Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Agora 2009 Review

Update: the US release of Agora is available for $15.49 as a pre-order on Amazon, for an Oct. 9th release date. Go grab a copy - people in the industry have said "the film is too intellectual for the American audience" and so on, etc. I believe what they're really saying is that plus "we're too afraid of the Rabid Right to show it in our theaters". If your town didn't get the movie, the next best way to challenge either of those premises is to speak up in sales figures. $15 bucks ain't bad, guys, to send a message that we're not all a bunch of brainless troglodytes who let anti-intellectual hardline evangelicals do our thinking for us.

They give a 126 mins as the run time (Spanish DVD is 126 mins), and there are deleted scenes in the US release. So while the main feature may have been edited, both releases look to have the same edits. Optimism!


Hokay, been waiting since last October, but I finally got hold of Agora, the Alejandro Amenabar film about Hypatia and the events that surrounded the destruction of the Library of Alexandria in 391 A.D.

If you have no idea who or what any of that is, go hit the links, then come back here. Gonna pop out real quick.
(hops in time machine, goes back to the pre-Caesar LoA, plasters "Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate" signs all over the damn thing)

Right, that should do it. Buncha savages in this town.

Now, back to the film. What I have is the Spanish release DVD, with the English audio track option. I'll make the main video available to anyone who wants a copy, on the grounds that they swear on the continued existence of their brains and/or gonads to buy tickets to see it in theaters if possible, or buy the DVD if/when it comes out where ever you are. I'll also accept buying an import DVD if that turns out to be the better option.

Whaddaya mean, "if" and "better option"? Because although Agora does finally have an American distributor, none of the theaters I've spoken with in NC/SC, including some indy film houses, are expecting to get it. Common consensus seems to be that it'll only be a limited release, that none of the theaters around here want to deal with the controversy they had back when Last Temptation of Christ came out, and that even the limited release version may be heavily edited. Even the original script tweaked some history, namely portraying Hypatia as an atheist/agnostic, ostensibly to placate the Christian entities who are protesting the film. Last I heard the entire film was still banned in Italy. Silly Pope; sit down, shut up, and eat yer popcorn.

I find it ridiculously ironic that the whole progression of historical events that the movie is based on were largely set in motion by a flock of fanatics who wanted to wipe out knowledge they didn't approve of, and here, 1600-odd years later, people are still trying to repress knowledge by objecting to a presentation of the events. Yes, the Christian mob and it's power-seeking thug leaders get a bad showing. That would be because they deserve to - at that point in history, Christianity had already been perverted into something Christ and anyone decent who sat at his feet to learn would have been appalled at. I mostly blame Paul and Constantine, but they had help.

Quite honestly, almost everybody gets a bad showing at some point or other in the film. Greed, fear, arrogance, manipulation, and senseless violence all get their place in the whole disaster. Agora also has a few technical weak spots, but they don't detract from the excellent overall enough to warrant not watching it. Even if you couldn't care less about this particular knot in history, the movie is worth seeing merely for the visual recreation of 4th century Roman Egypt, and Rachel Weisz' performance of a woman who was an exceptional person for any age.

Quick nod to that: got a personal interest in promoting the movie. Too many people have never even heard of Hypatia, and non-pagans should mark her as much as PHAs. She was a philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and astronomer in a day when many women couldn't write their own names, and weren't even officially, on the books, considered to be people in the way men were. Hypatia was one of my teenage talismans against the people who told me "women aren't good at science or math" or "women just can't think at the same level men can" or "boys don't like bookworms", etc. and so on.

Here's a bit of footage from the film; this is my edit, not one of the teasers or trailers that's out. None of it is really a spoiler if you know anything at all about the story. I picked these scenes to show the awesome visuals and atmosphere I mentioned, and to hint at Weisz' handling of a character who was, in Amenabar's words, "in love with the sky".

"Just take the important ones . . . "

How the hell do you choose what to save for posterity?

Homework: you have fifteen minutes to decide what written works you'd rescue, grab them, and haul ass for your life before some insane bastard who worships ignorance wastes you and them. What do you take? Since we don't know what all of our options were then, thanks to the aforementioned bastards, let's let modern stuff qualify. Also suspended for the purpose of the exercise is our good fortune of having mass printing and widespread data storage.

Clock's ticking - run.

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