Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Zorba the Greek

Zorba the Greek; Drama, USA/ UK/ Greece, 1964; D: Michael Cacoyannis, S: Anthony Quinn, Alan Bates, Lila Kedrova, Irene Papas, Sotiris Moustakas

Basil, a British man of Greek heritage, waits in a Greek harbor for a ship to island Crete where he inherited an estate and a coal mine. While waiting, he meets the cheerful Greek Alexis Zorba who becomes his friend. On Crete, Zorba finds out that the coal mine is too old, so he decides to start a business of descending tree logs with the help of a cable way. Basil falls in love with a local widow, but she is killed by the locals who unsuccessfully courted her. Zorba gets engaged to Madame Hortense, an old former star, but she dies from a cold. Even the tree business fails miserably, but Zorba and Basil stay optimistic.

Nominated for 7 Oscars (out of which it won 3 for cinematography, set-decoration and supporting actress Lila Kedrova), 5 BAFTA awards and 5 Golden Globes, "Zorba the Greek" is a very popular film that enjoys a high reputation, but which isn't flawlessly crafted. Actually, some moments are almost an excess. On one hand, the film possesses an ambitious approach towards the story about two different life perspectives, the one from Basil (conservative) and Zorba (liberal), and a bunch of excellent scenes, like the one where the ship finds itself in the middle of a storm, swaying and causing the passengers to slam into the wall. But on the other hand, many situations are questionable, like the misogynous sequence where the villagers kill the widow but it doesn't leave any trace on Basil. The hypocritical way in which the character of the aging Madame Hortense is treated, is also misguided. There's this display of barbarism and passivity of the hero Zorba who is happy and indifferent towards anyone that seems to rub some people the wrong way, even though Anthony Quinn delivered a great performance. The music is also a classic.


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