For this year’s A-To-Z Challenge, my theme is MOVIES. I will be working my way through the alphabet during the month of April with movie titles and short blurbs about each movie. Today’s movie, the last one in this year’s challenge, is “Zorba the Greek.”
“Zorba the Greek” was a 1964 comedy-drama film written, produced, edited, and directed by Greek Cypriot filmmaker Michael Cacoyannis. It starred Anthony Quinn, Alan Bates, Lila Kedrova, Irene Papas, and Sotiris Moustakas. The film was based on the 1946 novel The Life And Times Of Alexis Zorba by Nikos Kazantzakis.
“Zorba the Greek” was a critical and commercial success, grossing over nine-times its production budget at the U.S. box office alone. At the 37th Academy Awards, the film won awards for Best Supporting Actress (Kedrova), Best Cinematography, and Best Art Direction. Other nominations included Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Anthony Quinn, whose performance has been cited as one of the most iconic in film history.
The film focused on a young well-dressed, introverted English writer of Anglo-Greek origins, Basil (Alan Bates), with a case of writer’s block. He returned to his Greek roots when he learned he’d inherited an old lignite mine from his Greek father. Basil is met upon his arrival in Greece by Alexis Zorba (Anthony Quinn), an eccentric, crude, exuberant, and impulsive Greek peasant. Basil decided to take Zorba with him to Crete on a whim. Zorba promised to teach Basil about mining and how to be a real Greek and have a zest for life just by letting himself go using Greek culture to pursue wine, women, and song.
In Crete, in the poor rural village, Basil was introduced to the lovely widow (Irene Papas), the love object of everyone on the island. With Zorba’s help, Basil got over his shyness and made love to her. Meanwhile, Zorba took up with the woman who ran their hotel (Lila Kedrova). When things go wrong on Crete, Zorba told Basil that there’s a silver lining in all this misery and that is to learn to live with the inescapable suffering that is part of life and, therefore, when things go well one can truly taste life’s sweetness. The answer to combating life’s downward turns is doing Zorba’s unique Greek dance, as Basil learns to accept the things in life he can’t control and to enjoy life even under the most trying circumstances.
“Zorba the Greek” is a paean to life in all its diverse aspects, ranging from the farcical to the tragic, as epitomized by the lusty title character, Zorba, a wise and aging peasant, a free soul who is totally committed to life no matter what it holds.