Cacoyannis retrospective for fete

He is best known for his 1964 film adaptation of ‘Zorba the Greek'.

But Cypriot filmmaker Michael Cacoyannis hates being complimented for the work, which won three Oscars in 1965.

“Yes, I hate it when they keep mentioning me as the director of ‘Zorba the Greek,' ” he told an interviewer recently. “But it can't be helped and I ignore it.”

He makes it clear that he does not want to go down in the film industry's history books as a “one-movie man”.

Cacoyannis has directed many other noteworthy films.

A retrospective of the films will be held at the Sixth International Film Festival of Thrissur (IFFT), to begin on March 25.

They include ‘The Trojan Women', ‘Iphigenia', ‘The Cherry Orchard' and ‘Sweet Country'.

Much of his work has been inspired by classical texts, especially those of the Greek tragedian Euripides. The early Cacoyannis films are said to carry “the spiritual heritage of Italian neo-realism”.

“The Trojan Women” is a 1971 film starring Katharine Hepburn and Vanessa Redgrave. It is based on Edith Hamilton's translation of Euripides' original play written in 415 B.C.

Of the film, Cacoyannis said: “We left out the Gods, as they are hard to film and make realistic.”

‘Iphigenia' (1977) is the third film in his Greek tragedy trilogy. It is based on the Greek myth of Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra who was ordered by the goddess Artemis to be sacrificed.

Critics argue that is difficult to adapt Chekhov's work, especially ‘The Cherry Orchard', for the screen.

“They always say that,” Cacoyannis countered. “But they forget that some of the most successful films have been adaptations of plays,” he says.

There's ‘A Streetcar Named Desire' and many more. That is a type of senseless criticism because, on the contrary, characters come to life through dialogue and that's what transposes best to the screen. ‘The Cherry Orchard' is actually well-suited to the cinema. It also carries a modern and a politically correct green message.”

Sight and Sound wrote about the film: “Although Chekhov insisted he had written a comedy, it has often been dunked in nostalgia. Cacoyannis too is tempted - for instance in the family's farewell to hushed peasants, particularly the picturesque old and young, while a Russian choir hymns soulfully in the background, like the sorrowing soul of the orchard itself. Otherwise, one of the film's most effective aspects is its Tchaikovsky soundtrack of neurasthenic regret… In the final scenes, we hear cawing ravens and the dry thud of axe blows.

“The camera wobbles in sympathy with the trees, and finally swims away. Ultimately, the film's interest is in a moment of apprehensive instability, rather than a fondly remembered past or shining future.”

‘Sweet Country' criticises the United States-approved military coup of 1973 that overthrew Chile's legally elected Marxist president, Salvador Allende.

The New York Times found that the film had an astonishing message: “The suffering of destitute, undernourished, ignorant and despairing peons amounts to nothing when compared to the ghastly emotional distress suffered by those liberal members of the haute bourgeoisie who care deeply about mankind.”