Cloaked Critic Reviews Winds of Change Picture


"Metamorphoses" is a 1978 animated anthology film based on the work of the Roman poet, Ovid. His collection of narratives detailing Greek and Roman mythology were adapted into several animated shorts spanning a runtime of approximately an hour and twenty minutes. The film was produced and distributed by the Sanrio Company in Japan. Although strangely despite being a Japanese-animated production the film made it's theatrical debut in America first before it was released in Japan the following year. This film would be Sanrio's second animated American release following their 1977 adaptation of "The Mouse and His Child".

Now I've seen many different animated films over the years depicting various versions of Greek myth, but I can honestly say this one stands alone as the most queer (and by that I mean strange, not whatever you people were thinking of with your dirty minds). I think the thing that makes this movie so odd is the art style. A lot of stuff in this film is drawn the way you might expect a Japanese-animated movie from the 70's depicting Greek mythology to be drawn, and it sports a number of visual effects that I personal feel compliment the surreal nature of many of the myths, but the thing which muddies the overall aesthetic is how certain characters look like rejects from a classic Disney short. This is especially true of the film's main protagonist, Wondermaker. WonderMaker is a reoccurring character throughout this flick as he plays all of the major protagonists from the classic myths depicted in this feature. The only problem is he looks vaguely similar to Disney's Pinocchio. This largely contrasts with the film's more graphic themes and creates some particularly awkward moments; such as when he savagely stabs a wild boar to death, or when he happens to stumble upon the goddess Diana bathing, or when he is eaten alive by his own hunting dogs, and especially the film's finale leaves one with unsettling thoughts as its the equivalent of seeing Pinocchio being reduced to firewood.

The film gets even weirder still when you come to realize that originally it was released as a "Fantasia" knockoff. Before it was re-released featuring narration by Peter Ustinov, the film had absolutely no dialogue and was just a feature-length presentation comprised of visuals and musical scores. The original intention was that this film was to be the Rock Era's answer to "Fantasia", but its initial release was not well-received by the masses. It was critically-panned and closed almost as soon as it opened. It was later re-released under the new title, "Winds of Change" with new music composed by Alec R. Costandinos, featuring Disco songs sung by Arthur Simms and Pattie Brooks, and of course narration by Peter Ustinov. I'll be honest, Mr. Ustinov's narration doesn't add that much to the film though. His commentary is kind of so-so; not the best/not the worst...though I do greatly enjoy the music. The narrative provided by Ustinov is really only there to give context to those who are unfamiliar with the myths and also provides a trifle of comedy every now and again as some of the things he says are off-color and don't quite match up with the dramatic tone of certain scenes.

Less than 20 minutes into the movie, the Disney-esque protagonist strangely starts to feel appropriate, as it soon becomes apparent that a Pincchio lookalike isn't the only thing this movie borrowed from Walt Disney. It seems the director of this feature also found favor with Disney's liberal usage of poetic license. I was able to excuse some of the lesser changes but I quickly found myself thoroughly annoyed come the story of Orpheus and Eurydice where they make the common ignorant mistake of confusing the Greek Underworld with the Christian Hell. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING!! The Underworld of Greek myth is not Hell, and Hades/Pluto is not Satan! Those are two completely different entities! Christians, QUIT getting your mythology confused with everyone else's! Come the fourth myth in this film, I was just about done with this movie's abuse of poetic license...and here I thought Disney's "Hercules" was bad! At least that movie could be written off as satire. Still, I'm willing to consider that I might be being too hard on this movie. At least the filmmakers made the attempt at being creative...which is more than I can say for certain animated productions these days.

Watching films like this, that depict the wacko theologies of ancient civilizations really leaves one to wonder how anybody could worship such foul-tempered, self-centered, petty deities. In the film, they try to curb the cruelty of the gods by attempting to justify their actions and omitting crucial details about certain myths, but there's really no justification for such vindictive self-indulgence. In particular, the gods of ancient Greece were not out to punish the wicked and purge the world of evil. They were only out to have their way, and didn't care who they stepped on in the process. Some of the people they punished may have been wicked, but that is never why they actually tormented them. In Greek myth, if an evil man was punished by the gods it was most likely because he did something to offend one of them, but by that same token you didn't have to be evil and plenty of good people were punished too just because one of the gods took offense to something they might have said or done, and sometimes you didn't have to say or do anything. Aphrodite once grew jealous of a mere mortal princess because her beauty was said to rival her own. In response to this, she sent her son, Eros, to make her fall in love with a jackass...imagine her chagrin when her own son fell in love with her too. Apollo, the God of the Sun, was so intolerant of simple criticism until he cursed King Midas to have donkey ears all because he didn't like his music.

And yet in a strange way I have more respect for the gods of those old Pagan faiths, for those mythologies didn't have the problem that the Abrahamic Religions like Christianity do. The problem with Christianity, Islam, and Judaism is that their god is supposed to be completely benign AND all powerful. However this leads to some pretty awkward moments whenever things in the world go to they always do. Old faiths like those of the Ancient Greeks didn't have this problem, because all their gods were bat-shit fuckin' crazy! The whole reason why the myths depict them as lunatics is because that was how people back then tried to explain all bad shit that would happen to them. In an ironic sort of way, the gods of the old religions were more realistic and true to life, because they were a metaphor for life itself. The world is cruel, irrational, and unfair...and so were the gods!

To wrap this review up, if you enjoyed "Fantasia" (the Disney movie not the singer) then you might find a bit of enjoyment in this movie too. It's not as diverse, imaginative, or emotionally-stirring as "Fantasia", but its definitely worth an hour and twenty minutes if you've got a thing for Greek mythology and late 70' music.
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