A Song is Not Enough

(Elissavet Chronopoulou, Greece, 2003)


Elissavet Chronopoulou's A Song is Not Enough is an artistic highlight of contemporary Greek cinema – a country largely off the fashionable maps of World Cinema these days.


This story alternates, in an elegant and searching way, between two stories. In the 1970s, actress Irene (the simultaneously earthy and radiant Gogo Brebou) is jailed for her involvement in the Resistance. In the present day, her adult daughter Olga (Fotini Papadodima), a filmmaker, struggles with the traces of her unresolved resentment and anger.


Like a number of contemporaneous films about, for instance, the emotional plight of children of terrorists (including The State I’m In, 2000), A Song is Not Enough tracks the fall-out, within a family’s history, of leftist political activism – but given a welcome twist in that Olga herself is involved in politics, via the intriguing documentary project we see her editing throughout. (In this respect the film also relates to recent Argentinean films such as Albertina Carri’s The Blondes [2003].)


Ultimately, the film’s focus is on the personal realm: when it comes time for Olga to chaperone her dissolute father to Irene’s latest triumphant theatre premiere, poignant echoes of Once Upon a Time in America (1984) fill a cinephile’s head: the classical diva who never grows old, versus everyone else who suffers the ravages of time and history …


Like Jean-Luc Godard in Éloge de l'amour (2001) – albeit less radically in form – Chronopoulou switches between digital video, with its deliberately murky colour, and the sparkling clarity of black-and-white film. The ‘70s section is especially well done: not only the faces and costume, but the gestures and manners seems authentic to memories of the time. And the stripped-back black-and-white texture allows Chronopoulou not only to evoke the era in an unfussy way, but also certain priceless movie associations: Philippe Garrel, Jean Eustache, early Jacques Doillon.


Chronopoulou shows a true feeling for cinema in her debut feature. Her careful use of silence, choreographic handling of gestures (the theatre scenes are extremely graceful), and superb sense of camera movement and framing mark her as a director to watch on the world stage.


MORE Greek cinema: Landscape in the Mist, A Touch of Spice, The Very Poor Inc.

© Adrian Martin September 2004

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
home    reviews    essays    search