Zorba the Greek

[Screenshot]Zorba the Greek seems like one of those films everyone has a vague idea about but nobody has actually seen. I knew it involved Greece and Anthony Quinn dancing the sirtaki to a well-known tune which has since been reused pretty much any time a film director needed a tune to set an appropriately Greek mood. Based on this very limited information, I kind of expected a story with Those Wacky Greeks teaching us all to love life and whatnot, a preconception the Netflix blurb didn’t disabuse me of.

So, with that background information, you might not be surprised (if you actually know the film) to learn that I found actually watching it to be pretty bleak. While the designated Wacky Greek does have the whole loving-life-in-adversity thing running as a theme, an awful lot of the running time is devoted to the drama of horrible island people doing awful things, and my overarching impression was less “oh, those Greeks, how joyously trangressive they are” than “damn, Greek villagers are assholes”. To its credit, it’s actually a quite well-done film, even if it’s not what I expected at all. Anthony Quinn shows a considerable range within his lunatic characterization, when all is told, and Alan Bates likewise shows a reasonable expressiveness, although his character never quite came to life for me. Most of the other actors are incidental: Kedrova is the only other notable speaking part, and doesn’t display much subtlety, but really it stands pretty much entirely on the strength of the two main characters. Other cinematic aspects I’m vaguer on, since the older a film is, the less I’m able to assess its cinematography. Certainly nothing jumped out as problematic, and the sets were appropriately evocative of the right atmosphere (not wholly surprising, since it was shot on location).

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.


About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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