The Beekeeper (1986)

8 03 2008

Some have probably noticed that I’ve become quite enraptured by Kenji Mizoguchi’s filmography as of late, and as a result, I’ve been hungry (so to speak) for more long sequence shoots. In all honesty, I’ve been putting off Angelopolous for far too long and unlike his slow tracking shot peers, Béla Tarr and Miklós Jancsó, I find his films not guarded by pretentious excuses. Instead, his films are immediately accessible in an emotional context and this is even with the occasional silly surrealism thrown in. The Beekeeper represents everything great about him condensed into it’s essence. The intrusive orchestral cues are now replaced by the musical buzzing of bees. Any arguments for symbolism and allegories feel useless: this is two lost souls finding each other and the result is one of the best movies ever.

Following his daughter’s dramatic marriage reception and resignation as a teacher, Spyros begins his seemingly bland job as a beekeeper. He drives long distances going nowhere and in the process accidentally picks up a drifting young women. Her outgoing, carefree spirit clashes with Spyros’ deadpan personality. They part multiple times throughout the film but one always seems to stumble on the other.

To describe the plot of the film is a completely useless process. Like all great films, it’s story lies in more nuanced details. The expressions of the characters or lack there of, the compositions, the mood, and other abstract concepts that can’t factually be pointed out. Angelopolous always crafts his films with a standard of visual beauty, but I can honestly say there is not a wasted frame in this film. More often than not, I prefer long static takes to the slow tracking shots found in this film but in this case, it seems like the slightest camera movement creates a whole new frame. It’s almost as though Angelopolous is only slightly modifying images to create another image equal in visual power.

The avoidance of a “heavy” ponderous feeling often established in films such as this, is most likely a result of two really great performances. Marcello Mastroianni has always been a pretty good actor in my eyes. Even in silly Fellini movies, he seems quite reserved but here, he looks more like a character from a Tsai Ming-Liang film. The lack of dialogue also is key, as it seems in other Angelopolous efforts that the characters articulate their thoughts too well, almost as though everyone is a philosopher. The case couldn’t be more different in this film, Spyros hardly says a word and the girl, understandably, is content with superficial chit-chat. The tension created between this two characters is built upon constant awkward sequences and it seems to be broken when, in one of the film’s greatest sequences, Spyros drives his truck through a cafe to pick up the girl (who remains nameless, by the way) but unfortunately it seems she isn’t quite “ready” when the next sequence on the boat arrives. It’s such psychological confusion that makes this film so great. Human relationships and all the complexities they entail are and will always be more interesting than a allegory on some obscure historical event.

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