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A Matter of Dignity (1958)
"To teleftaio psema" (original title)

 |  Drama  |  19 January 1960 (USA)
8.0
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 352 users  
Reviews: 4 user | 1 critic

During one of her parents many parties, Chloe learns they're bankrupt. She's being courted by Niko, a wealthy Greek American, so she decides to charm him. He's quickly captivated. That ... See full summary »

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Title: A Matter of Dignity (1958)

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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ellie Lambeti ...
Hloi Pella
Athena Michaelidou ...
Roxanni Pella
Eleni Zafeiriou ...
Katerina
Giorgos Pappas ...
Kleon Pellas (as Georgios Pappas)
Michalis Nikolinakos ...
Galanos
Dimitris Papamichael ...
Markos
Minas Christidis ...
Nikos Dritsas
Vasilis Kailas ...
Vasilakis (as Vasilakis Kailas)
Zorz Sarri
Despo Diamantidou
Mairi Hronopoulou
Despoina Nikolaidou
Dimitris Hoptiris
Dimitra Zeza
Nikos Fermas
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Storyline

During one of her parents many parties, Chloe learns they're bankrupt. She's being courted by Niko, a wealthy Greek American, so she decides to charm him. He's quickly captivated. That night, she also meets the masculine Galanos and sparks fly. Niko proposes, Chloe accepts, Galanos tries to change her mind. Her father wants to disclose their finances to Niko, her mother argues against it as a matter of dignity. The family's long-time servant must care for her son, who's had an accident. She's has not been paid in months, reminds Chloe to send money, and waits in her village as hospital bills mount. The servant comes back to Athens, confronts Chloe's mother, and a crisis ensues. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Drama

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Release Date:

19 January 1960 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Final Lie  »

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The Greek title of the movie means "The Final Lie." See more »

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User Reviews

 
This should be better known
24 October 2003 | by (Saint Paul, MN) – See all my reviews

A remarkable film that, had it been made in Italy around the same time, would today be called an important and seminal film. It's worth mentioning right next to any of Antonioni's films, which it sort of resembles. There are only two Greek directors who are well known outside of their country, and I was hoping that this film was made by someone else, but alas, it's the lesser of the two, Cacoyannis. Well, at least now I have a different perspective of his work. I know him from Zorba the Greek, of course, but also fragments of a few of his Greek tragedy adaptations, most notably Iphigeneia, of which I've seen the vast majority of. Zorba is an excellent film, although far from perfect, and Iphigeneia was very, very weak. A Matter of Dignity is easily the best of the three; I would call it a near-masterpiece. `Near' because there are too many flaws to ignore. And, though the flaws are interesting, for the most part, they are too nagging. But still, this is an exceptional film. The daughter of an affluent family, Chloe (Ellie Lambeti), discovers that her family's affluence is pretty much a put-on. They are going broke, and going fast. They have pushed themselves into the bourgeosie of Athens, which has run them out of money. But it's difficult to give up such a lifestyle. Chloe is currently being courted by a rather boring millionaire, but when she finds out her family's secret, she decides to give in to his advances. Meanwhile, another man, poorer and more attractive, begins to court her, too.

This is the film's biggest flaw, the love triangle. It's cliché, for sure, but the worst thing about it is the second man, who is supposed to be the audience's favorite, you'd figure, seems more of a playboy seducer than the millionaire. This guy's kind of a jerk, it seemed like to me. Besides, he is barely in the film. On the other hand, the millionaire seems like a nice guy, kind of pudgy and naïve. At one point he desperately wants to show Chloe his Fabergé collection, which he eventually does, ever so coyly offering them to her. Luckily, the script doesn't follow the path I was sure it would. That's kind of a gift in itself, but I still think it would have been better to drop that second possible lover completely. The moral situations of the film are too complex for such a clichéd element.

The other major narrative thread of the film, the most interesting, is that of the family's maid, Katerina. She hasn't been paid for a while, but she trusts that her family will come through. At one point, though, her own child gets into an accident, and when she needs Chloe and her parents to help her, they entirely forget her because of their own selfish lives. When she does finally get back to Athens, she confronts them. The juxtaposition between the problems of the classes are ingenious here. But I also like the way Cacoyannis allows us into the point of view of the bourgeosie (mostly Chloe) without judgind too harshly. Some might not like the way we are supposed to sympathize with Chloe when she must endure the hardships of a bus ride with people of the lower classes, but, then again, those who may disapprove of the way this scene is done probably have never travelled on a Greyhound bus. Just kidding. This fear and disgust that Chloe initially feels is resolved later on; that scene has tremendous payoff, anyhow.

As for the elements that make up the film, they are all excellent. As I said, this far outranks Zorba; Cacoyannis directs wonderfully. The most praiseworthy element, however, is Ellie Lambeti's lead performance. She is truly a revelation, and, had this film been more widely seen upon its release, I would guess that we would know her name as well as we know Monica Vitti's, Anna Karina's, Liv Ullmann's, and all the other great foreign actresses. IMDb commenter David Stafford comes up with one of the most perfect descriptions, and I certainly couldn't beat it: `She's Audrey Hepburn's tragic Greek shadow.' The other great performance in the film comes from the actress who play's Chloe's mother, Athena Michaelidou. 9/10.


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