An uptight English writer travelling to Crete, on a matter of business, finds his life changed forever when he meets the gregarious Alexis Zorba.An uptight English writer travelling to Crete, on a matter of business, finds his life changed forever when he meets the gregarious Alexis Zorba.An uptight English writer travelling to Crete, on a matter of business, finds his life changed forever when he meets the gregarious Alexis Zorba.
Anthony Quinn famously plays Zorba, a larger-than-life Greek who befriends strait-laced, uptight Alan Bates when the latter comes to claim a family home on the Greek seashore. Bates wants to reinvigorate the local mining business, but in a roundabout plot development decides he first needs timber to refurbish the mine. So he and Zorba concoct this plan to get trees down from the hillside on a sort of zip line, so that they can use them to beef up the mine, which can then be used to revitalize the mining industry. If all of this seems both impractical and needlessly complicated, it is, but don't worry, as this whole story line is treated as an aside and the whole thing fails anyway. The movie instead is much more about the two men and their interactions with local women, namely a sad French lonelyhearts played by Lila Kedrova, and a surly widow played by Irene Papas. She has good reason to be surly, as this particular Greek island is inhabited by men who want to stone her because she doesn't like any of them. That this is ultimately allowed without any of the men involved having to face justice is infuriating and puzzling, and I had to chalk it up to my own lack of understanding of the cultural context of the time and place.
The women in this film are treated miserably, and what happens to them is depressing. But even without that, this whole Greek community is depressing, populated by uneducated people who live and act not much better than animals. Zorba consciously sets out to not be like them and make a joyous life out of this not very joyous situation. But one does wonder why he sticks around at all. Alan Bates's character is infuriating for a whole different reason. He's our main protagonist, yet he's so ineffectual as a human being, just standing around gazing upon the horror he witnesses without doing a damn thing about any of it, that he's awfully hard to care about. I guess we're supposed to think he's grown as a person because at the end he's able to dance wildly with Zorba on the beach, but I didn't see much of a change in his character as Bates plays him.
I guess this was a pretty well made movie and a much meatier one than I expected it to be, but as I'm thinking back on it I'm realizing that I didn't really enjoy it that much.
Winner of three Academy Awards in the year that saw it go up against studio juggernauts "My Fair Lady" and "Mary Poppins": Best Supporting Actress (Kedrova), Best B&W Art Direction, and Best B&W Cinematography. Additionally Michael Cacoyannis was nominated for the trifecta of Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay while Anthony Quinn received his fourth career nomination, this time as Best Actor.
- Mar 27, 2018