by Ted Welch
After being disappointed with several recent films: The Ides of March; BruegeI; Take Shelter - I thought maybe I was just becoming jaded. But then on TV came "Billy Elliot", some important themes dealt with seriously, but also great, life-affirming, exuberant dancing.
Then today - what a day for films on TV - by wonderful serendipity I changed channels and there was Zorba The Greek, just as it started. What joy - one of my favourite films - and another life-affirming one. Sadly I've been too like Basil (Yes and too like the Fawlty Towers one too sometimes :-)):
Alexis Zorba: Damn it boss, I like you too much not to say it. You've got everything except one thing: madness! A man needs a little madness, or else...
Well, I did cut the rope, took early retirement from university and came to France - there was more than a little madness in that.
But while joyous the film is certainly not bland - I prepared something to eat during the scene where Irene Papas is killed (though I don't think Zorba would have turned his back and let her walk behind him through that crowd). It's also a horrible scene where the French woman dies and the old women (mainly) steal her things, no wonder the Cretans weren't happy with Michael Cacoyannis, the director (and I now see that he died just last year). But, for all his tenderness towards her while alive, Zorba is unsentimental when she dies: "Silly old bitch. She's not alone, she's with Suleiman Pasha having a hell of a time." Then the joyful wisdom (Nietzsche) of the final dance on the beach.
Then "Dangerous Liasons" - intelligent, but too full of DSK-style decadence, though even the apparently cynical can really suffer in love (Glenn Close).
More joy - "Dead Poets Society" another favourite, of course I identify with Keating (Robin Williams): "I always thought the purpose of education was to learn to think for yourself." Apparently while the film was being made Williams was only involved for about three weeks; the young actors playing the boys saw the director, Peter Weir, an Australian, as their Keating figure.
"Carpe diem" - but "Sucking the marrow out of life doesn't mean choking on the bone." It's a delicate balance - like dancing.