8. “The Travelling Players”, Theo Angelopoulos (1975)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen List

The Travelling Players

The Travelling Players aka Ο Θίασος or O Thiassos

dir. Theo Angelopoulos scr. Theo Angelopoulos cin. Giorgos Arvanitis with Eva Kotamanidou, Aliki Georgouli, Vangelis Kazan, Stratos Pahis, Maria Vassiliou, Petros Zarkadis, Kiriakos Katrivanos, Giannis Fyrios, Nina Papazaphiropoulou, Alekos Boubis, Grigoris Evangelatos, Kosta Stiliaris

In 100 words: The complex political history of post-war Greece is the backdrop of this beautiful but dreary film, full of elegant long takes, limited dialogue, and literary callbacks. Angelopoulos practically invents cinematic grammar to express his point of view. Jumping between flashbacks and current timeline without so much as a pause or even a cut, Angelopoulos fills the screen with so much horror and holds a few beats at them as if to implant the images in the audiences’ head. Angry and bitter, but also mournful about the country’s state, like the permanent grays of his images. Cinema at its most powerful.

Other Movies for Context: A rare movie experience that’s rapturous and quite convincing as a fascinating take on historical crimes and as an angry form of national cinema. Angelopoulos has such bracing grammar, but sometimes it’s too hard to really get into films because of their deliberate pace. Ulysses’ Gaze (1995) was a total wash even though it was spectacularly filmed. Eternity and a Day (1997) may have won him the Palme d’Or but it’s still not as easy to digest what’s going on.