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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Iphigenia (1977)

The Greek armies and their thousand ships wait in the heat for the winds to come so they can sail to Troy and retrieve Helen who has run away with her lover Paris. But an oracle (Dimitri Aronis) announces that the winds will not come unless Agamemnon (Kostas Kazakos) sacrifices his first born daughter (Tatiana Papamoschou) to the goddess Artemis. To this end, he sends for his daughter under the pretext of a marriage to Achilles (Panos Mihalopoulos). I'm a great admirer of Michael Cacoyannis's film adaptations of Greek tragedy. This is his third (based on Euripides' IPHIGENIA AT AULIS) following ELECTRA (1962) and THE TROJAN WOMEN (1971). Not coincidentally, the great Irene Papas is prominently featured in all three films. She brings a fiery intensity to Clytemnestra, Agamemnon's wife and Iphigenia's mother which contrasts nicely to the quiet delicacy of Papamoschou and holds up strongly against Kazakos' powerful Agamemnon. Cacoyannis films the play against a stark and colorless rocky background near the sea with the actors costumed in neutral browns, beiges and off white to give the film a realistic look as oppose to the glossiness Hollywood usually gave to such ancient epics. Two terrific close ups are featured at the very end: Kazakos ambiguous look of shock at his daughter's sacrifice (in some versions of the story, she's saved at the last minute by Artemis) and the last shot of Papas, the expression on her face displaying the revenge she will have. With Kostas Karras as Menelaus.

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