2012 - Days of Heaven and Hades
Published on May 30, 2012
Trailer for the Toronto Greek Film Retrospective
Thursday, July 12 - Sunday, July 15, 2012
at The Music Hall (147 Danforth Ave.)
Music: Γρηγόρης Μπιθικώτσης
Director: Michael Cacoyannis
IPHIGENIA is a long lost classic film from 1977 that takes place before the Trojan War.
Legendary Greek-Cypriot Writer-Director Michael Cacoyannis cast the stunning 13-year-old Tatiana Papamoskou as Iphigenia, sacrificial victim to the gods in the cause of war. Playing Clytemnestra is Irene Papas. Never on screen has a Greek Queen, or even a Greek woman ever been so powerful and scorned at the same time.
In 2004, two Hollywood Studios released Greek Epics at the price of half a billion dollars. One had Brad Pitt as muscular as ever (TROY). The other had Colin Farell with blonde hair speaking in an Irish dialect (ALEXANDER). Iphigenia was produced at a cost of one million U.S. dollars.
With his lowly budget, Director Michael Cacoyannis trapped the power, drama, and scope of the uneasy days before the legendary Trojan War. IPHIGENIA soared through the Cannes Film Festival and seamlessly ended up at the Oscars of 1977 as a nominee for Best Foreign Film from Greece.
IPHIGENIA is a towering achievement of a film where ancient Greek Characters rage and love and die in their own language. This is a legendary film where high drama plays out with a sense of authenticity that has never been found in Hollywood studio pictures, where usually most actors/characters speak in a British accent or are dubbed.
This is a masterpiece of Greek filmmaking. Cacoyannis succeeded in re-creating the women characters with blazing fury and truth. It's almost as if he was suggesting that the female role was essential to mankind and that ruining the pure and better nature in women ensured the downfall in man.
The cinema of Michael Cacoyannis has been an integral part of our development as a retrospective and we are heavily indebted to his legacy and his staff of dedicated professionals at the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation in Athens.
Fred and Vinnie (2011)
Directed by Stee Skrovan
Fred (Fred Stoller) is a struggling writer/actor/comedian barely hanging on in Los Angeles week by week. For relief he relays his funny desperation to his closest friend Vinnie who is still on the East Coast, 2,500 miles away. Vinnie absorbs all of this in the dark of a basement apartment and has obviously become a support system and sounding board for the talented but depressed Fred.
And then one day Vinnie acts on an impulse and flies to LA to join Fred in his struggle and perhaps create a new life for himself also. The late night calls and support come to fruition and soon two old friends are together again. Little does Fred know that 350-pound Vinnie, the self-described "fattest vegetarian in the world," eats candy by the bushel, snores like a roaring grizzly bear and generally declines invitations to leave the house.
Skillfully directed by Director Steve Skrovan from a razor-sharp script by lead actor Fred Stoller, Fred and Vinnie is a charming but unsettling look at friendship and distance, and how sometimes both are necessary to preserve the relationship.
Rob Nelson of Variety magazine wrote, "Angelo Tsarouchas, the bushy-bearded Vinnie gradually wears out his welcome with Fred while fully endearing himself to the viewer, thanks largely to Tsarouchas' lovably deadpan portrayal. Throughout, the movie displays a keen and ultimately poignant understanding of a loner's self- imposed isolation as well as his intermittent yearning for connection.
Angelo Tsarouchas, our hometown boy of The Danforth changes gears masterfully from stand-up comic to nervous portrayal on the big-screen in FRED AND VINNIE. The big lovable lug dared to act and he actually manifests a brilliant rendition of a big man that is both awkward and lost but makes us hope he will find his way.
FRED AND VINNIE is a special presentation of the GREEK FILM RETROSPECTIVE OF TORONTO this year. After a decade of returning back to Toronto support Greek-Canadian events, the GFR is honoured with being able to screen the Canadian Gala of his dark comedy.
Brides (Nyfes) 2004
Directed by Pantelis Voulgaris
Set in 1922, Brides is a sweeping historical romance that follows the journey of 700 "mail-order brides" from war-torn Greece as they cross the Atlantic towards the promise of new lives with unknown husbands in America. The young women sail towards their fate with the hope and insecurity of immigrant women that pray there lives will be better once they have left the poverty and desperation behind.
Renowned Greek Director Pantelis Voulgaris shows his deeply humane and emotional touch in this elegant film, and perhaps his reputation was the reason this film caught the eye of Martin Scorsese, who became Executive Producer.
Brides is a poignant film brought to life with sincere performances and honest writing. It is an honour for the GFR to screen a film of this caliber, as we feel certain the audience on the Danforth this summer will be moved by this heartbreaking story. We truly hope to be able to show more of Voulgaris' classics in the coming years.
Directed by Jules Dassin
Director Jules Dassin (NEVER ON A SUNDAY) mines the tragic consequences of forbidden love in the searing PHAEDRA, which deals with a woman overwhelmed by passions she cannot control.
Phaedra (Melina Mercouri) is the forty-something, second wife of shipping magnate Thanos Kyrilis (Raf Vallone), who wishes to reconcile with his estranged son Alexis (Anthony Perkins), an art student living in London. After naming his latest luxury ship after her, he asks her to travel to London to bring his son back to Greece for a splendid summer in Hydra. This single request will shape their lives in a journey of fevered desire and Greek Tragedy; hearts and lives will be destroyed.
This is a lavish film that was fittingly nominated for Best Costume Design at the 1963 Oscar Awards and Best Actress in a Foreign Film for the Golden Globes. Dassin artfully portrays the elite shipping families with their yachts and high fashion attire, and of course their decadent affairs with dead-on precision. (Some have suggested obvious parallels of the real-life marriages involving the Onassis and Niarchos shipping clans of the era.)
Melina Mercouri delivers an astonishing performance, and although in today's time of gratuitous and graphic depictions of love scenes Phaedra might appear pedestrian or dated, the viewer must put themselves into the context of 1962. It is no wonder Phaedra was even banned in some southern states of the U.S.
This is a largely forgotten film, as American audiences could not get past Anthony Perkins' unforgettable role in Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO. When Perkins became Norman Bates he secured his place in film history in one of the most frightening thrillers of all time. Fifty-two years later, it is a complete revelation to see what an excellent actor Perkins was as he portrays the virile yet cerebral son of a Greek Tycoon who gets caught in an inescapable trap of lust.
Unlike most films that were shot within the Greek Film Industry in the early Sixties, Phaedra's locales included Paris, London, and of course the beautiful Aegean Island of Hydra. This rare film exudes the exotic air of a film from a bygone era of Hollywood, but in reality is a genuine classic in the vein of Greek Drama. (The GFR would like to thank PARK CIRCUS in Glasgow, Scotland for working with us to ensure this special screening.)
What My Eyes Have Yet To See (1984)
Directed by: Thodoros Marangos
Three childhood friends meet after several years and realize that they roads they chose did not fulfill them. One of them, Lefteris, played with equal amounts hope and anger by Vangelis Kazan, yearns to return to the agricultural life as he has spent years on the seas as a merchant seaman.
He ultimately gets so disillusioned with his life and failures in the big city that he returns to the village to cultivate the land…this leads to his greatest heartbreak of all.
Writer-Director Thodoros Marangos bares his political teeth to ravage the failed policies of early 80's Greek Government policy. His main attack is focused on how government subsidies devalued the priceless currency of the Greek farmer; the pride and satisfaction of sharing their harvest with the rest of Europe.
WHAT MY EYES HAVE YET TO SEE was the last salvo for several years from a highly revered and commercially successful filmmaker. On opening night of the film, several ministers were troubled by how the political personalities were portrayed, and it took several years for Marangos to launch another feature film. This is one of the rare films that the Greek Film Retrospective hopes will continue its' tradition of unearthing great little films that truly exhibited the talent of Greece's past cinematic gems.
Directed by Costas Ferris
Inspired by the Italian Film Carosello Napoletano by Ettore Giannini, Director Costas Ferris began collecting 78’s, an ancient version of vinyl records in his research of his epic film. Ferris might indeed have the longest research period in motion picture history. His journey was launched in 1957 and the historical accuracy and measures Ferris undertook all paid off when the dust settled after 1983.
The genuine feeling and historical accuracy of REMBETIKO managed to defy Italian Master Bernardo Bertolucci when he was quoted "the Director must be crazy." This film was booed more than any other film in the festival’s history on opening night. A week later but it received many awards at the close and the same people were applauding.
Director Ferris comments on the fact that his film was received with much greater admiration in New York, Geneva, Barcelona and Cairo than in his homeland. He believed it was a tendency for Greece to show disdain towards its’ native artists."
What makes this film a landmark is the seamless storytelling of fringe Greeks that are living and dying, struggling and singing for their daily and nightly bread. It is a testament to the dispossessed of Asia Minor, their incredible fortitude in the growing slums of a world wide Depression, and how they lost and found themselves and survived in a ravaged nation.
Whether you are a fan of the genre of Greek Blues or not, REMBETIKO possesses one of the most naked and painful montages recorded on film of modern Greek History. Through stock footage and brilliant song and lyric, Director Ferris crafted a film about his motherland and its’ inescapable reality of farming out its’ children to the Diaspora. (Whether this is unfair or not, the truth is that Greece lost ten percent of its’ children to the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany, and beyond.)
There has always been an irony in the great emigration of Greece in the post-1952 era. Some say they had to go for their own personal survival. In Rembetiko, it was all out sacrifice by the characters that live and die in this film for music and art. Even their children were victims until success happened. It is a portrayal of an "all-or-nothing" thrust and most of the time there was nothing but a bitter road back home for these artists…
Greeks from the mainland have now after almost a century, welcomed and celebrated the classic songs of what the era of Rembetiko was the catalyst for.
THE ISLAND (NISSOS) 2009
Directed by Christopher Dimas
On a beautiful Greek Island in 2009, the richest man for miles dies suddenly and leaves in his will one million Euros to the four pillars of the community. Those four sections of society are the Church, the Police, the Mayor's office and the Public School.
In THE ISLAND (NISSOS), tragedy becomes opportunity, which then becomes dark comedy in Director Christopher Dimas biting and hilarious film about human nature.
The film is swamped with bravado performances by an ensemble cast that perfectly drives their own characters into a storm of controversy because they have no other gear but self-preservation and survival. Greed, power, ambition and desire all play out with bristling energy in this film that has the honour of being the little Greek Film that beat out AVATAR at the National Box Office in Greece that year.
That being said, the few honourable characters in THE ISLAND show restraint and great will and ultimately offset an obvious theme that might suggest the director is attacking an entire Greek Island Society.
In this funny and scathing film, the brazenly talented Dimas actually spends the same amount of time giving the noble and long-suffering Greek roles almost the same screen time they deserve. He does this even though what steals the show is the unfortunate portrayal of the four main characters that are bound for glory and riches. These may seem stereotypes at first glance, but in 2012, THE ISLAND is proof that sometimes clichés are eerily close to what we fear.