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Italy 1969
Directed by
Pier Paolo Pasolini
118 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


Written by Pasolini and based on the Euripides play, the first half of the film tells the story of the search by Jason and the Argonauts for the Golden Fleece in the homeland of Medea (played by Maria Callas), the queen of a ancient pre-civilized country. The second half is given over to their return to Greece with Medea as Jason’s bride soon to be spurned for a new, politically more advantageous wife, the Corinthian princess, Glauce.

Although Callas is a key component of this film’s reputation she in fact gets to do little and certainly not sing (she had made the role famous in productions of Luigi Cherubini's, late 18th century opera, Médéé). Typically, Pasolini makes much use of non-professional actors and takes a highly elliptical approach to the narrative form, requiring of his audience a good deal of forbearance but if the story frustrates conventional expectations what is undeniable is the wonderful hieratic visual form with which the director gives expression to the principal conceptual issue of the film, the contrast between ancient and modern, the sacred and the profane, the mythic and the ratiocinative.

Manifesting many features characteristic of the era, one suspects that Jodorowsky, if not directly influenced by this film in the making of the cult classic El Topo (1971) would certainly have admired it.

DVD Extras: An informative audio commentary by Gino Moliterno, Head of Film Studies, ANU, which, particularly given the rather abstruse nature of the film, is a useful addition for anyone interested in both it and Pasolini’s work in general.  

Available from: Madman




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