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Tony Grist

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Alexandria [Mar. 25th, 2010|10:34 am]
Tony Grist
Alexandria is also a city of trhe mind. An idea. I couldn't describe the buildings or take you on a tour of the streets, but I can tell you what it feels like. There's a library there, you know. They've got copies of every book ever. 

All of Aristophanes, all of Stesichorus, all of Sappho- shelf upon shelf upon shelf- only you can't actually get close enough to read them...

It's not exactly clear what happened.  The records are fragmentary- contradictory. There was a fire. Riots. Things like that. The early Christians- some of them- may have been to blame. Archbishop Cyril for instance.

Bettany Hughes was in the existing city of Alexandria last night. It looks like Cairo. I've been to Cairo and didn't care for it. Parts of the old city exist underground. Tombs. We went into a tomb where Egyptian and Greek culture are all mixed up and Anubis is shown wearing the breastplate and short skirt of a Roman soldier. Hughes talked a lot about Hypatia.

Hypatia is important to me too. I borrowed her name for a character who used to live in my head and act like the big sister I never had. She turns up in several of my poems.

Hughes' documentary was illustrated with some rather wonderful film clips recreating the ancient city. It turns out they come from a 2009 film called Agora-  directed by Pedro Amenabar- and starring Rachel Weisz as Hypatia. Michel Lonsdale is it too, playing her old dad, the director of the Musaeum. How nice to know he's still alive. The film has been shown in Spain, but not anywhere else very much. There have been moves to get it banned in Italy for being mean about Archbishop Cyril and his gang.

Of course I want to see it.

I'll find it hard, though- emotionally wrenching  What happened to Hypatia was horrible. I was tensing up as Bettany Hughes came to the point where she had to narrate that bit. Watching it on screen will not be pleasant. I hope they cut away.

On a happier note, they've built a new library in modern Alexandria to rival the first. They have a super-computer there that regularly, every couple of days, records and stores the entirety of the world-wide web. Isn't that fabulous? 

Et in Alexandria ego.

[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2010-03-25 12:07 pm (UTC)
We saw Agora when it came out here in Spain last year. I understand it's had limited runs in other countries, odd because it was filmed in Hollywood and in English. It has its faults but Rachel Weisz gives a stellar performance. We liked it very much and it does capture a time, an idea, an atmosphere..it would be well worth your while just to see Weisz's performance.
Lonsdale is also incredibly good as her father.

Her death is terrible but elegantly done.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-03-25 12:36 pm (UTC)
Spain turns out a lot of movies that never get seen in the larger world. I went to a Spanish film festival in Manchester once and it was full of excellent things that I'd never heard of. I chose a movie about the relationship between Dali, Bunuel and Lorca- because those guys interest me- and it was great.

I certainly intend to see Agora- one way or the other. The clips they showed us- with their meticulous imagining of ancient Alexandria- were beautiful.
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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2010-03-25 12:51 pm (UTC)
The clips they showed us- with their meticulous imagining of ancient Alexandria- were beautiful.

Yes. The recreation is indeed beautiful and alternates between real and dream-like.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-03-25 01:34 pm (UTC)
Sounds like I'm going to love it.
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From: mamadar
2010-03-25 01:53 pm (UTC)
I was rather thrilled a few years ago when my workplace was visited by three librarians from Alexandria--all women, heads covered. They zipped through my department all too quickly.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-03-25 02:15 pm (UTC)
O wow- to be visited by a triad of archetypes- that's quite something!
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[User Picture]From: qatsi
2010-03-25 08:55 pm (UTC)
It was an interesting programme, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-03-25 09:28 pm (UTC)
Yes, me too.
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