Eternity And A Day

Thought poets were a dying species, did you? Well, poet Alexandre (Bruno Ganz), of Greek auteur Theo Angelopoulos's latest film (which won the 1998 Cannes Palme d'Or), is unquestionably ailing. He's spending his last day in the world before checking into a hospital, and wanders a wintry, fog-bound Thessaloniki in a trenchcoat (since most Americans know...read more

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Reviewed by Sandra Contreras
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Thought poets were a dying species, did you? Well, poet Alexandre (Bruno Ganz), of Greek auteur Theo Angelopoulos's latest film (which won the 1998 Cannes Palme d'Or), is unquestionably ailing. He's spending his last day in the world before

checking into a hospital, and wanders a wintry, fog-bound Thessaloniki in a trenchcoat (since most Americans know Ganz from WINGS OF DESIRE, this trenchcoat is fraught with intertextual significance, but let's not get into that here). Alexandre tries to fob off his loyal dog on his daughter, who

informs him that she and her husband have just sold the seaside home of his Proustian recollections. He then imposes on his housekeeper, intruding on her son's nuptials to deliver the pooch. He drops off a packet of gushy letters that his wife Anna Anna (Isabelle Renauld) wrote him years ago, and

helps a cute refugee Albanian child out of a few scrapes. Co-written with frequent Fellini and Antonioni collaborator Tonino Guerra, the script hints at the toll a creative life takes on the artist and his family, asks the big questions (like "Why didn't we know how to love?") and makes grand,

vague statements on the order of, "I never finished anything." Angelopoulos' leisurely pace and trademark long takes add up to a film guaranteed to please filmmakers nostalgic for the bygone glory days of European cinema. But something about the whole enterprise feels calcified and fussy rather

than moving. Only in a brilliant sequence staged on a bus does this meditation on mortality soar to its full potential, when Angelopoulos intrudes upon the poet's radical self-centeredness with the possibility of other voices and humor in the magical realist tradition. You know what else is a

dying species? The truly exemplary European auteur.

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