The international film community is mourning the death of director Theo Angelopoulos, considered the elder statesman of Greek film and a towering figure in world cinema.
Athens-born Angelopoulos, 76, succumbed to injuries sustained from being struck by a motorcycle whilst crossing a motorway in Drapetsona on Tuesday evening. He had spent the day on location in the seaport town of Piraeus with the cast and crew of his latest film, The Other Sea, which he was readying for this year's Cannes film festival.
According to reports, the filmmaker was rushed to the region's intensive care hospital unit to be treated for severe head injuries but could not be stabilised. He was pronounced dead in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Angelopoulos enjoyed arthouse and festival success with his debut feature, Reconstruction (1970), which swept all before it at that year's Thessaloniki Film Festival and would earn the then 35 year-old the FIPRESCI critics prize in Berlin. The film introduced international audiences to an auteur whose painterly frame revelled in the calm stillness of his protagonists and their environments, often in the face of profoundly volatile subject matter.
Over his 40-year career, Angelopoulos worked in film and television, writing, producing and directing shorts (he contributed to the portmanteau celebration of cinema, Lumiere and Company, in 1995) and documentaries. An avid cinephile, he would often lend his name and reputation to projects that celebrated international film, most recently Frédéric Sojcher's mockumentary HH, Hitler à Hollywood (2010), which used leading European film identities to parody US domination of their continent's film culture.
He garnered acclaim as director of such features as The Travelling Players (1975; Berlin's Interfilm award); The Hunters (1977; Palme d'Or nominated); Taxidi sta Kythira (1984; Best Screenplay, Cannes Film Festival); and, Landscape in the Mist (1988; his second Interfilm honour).
In 1995, he was awarded the coveted Grand Jury Prize at Cannes for Ulysee's' Gaze, but left the ceremony audience (and presenter, actor Andy Garcia) stunned when, in a fit of pique at having been snubbed for higher honours, he declared, “If this is what you have to give me, I have nothing to say." Organisers held no grudge, as they feted him three years later for what many consider his crowning achievement, Eternity and a Day (awarded the Palm d'Or and the Ecumenical Jury honours).
The Other Sea represents the final chapter in his trilogy of films that explore the migrant experience and the effects of time and memory; considered by Angelopoulos to be his life work, the series began in 2004 with The Weeping Meadow and was followed in 2008 by The Dust of Time.