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Never on Sunday

Having established a career in Hollywood with tough, gritty films like Brute Force (1947), Naked City (1948) and Thieve’s Highway (1949), director Jules Dassin fled Hollywood during the communist blacklist. He went on to create an equally impressive body of work in Europe, making the classic thrillers Night and the City (1950) and Rififi (1957) before teaming up with Greek actress Melina Mercouri. The couple’s second film together, Never on Sunday is in many respects Dassin’s loving tribute to Mercouri, whose lively persona completely dominates the piece. She plays Ilya, a free-spirited prostitute in the Athens port town of Piraeus whom Homer Thrace (a naive American intellectual, played by Dassin) mistakes for the personification of Greece itself. Seeing her as symbolic of a civilisation fallen from Aristotelian heights to Epicurean decadence, he sets out to transform her into his own image of the Greek ideal (‘Remember Pygmalion’ is one observer’s unheeded warning). But the independent-minded Ilya has other plans. . . . Bouzouki music (including the irresistible Manos Hadjidakis title tune), drunken dancing and shattered crockery fill the gaps in this ribald comedy, which was a big critical and commercial success in its day.
(1960. English and Greek dialogue. English subtitles. Black and white. 92 mins.)

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