A flawed masterpiece from Angelopoulos, the first of a number of great
films of his you can pick at if you want. It's tragic that one of the best
modern film-makers is virtually unknown here in the U.S., and that
so few of his films are currently available.
First and foremost, 'The Traveling Players' is a technical achievement;
almost 4 hours long and only about 80 cuts in the whole film! It goes
against all we've gotten used to in film story-telling, and does it brilliantly.
The story follows a troupe of actors back and forth through the years
1939 to 1952. They're thrown about by the violent, sometimes absurd
tides of Greek history, with victory over the Nazi's giving way to the
rise of local fascists at home.
The film is very Brechtian and distanced in style. We hardly get to
know the characters at all, despite the running time. It's much more
interested in the great tides of politics and time than individuals -
which is both its strength and its weakness. I was always interested,
sometimes horrified, but rarely touched emotionally. Also, some of the
good/bad of the politics felt simplistic.
That said, despite its length, I will re-watch it. I suspect I'll
appreciate the amazing scope of it's vision and the bravery of it's
style even more without expecting to get caught up in the people in a
If you have the chance, get ahold of the 'New Star' DVD, which was only
in release a short time. The transfer was supervised and approved by
Angelopoulos, and certainly looks wildly better than the commonly found VHS
Update:Update: Artificial Eye has released a series of box sets of Angelopoulos' films
in the UK. They can be found on Amazon.uk. These are region 2, so you'd need a
region free player. The quality
is very high. I compared "The Traveling Players" in the set, with the New Star
release and they were nearly identical in image quality. Perhaps the New Star
had a tiny edge, to my taste in the color arena. The New Star is just slightly
cooler in tone, faces are less ruddy. But the image is so similar I imagine
they could easily have come from the same master, and who can say which
colors would be closer to the original intent. They can be found on Amazon.uk
There's a bigger difference in sound. The New Star has a 5.1 dolby re-mix
which I found slightly cleaner and more appealing than the Artificial Eye's
simple dolby stereo. But one could make a good argument that the original
film wasn't mixed in 5.1, so the stereo mix is more true to the original.