Zorba the Greek - 1964

Zorba the Greek - Released Dec 17, 1964. Directed by Michael Cacoyannis

Mild-mannered Basil (Alan Bates) is a Greek who was raised as an Englishman and has come to the island of Crete to try and make a living from his family's abandoned property. While making the trip to the island, he meets Zorba (Anthony Quinn), an itinerant workman who takes it upon himself to look after the naive Basil and to help him reopen a closed lignite mine where the two hope to make a living.

Zorba and Basil are an odd couple but it makes for the film's dynamic story of the quiet Englishman/Greek being pushed out of his aimless life that consists mostly of watching the world around him. Zorba is often exuberant and draws upon a long history of experience (describing his age, Zorba only says "I move fast because I have to").

The Cretan village near them is a part of the story, and the script by director Cacoyannis (from the book by Nikos Kazantzakis) condenses the tale of a beautiful, lonely widow (Irene Papas) who refuses the attention of every man in the area, but Zorba recognizes that only one man possesses the gentleness and refinement to be acceptable to her, i.e., Basil (but the thought of it terrifies the shy man).

Humor and gorgeous location photography punctuate this movie and softens the bitter ironies that accumulate. Anthony Quinn's performance is outsized and boisterous, but diminishes to allow subtle moments, and to let the rest of Cacayannis' story be told. Lila Kedrova (as Madame Hortense) is the aging european owner of a small inn. She is also a former courtesan, stranded on the island (Kedrova won an Academy Award for this role).


Original Page February 14, 2017

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