The year is most likely The narrator, a young Greek intellectual, resolves to set aside his books for a few months after being stung by the parting words of a friend, Stavridakis, who has left for the Russian Caucasus to help some Pontic Greeks in that region often referred to as Caucasus Greeks who are being persecuted. He sets off for Crete to re-open a disused lignite mine and immerse himself in the world of peasants and working-class people. The man enters and immediately approaches him to ask for work.
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Watching this film for a second time puts into perspective a lot of things that escape many a viewer the first time around.
Michael Cacoyannis changed the order of events in the book, as well as Nikos, who he transforms into Basil, the Englishman. The changes are not without merit since all the elements contribute to blend well together in the finished product. The director was fortunate to find such collaborators as Mikis Theodorakis, the genial composer of the music score and Walter Lassally, who photographed the barren area where most of the action takes place.
The film is totally dominated by Zorba, who is a figure larger than life, as he takes Basil under his wing from the start. Anthony Quinn was a perfect choice for playing the title character.
Quinn had worked with other brilliant directors, Federico Fellini, being one of them. Quinn as being an American because the magnificent transformation he undergoes here to portray Zorba.
By underplaying Basil, Mr. Alan Bates, in the end, made perfect sense with the way he played Basil. Lila Kedrova is another surprise in the film. She is the tragic Madame Hortense, who has lived in the island for quite a while. Irene Papas is equally intense as the widow who is haunted by all the men in town. She has little to say, but just a look from her smolders the screen, be it, for the lust she felt for Basil, or the hatred for the town male population.
Michael Cacoyannis uses these men, as a sort of Greek Chorus, so important in Greek tragedies. The same could be said of the older women of the town who resent the arrivals of strangers. The Greek cast one sees is quite effective in the context of the movie.
Zorba the Greek