September 18, 1978 12:00 PM

When Melina Mercouri, as a Greek movie star, returns home to do Medea on the stage, she becomes obsessed with an American woman (Ellen Burstyn) who, like a modern-day Medea, has murdered her children to punish her husband for infidelity. Jules Dassin—the producer, director and writer (as well as Mercouri’s husband)—creates a fascinating, often frightening, Persona-like study of transference between the two women. Indeed, Dassin includes a lengthy clip from the Bergman classic. Mercouri delivers a powerful, multidimensional performance that, she says, “I love more than anything I’ve ever done.” Burstyn combines foul-mouthed rage and childlike innocence in the demanding role of the murderess. Some scenes from Medea itself run overly long, but even then they help to build the impact of this forceful film. (R)

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