(director/writer: Theo Angelopoulos; screenwriters: Tonino Guerra/Petros Markaris/Thanassis Voltinos; cinematographers: Yorgos Arvanitis /Andreas Sinanos; editor: Giannis Tsitsopoulos; music: Helena Karaindrou; cast: Gregory Karr (Alexandre), Marcello Mastroianni (The Refugee Politician), Dora Chrysikou (The Young Girl), Jeanne Moreau (The Wife), Ilias Logothetis (The Colonel), Nadia Mourouzi (Alexandre’s friend), Dimitris Poulikakos (Chief Photographer); Runtime: 136; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Mr. Angelopoulos/Bruno Pesery; PAL format; 1991-Greece/France/Italy/Switzerland-in Greek with English subtitles)

“A static pic, where for the most part nothing happens and everything seems hopeless.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first film in a trilogy of “Border” films by the great Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos(“Landscape in the Mist”/”Voyage to Cythera”/”Eternity and A Day”) is a static pic, where for the most part nothing happens and everything seems hopeless. Writers Angelopoulos, Tonino Guerra, Petros Markaris and Thanassis Voltinos offer sparse dialogue and rely more on the stunning images of alienation and deracination to tell a haunting refugee story that focuses on the last forty years of Greek history in the 20th century and the political vacuum that pervades so nothing good can result. The man-made borders are perceived as a bourgeois conception of history, and that Greece is castigated for being so insular in not accepting other races and cultures.

It opens with the knowledge that a mass suicide of Asian refugees occurred when they were turned away from asylum in Greece and chose instead to throw themselves in the ocean and drown rather than return to their homeland.

A television journalist from Athens, Alexandre (Gregory Karr), is covering the flight of Albanian, Kurdistan and Iranian refugees into Greece and spots a middle-aged man he believes was a promising high ranking Greek politician (Marcello Mastroianni) and award winning author of Despair at the End, who disappeared years earlier and though assumed dead is now possibly living an impoverished life selling potatoes among the refugees in the extreme north, on the Albanian border, and the journalist contacts his former wealthy French wife (Jeanne Moreau) in the hopes of getting verification that it is him and thereby an even bigger scoop for him.

While covering the story set during Christmas time in a dreary northern border town and aided in his search by the cynical military commander (Ilias Logothetis) of an outpost that guards the border, Alexandre becomes increasingly haunted with the statesman’s disappearance itself and is curious about his attraction to a mysterious young woman (Dora Chrysikou) whose childhood sweetheart remains separated at the border by the Evros River.

Angelopoulos’ pic is all images, as it lets on his disgust for Greece’s part played in the inhumane treatment of refugees, that his countrymen who should know better remain silent and that a culture of exclusion enabled by artificial borders prevents an interconnected global village from being part of Greece’s contribution to the world.

The high-minded theme might strike a chord with people of good will throughout the world and those who look for simple answers to complex problems, but to take in such an overlong, tedious and awkwardly presented pushy one-sided political piece, is not my idea of good film-making–despite the film-makers deservedly good rep.

Not only is the uneven pic strained, but so is the title. It refers to the reporter holdingone foot suspended in the air, at the Greek-Albanian border, which has him supposedly looking like a stork and the viewer is supposed to see that by putting his foot over the line it might mean a life or death decision.