Greece Cinematography Part II

Commercial cinema was inspired by the transformations that tumultuously swept the city of Athens in that decade, both from an urban planning point of view and due to the constant increase in population; cinema thus created languages ​​and characters poised between urbanization and provincial customs, the workhorse of comedians much loved by the public. Sakellarios wrote hugely successful comedies, while the so-called bucolic comedies revived. In 1951 Grigoriu and Lokurgos Stavrakos founded a film school. In this way an attempt was made to remedy the shortage of film directors that had often led writers and theater directors to sign films.In the meantime, auteur cinema was born with Magiki polis (1954, Magic City) and O drakos (1956, L ‘ ogre) by Nikos Kunduros, and with Kyriakatiko xypnima (1954, Sunday awakening) and Stella (1955; Stella, courtesan of Piraeus) by Michalis Kakoghiannis (known as Michael Cacoyannis). These were the first Greek directors to cross the borders of the country and achieve notoriety with international critics; the interest of their works lies in overcoming the models of commercial cinema, in the vigor of the story and in the originality of the style, more sunny in Cacoyannis, more mysterious in Kunduros. In the 1960s the musical appeared, and the most prominent director was Giannis Dalianidis, who directed high-impact films in theaters. Since 1963, a refined director such as Nikos Papatakis worked between France (Les abysses) and Greece (I photographia, 1987, La fotografia) creating works of literary inspiration (J. Genet) and of an existentialist slant. In 1960, the Week of Greek Cinema (since 1966 Greek Film Festival) was inaugurated in Thessaloniki, where Kunduros presented To Potami (1959, The River). In 1961 the first film law developed measures to protect quality: it introduced a tax on imported films, granted concessions to foreign companies that filmed in Greece and supported the Thessaloniki Film Festival; but only these last two measures were applied. Production peaked between 1967 and 1968 with 117 films, in 1970 theaters reached 2000 compared to 350 in 1945; then began a decline in production and in the influx of audiences, the latter decline also due to the diffusion – late compared to the rest of Europe – of television.

With the advent of the dictatorship of the colonels (April 21, 1967) the government supported national-popular cinema; however, even in this new scenario, the film that gained international fame was Anaparastasi (1970; Reconstruction of a crime) by Anghelopulos, a key film in the history of Greek cinema which, narrating the historical events of the post-war Greece in light of the social and cultural contradictions. Some directors preferred to go abroad, such as Cacoyannis, Kunduros, Roviros Manthulis, Dimitris Kollatos and Dimos Theos who released his censored film Kierion (1968, a name that indicates Greece as a country with no more identity), on assassination of an American journalist attributed to the Communists and actually the work of the secret services. Iakovos Kabanellis, Constantin Costa-Gavras, who was already an expatriate, intervened against the military junta with Z (1969; Z – The orgy of power) from the book by V. Vassilikos on the assassination of the socialist deputy Greece Lambrakis. In 1974 the phrase New Greek cinema (NEK, Neos Ellenikos Kinematografos) appeared for the first time in the magazine “Film”, directed by the avant-garde director Thanassis Rentzis, author of Vio-grafia (1975) and Corpus (1978), secretary of the association of filmmakers and later director of the Festival of Thessaloniki. The Greek situation was very different from the contexts from which the nouvelles vagues of other European countries moved, but the new Greek cinema took up its basic trends, qualifying itself above all for its break with the popular and hagiographic stylistic features of commercial cinema linked to the dictatorship. Among the films and names to remember in this new phase: Evdokia (1971) by Alexis Damianos, Meres tu ’36 (1972; The days of ’36) and O thiasos (1975; La recita) by Anghelopulos, Kraniou topos (Place of cranio, 1973) by Kostas Aristopulos, Ta chromata tis iridos (1974, The colors of the iris) by Nikos Panayotopulos, Modelo (1974) by Kostas Sfikas, Happy day (1976) by Pandelis Vulgaris. The new Greek cinema made itself known and appreciated abroad: I tempelides tis eforis kilados (1978, The idlers of the fertile valley) by Panayotopulos was awarded at the Locarno Film Festival, O Megalexandros (1980; Alexander the Great) by Anghelopulos had the Lion Golden Bear at the Venice Film Festival, Kostas Ferris’ Rembetiko (1983) won the Silver Bear at the 1984 Berlin Film Festival.

Despite the fall of the dictatorship (1974), film production continued to contract and about ten years after its birth also the new Greek cinema, which had developed without any support from the state, felt the crisis, since the public, which before he attended his films in large numbers, even disdaining the successes of American cinema, he began to lose interest in political and social issues. A new law came to support cinema and was signed by Melina Mercouri, an internationally renowned Greek actress who then held the position of minister of culture. But the establishment of the Greek Cinema Center with the task of financing national production failed to stop the decline in audiences in theaters, due to both the introduction of private television channels and the diffusion of videotapes and the invasion of US cinema. which in the mid-nineties reached 87% of the films screened. National production returned to the most popular genres, the most famous actors, love stories and thrillers, while the comedy relaunched comedians such as Thanassis Vengos, who at the epoch of the dictatorship portrayed the oppressed but resourceful poor man, or like Kostas Vutsas and Sotiris Mustakas. To remember authors such as Orgos Katakuzinos, Nikos Vergitsis, Frida Liappa for issues related to eroticism, Lakis Papastathis for her works on history and national identity; the more explicitly political cinema (Nikos Andonakos, Tassos Psarras, Christos Siopachas, Kostas Zyrinis, P. Vulgaris) in the meantime continued to produce analyzes of the social reality of the country; Pavlos Tassios told with humor and bitterness the problems related to urbanization, Nikos Perakis was the most successful director with the first satire films on the period of the dictatorship. Secluded and brilliant Stavros Tornes pursued a visionary line with Balamos (1982) and Karkalou (1984).

In the 1990s, production was financed to a small extent by public and private television and by European Union programs, but more than half of the films were never released in theaters. The films of these years are realistic works, centered on personal experience, far from the dreams of American cinema, and this is perhaps the only element that has remained unchanged in Greek cinema. A retreat on memory and interiority of which the latest films by Anghelopulos are emblematic. A significant social and cultural novelty, documented by the cinema, is represented in this period by the opening of the borders to Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union: some interesting films such as Ap to chioni (1993, Dalla neve) testify to this.

Greece Cinematography 2