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Protagonist

4.4 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Protagonist is a riveting and provocative documentary that explores the psychological transformation of the modern character. Inspired by Greek drama, Academy Award winning director Jessica Yu weaves together the stories of four men consumed by personal odysseys - a notorious former German terrorist, an evangelical minister who comes out of the closet, a bank robber turned journalist, and a Kung Fu fanatic who becomes a stay at home dad and author.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Hans-Joachim Klein, Mark Salzman, Chris Diamantopoulos, Joe Loya, Mark Pierpont
  • Directors: Jessica Yu
  • Writers: Jessica Yu
  • Producers: Jessica Yu, Elise Pearlstein, Noble Smith, Susan West
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English, German
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Studio: Kino Lorber films
  • DVD Release Date: June 10, 2008
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0015I2SLU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,231 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Protagonist" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Doug Anderson VINE VOICE on May 16, 2008
Format: DVD
The four protagonists are:

* a martial arts student (Mark Salzman)
* a German terrorist (Hans Klein)
* an ex-gay evangelist (Mark Pierpont)
* a bank robber (Joe Loya)

The premise for this documentary is to attempt to make connections between Euripidean tragedy & modern life. Whether the documentarian achieves this goal is debatable; nevertheless, the four subjects chosen for study have fascinating stories to tell.

Why Euripides? Euripides was known for his strong female characters (Medea), his intelligent slaves, and his willingness to mock the conventional heroes & hero worship of ancient & classical Greece. Euripides also strikes many modern scholars as being the most modern of all of the Greek tragedians as he was the one most concerned with the inner life & what truly motivates each man or woman's actions.

I think the film is extremely strong, but would have been stronger had there been at least one female protagonist in the mix. In one of the bonus features on this DVD director Jessica Yu (whose In the Realms of the Unreal, 2004, is also a terrific documentary) discusses how she chose her four subjects. The intention was not to choose four men, however, four men were indeed chosen out of 200 candidates because they each had strong narrative arcs & strong narrative voices. Also according to Yu, these four men were chosen because each had a moment in their lives when they "crashed" while the women candidates that pursued equally obsessive life courses did not crash but "crumbled". This difference strikes me as possibly the most fascinating observation in this documentary and had Yu chosen at least one female protagonist this difference could have been explored.
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Format: DVD
I'll admit I was a little skeptical about watching a documentary about
Euripides featuring puppets, but after some initial skepticism, I was won
over by the stories of the four men. To some, the puppets may be jarring
(this might be the only movie I've ever seen featuring puppet violence),
but they do play an integral role in tying together four very different,
but similar stories.

The four protagonists- Mark Salzman, a martial arts enthusiast yearning
for dignity, Mark Pierpont, a Christian evangelist struggling with his
homosexuality, Hans-Joachim Klein, a left-wing German terrorist, and Joe
Loya, a serial bank robber- each have a fascinating story to tell, and Yu
interweaves their narratives with quotes from Euripides' The Bacchae in a
way that provides a cohesive structure to the movie.

What struck me about the stories is how much these men grow up in the
shadow of their families, in particular their fathers. The expectations
and demands of masculinity haunt and shape their lives in a way that
inevitably leads to agony for them and those around them, and this is
where I think their tales most closely mirror Greek tragedy. Inevitably,
each man experiences a painful 'catharsis' that dramatically reshapes
their lives.

What I find truly unique about this documentary is its focus on the
masculine experience, how our parents and our backgrounds can set our
lives in seemingly irreversible directions, and how the sometimes crushing demands of manhood can overwhelm any other motivation. Intending to do a documentary on Euripides, Jessica Yu reminds us that Greek tragedy, too often relegated to required reading for disinterested high schoolers, is still incredibly relevant to contemporary life.
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Format: DVD
I've been waiting for this film to come out on DVD. I saw it at Sundance and it blew me away. You might read a description and see that it involves puppets and Greek tragedy. Depending on your taste that might strike you as terribly cool or horribly pretentious, but to me it's the former. This film is about storytelling, and it tells 4 gripping, entertaining stories by gradually rolling them into one, archetypal drama. In the beginning you might wonder what these characters have to do with one another, but you get so caught up in the individual stories that it doesn't really matter... but then when you start to see the parallels between the characters and situations it adds another layer of meaning to everything. Without giving anything away, I'll say that the puppets play an essential role in bringing everything together, and there are some great "plot twists" in these men's lives that you could never get away with in a scripted drama. It's provocative, satisfying, and even hilarious in places. Anyway, you should probably just see it for yourself. It makes me wonder why documentaries aren't more daring and adventurous. This one is unforgettable.
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Format: DVD
In "Protagonist", director Jessica Yu brilliantly juxtaposes the works of Euripedes with the saga of four men who relate to us their journeys through various degrees of obsession. Although the four could not be more different (an ex-terrorist, and ex-"Ex-Gay", an ex-bank robber and a former martial-arts fanatic) there is a common thread in their stories. Yu was fortunate to find four men that are not only articulate enough to tell their stories well, but men whose sagas are truly riveting. Her use of the puppets acting out not only the classic scenes from Euripides plays, but actual portions of the mens lives is inspired; scenes that could have been either maudlin of far too much for the viewer have both a dark beauty and an edge of horror that's fascinating. This is not only a brilliant film, but an important one; in these times where we are asked to think only in black and white, it's important to see that where human beings are concerned, there are only shades of grey.
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