Antouanetta Angelidi  

Greek, challenging and highly experimental film-maker that uses any and all forms of art to deliver the most challenging and unusual films she can make. From surrealism, to dance, performance-art, theatrics, structural film, philology, poetry, tableaux-vivant, concept-art, etc. Her output is low but each film achieves, or tries to achieve, something radically new with a new language for film. Recurring themes include feminism (not the obnoxious type), death as a springboard for meaning, and the inner life of characters expressed using all of the above methods. Aesthetically, she carefully controls every detail of her films, using artificial sets to set up the best possible delivery for her ideas, while also creating beautiful moving paintings.

Of Some Interest

Hours: A Square Film, The  
Angelidi discards the abstraction of Topos for this one, and goes personal instead, portraying a character study and the inner development of an oppressed female artist. She does this with a mixture of performance-art, surrealism, and poetry, as well as highlighted memories and snippets of a narrative, with defined characters. The latter provides the emotional anchor for the audience, while the actors perform the character study. They move and pose like dancers, and their settings change surrealistically and symbolically to portray her state of mind. Facets of her inner soul such as her male muse/animus, her creative soul, her repressed passion, and her inner child are all embodied by actors and interact with her as she attempts to find herself in an inner secret journey. Thus the film is made less painfully pretentious than the average performance-art by providing this character-study anchor. This film also predates Jodorowsky's surreal auto-biographies by two decades, except this one is less mystical and more personal and poetic. At first, the film portrays a woman oppressed to melodramatic and cartoonish proportions, her art literally ripped apart, suppressed, hated, there are her oppressive strict parents, her sexual molestation by a teacher, and later, her boorish soul-dead beast of a husband while she attempts to come to terms with her fake love, repressed passions and imposed social facade, all leading to a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. This part is somewhat tiresome due to its black & white viewpoint and simplicity, but then it improves greatly as she launches her inner journey, explored via surrealism. She confronts her internalized oppressors and turns them into sand, sleeps in a drowning bed in a pool, mourns and laments with her animus, etc. and slowly finds a way out of victim-hood, to use what she has learned and become.

Thief of Reality  
Angelidi's fourth film is both a combination of previous works as well as a big step forward in terms of challenging material. But it is also a step back to experimental abstraction and extremely tiresome and pretentious performance-art, after her much more personal 'Hours: A Square Film' and the expressive state of being in 'Topos'. This is Angelidi doing philosophy, and it is broad and ambitious to a fault, covering way too many topics to be useful or interesting. It employs a structure where three characters and stories come together for a synthesis via a fourth 'thief', each character bringing their own viewpoint on life to the (literal) table. There's a sculptress haunted by death and fate, musing on ultimate judgement from a disturbingly teleological world. There's a mother who lost her son in a fire, clinging to memories and ghosts, and traumatized by the brutality of chance. And there's an actor losing himself in his art, with art invading life and taking over, haunted by choices and the ability to lose oneself by choosing. The thief finds an answer: "Reality steals your dreams and you steal it in order to dream. Reality steals your life and you steal it in order to live". And the characters find a meaning in life via looming death since it forces them to create their own reality. This summary took great effort to simplify what is essentially a near-impossible movie. The approach is too vague, with intellectualism that merely juxtaposes many elements together until something emerges in a pseudo-catharsis. More and more symbolic and cryptic elements are constantly added to muse over, covering words, individualism, religion, mind-body contrasts, the reality that we see versus the one that we make, art, representation, consuming earth elements, fear of old age, dreams, etc. to the point that any interpretation or idea would find a parallel in this film. And, in addition to the scattered obscure surrealist locations and symbols, most of the movie has the actors deliver stilted theatrical soliloquy after soliloquy after soliloquy, labored aphoristic monologues where each artistic convoluted sentence is a headache to decipher, and read in a crescendo monotone rhythm that only makes things even more difficult with artificial formal emoting structure. All of this means that this will easily turn off the majority of viewers as the most pretentious performance-art, and those that do put in the effort will find whatever they want to find. For me the reward did not justify the effort, but its effect on others will most probably vary.

A combination of performance-art, tableaux-vivant, surrealism, and avant-garde concept-art on the theme of the inner life of women and their relationship with the space/world outside them. At least that's my interpretation, only this is the kind of movie that is so cryptic, every reviewer and intellectual will be able to wax poetic about the movie and make it mean anything that they were thinking about on that day. The movie is beautiful on an aesthetic level, and strangely interesting as a raw experience, but is also equally pretentious, cryptic art-house nonsense, much like most performance-art. Which is why I chose to experience it rather than analyze it. The movie starts with pattern and order, symbols and surrealism, and a death scene of a woman while giving birth. Her absence leaves an empty space and various archetypal characters mourn her with memories. Then follows a series of live paintings and small interactions or vignettes with elusive dialogue depicting the life of women, except it is an experience rather than an anthropological study. Men are only included in scenes when they provide a spotlight on the women's inner lives. In the end, one woman mourns the empty space around her, another berates her for looking for obstacles. As opposed to other reviewers that saw feminist themes of oppression here, I saw the opposite: A refreshing lack of misandry and a simple focus on women by way of their typical or traditional lives and occupations, and an attempt to express femininity in an avant-garde way by way of painterly images of death, love, work and play. So the pretentiousness is counter-balanced with this interesting expression. The one big fly in the ointment, however, is the obnoxious soundtrack, consisting of constant human-made organic sounds, mostly with the mouth (croaks, monotone hums, slurps, wails, etc). For 80 minutes I had a constant itch to find the annoying five year old kid that found a microphone to play with, and to take it away from her, except it was an adult, so I wanted to slap her and then take it away from her... which may have been the point: to provoke a contrast between traditional images and disturbing female vocal sound, only it is absolutely obnoxious and pointless rather than didactic. Other than that, it's definitely a unique experience.


Variations on the Same Theme  
This movie is the ultimate definition and example of a pretentious student film. Let's start with Angelidi's own description for the film: "The representations of the female body in the history of modern art: gender as structure and not as destiny. The representations of the body and the body of representation. The film is written from the outset as a synchronic and diachronic synthesis and refutation of the codes of certain images and sounds. The inversion of the code, as well as the clash between different codes, becomes the method of writing and, therefore, of reading the film." And now a deconstruction of the actual film: Very long ultimately boring takes that are meant to put you in a meditative mood: People walking through a cemetery for 8 whole minutes (death?), or walking over a bridge occupied by people of indeterminate gender for another eight minutes, a center of business, a street with children playing, etc. Then there are the bizarre, symbolic in-your-face scenes, one of a sexually ambiguous person not-quite killing and then torturing and plucking a live chicken, another of a strange person on a bookshelf, or gender-mixed soldiers outside of a living room. Some scenes are sophomorically pseudo-provocative, like an image of a woman's genitalia contrasted with the words "external use", or men in drag speaking "management" words, or a sensual woman's mouth with a razor-blade. Other scenes just employ nonsensical non-sequiturs and random contrasts to attempt to baffle and disrupt the mind, e.g. combining the words "soup" and "nightingale" with partial nudity, or mixing random words with words associated with gender and sexuality. All of this may work for someone already looking to forcibly deconstruct gender, but to the non-confused, this will be endless tiresome nonsense. In short, a highly experimental pretentious student feminist/gender film with all that this implies.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents