang’s in The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse. With Dionysis Papagiannopoulos, Giorgos Nezos, and Athinodoros Prousalis.
--- Fernando F. Croce