A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Zorba the Greek (Michael Cacoyannis, 1964)

Anthony Quinn and Lila Kedrova in Zorba the Greek
Alexis Zorba: Anthony Quinn
Basil: Alan Bates
The Widow: Irene Papas
Madame Hortense: Lila Kedrova
Mavrandoni: Giorgos Foundas
Mimithos: Sotiris Moustakas
Soul: Anna Kyriakou
Lola: Eleni Anousaki
Pavlo: Yorgo Voyagis
Manolakis: Takis Emmanuel

Director: Michael Cacoyannis
Screenplay: Michael Cacoyannis
Based on a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis
Cinematography: Walter Lassally
Art direction: Vassilis Photopoulos
Film editing: Michael Cacoyannis
Music: Mikis Theodorakis

For a film that supposedly celebrates the life force embodied in its title character, Zorba the Greek sure is full of cruelty and death and destruction. I don't think I know a scene more horrifying than the ransacking of Madame Hortense's hotel after her death, when the black-clad, toothless harpies of the village swarm through in a riot of looting that ends with the dead woman on her bed in the stripped room. And yet at the end, after their mining efforts have collapsed spectacularly, after Basil has unwittingly caused the death of the widow and the suicide of his rival for her affections, Basil and Zorba dance. I suppose this is supposed to signify that life goes on. It was, nevertheless, a critical and commercial success, even though to my mind it's a disjointed film with radical switchbacks in tone. What it has going for it is a couple of colorful performances by Anthony Quinn and the Oscar-winning Lila Kedrova. Alan Bates, usually a fine actor, seems a little off in his performance, as if he hadn't quite got a hold on the character beyond the obvious odd-coupling of his mildly stuffy Brit with the flamboyant Zorba. It might be fun to see this film back-to-back with An Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky, 1978), in which it's Bates who plays the life-force character, the shaggy artist Saul Kaplan, who brings Jill Clayburgh's Erica out of her post-divorce funk.

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