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Zorba the Greek

With its grandstanding performance by Anthony Quinn and catchy score by Mikis Theodorakis, Zorba the Greek became a world-wide hit in the 1960s. Set up as a British production by the Cyprus-born director Michael Cacoyannis, and based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ popular novel, Zorba had all the essential ingredients for international success. It tells of Basil (Alan Bates), a prim young English writer who comes to the harshly beautiful island of Crete to reopen a mine he has inherited from his Greek father. There he meets Zorba (Quinn), a tough, wily Greek peasant equipped with a fearsome lust for life. The two men move in with Madame Hortense (Lila Kedrova), an ageing prostitute whom Zorba begins to woo. Zorba also encourages Basil to have an affair with a young widow (Irene Papas), but the relationship ends in tragedy. Despite this and other misfortunes, the gregarious Zorba retains his optimistic faith in life, setting an example to the Englishman. Combining comedy and tragedy with considerable skill, Cacoyannis mounts the film as an epic, all-embracing examination of Greek culture. In addition to the surfeit of passion, food, drink, song and dance on display, the film also looks at the darker side of a culture steeped in tradition and ritual.
(U.K., 1964. Black and white. 142 mins.)

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