Gregory Markopolous's The Illiac Passion


Gregory J. Markopoulos was one of the most original filmmakers to emerge in post-war American cinema. His films, which often translated literary or mythological sources to a contemporary context, are celebrated for their extraordinary creativity, the sensuous use of color and innovations in cinematic form. A contemporary of Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger and Jonas Mekas, Markopoulos was amongst those at the forefront of a generation that liberated cinema by developing new modes of expression. Having made his first 16mm film (Psyche) in 1947, he went on to produce several key works of the avant-garde such as Twice a Man (1963) and The Illiac Passion (1964-67).

At the end of the 1960s, Markopoulos moved to Europe to pursue a very individual path, withdrawing his films from distribution and making them almost impossible to see. Firmly believing that a filmmaker should be responsible for all aspects of his work, he conceived the Temenos, a monographic archive for the presentation, preservation and study of his films. Late in life he chose to re-edit his entire oeuvre into a monumental 80-hour long film (Eniaios, 1947-90) to be shown only at a remote location near his ancestral home in Greece. This speculative project is being realised posthumously at an open-air screening event that has taken place in the Peloponnese every four years since 2004, and is currently being planned for June 2016.

Markopoulos’ films encompass mythic themes, portraiture and studies of landscape and architecture. By employing complex editing techniques and spontaneous in-camera superimposition, he sought to unlock the mystery and energy contained within the single frame. This rare opportunity to experience the work of a true pioneer of independent filmmaking celebrates the publication of “Film as Film: The Collected Writings of Gregory J. Markopoulos” (The Visible Press, 2004), which gathers together almost 100 texts written by the filmmaker between 1950 and 1992.

This is the first of four screenings of works by Gregory Markopolous.  The remaining three will be between April 6 and April 12, with Mark Webber in person.  More details at the REDCAT, Getty, and Filmforum websites. This screening of The Iliac Passion is the first known to be presented in Los Angeles in decades

The Illiac Passion
Gregory J. Markopoulos, 1964-67, USA, 16mm, color, sound, 91 min
Throughout his life, Markopoulos remained closely connected to his heritage and made many works that connected with ancient Greek culture. The Illiac Passion, one of his most highly acclaimed films, is a visionary interpretation of ‘Prometheus Bound’ starring mythical beings from the 1960s underground. The cast includes Jack Smith, Taylor Mead, Beverly Grant, Gregory Battcock and Gerard Malanga, and Andy Warhol appears as Poseidon riding an exercise bike. The extraordinary soundtrack of this re-imagining of the classical realm features a fractured reading (by the filmmaker) of Henry Thoreau’s translation of the Aeschylus text and excerpts from Bartók’s Cantata Profana. Writing about this erotic odyssey, Markopoulos asserted that, “the players become but the molecules of the nude protagonist, gyrating and struggling, all in love, bound and unbound, from situation to situation in the vast sea of emotion.” — Mark Webber

“Metamorphosis of the filmmaker. Passions of the filmmaker. Out of his breast the free flowing blood of the creation of a motion picture which depicts the passions of mankind and of everyman in general. The filmmaker selecting and offering to his actors the inheritance of themselves, transforming them through themselves, their own life’s scenario, onto the motion picture screen. A screen in which everything is both transfixed and changed. Not only the filmmaker undergoes changes, i.e. the creative endeavor, but his actors or non-actors, and everyone who associates himself with the very moments during which the filmmaker is working. In this case the greatest alteration taking place towards the film spectator. The new film spectator of the new cinema. […]

“Set afire, the soul of the film spectator and the mythic characters or real personalities of The Illiac Passion commence to alternate, sometimes obliterate and then return to a moment passed or forgotten. That moment taking on greater meaning (upon its return, second return or reference in the film – via single frames, clusters of frames, and the classic principles of film editing), the symbols, the individual psychology united in a single structure, i.e. The Illiac Passion. All revealing the same story, but in variation, all united, all invoking the passions, and all seen through the vibrant passion of the hero, Mr Richard Beauvais as the apotheosis of a Prometheus who is not to bound to a rock, but bound to his own passions; i.e. his own life’s scenario. And, all the various myths which the filmmaker uses in this development in The Illiac Passion become involved in that time development known as eternity.” — Gregory J. Markopoulos, The Illiac Passion, 1967

Date: March 22, 2015
Time: 7:30pm
The Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian
6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90028

For more event information:, or 323-377-7238          

Tickets: $10 general, $6 students/seniors; free for Filmforum members.  Available by credit card in advance from Brown Paper Tickets at or at the door.

Special Thanks to Steve Anker and Mark Webber; Rani Singh, Alison Kozberg, and the Getty Research Institute; REDCAT; Tosh Berman; Robert Beavers and The Temenos.

This program is supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; and the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. Additional support generously provided by American Cinematheque. We also depend on our members, ticket buyers, and individual donors.
GM Illiac Passion 2 smaller2

Los Angeles Filmforum presents Gregory J. Markopoulos: Film as Film
“The Illiac Passion” Sunday March 22, 2015, 7:30 pm
At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90028
Co-presented with the Getty Center and REDCAT


About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

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