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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Before I left on trip to Greece I figured I should watch "Zorba the Greek" since this 1964 film is considered the quintessential "Greek" film. I have to admit my first reaction was to be glad I was not going to Crete, because the way the locals treated the beautiful widow (Irene Papas) and Madame Hortense (Lila Kedrova), the old prostitute, were outright horrific. But this is why people like us and young Basil (Alan Bates) need to meet up with somebody with a zest for life like Alexis Zorba (Anthony Quinn).
Basil is an Englishman of Greek extraction who goes to Crete to check out a mine he has inherited. Zorba attaches himself to Basil, ostensibly as a cook but clearly as a guide to the joys and tragedies of life. In terms of Quinn's performance the only thing you can really say is that before there was Robert Begnigni there was Zorba the Greek when it comes to Mediterranean men who provided inspirational madness. As Zorba tells Basil: "Dammit, 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...he never dares cut the rope and be free."
When they arrive on Crete it becomes clear the mine is not going to pan out for anybody. They move in with Madame Hortense, who is wooed by Zorba, who insists Basil go after the beautiful local widow. After these tragedies all that is left is Zorba's plan for bringing trees down from the top of the mountain, an endeavor obviously equally doomed to failure. This is why in the end there is only one thing a man can do, and it is in this cathartic conclusion that any and all sins of this film are absolved.
"Zorba the Greek" is written and directed by Michael Cacoyannis, based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. The film won three Academy Awards: Lila Kedrova for Best Supporting Actress, Best Art/Set Direction, and Best Cinematography. Quinn did not win the Oscar for what is clearly his most memorable role in a long and distinguished film career, but that is usually the case with actors and their greatest roles. Marlon Brando did not win for Stanley Kowalski and Quinn did not win for Alexis Zorba. What is a man to do in the face of such a fate but dance?
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on 7 April 2006
Quite simply one of the best films ever made, Antony Quinn is superb as Zorba and the rest of the cast too are excellent. DVD also has a biogrphy on Quinn and a two hour audio by the director on the making of the film.
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on 7 June 2002
Basil, a young English writer of Greek ancestry, meets an older, free-spirited Greek peasant named Zorba on the island of Crete. While Zorba pursues a relationship with Madame Hortense, an aging French courtesan, the inhibited Basil summons up the courage to court a young widow. When Hortense comes down with pneumonia, the impoverished locals descend upon her like vultures, as she lies dying in Zorba's arms. Later, Basil inherits a mine, and he and Zorba plan to reopen it and use their earnings to help alleviate some of the area's poverty.
Winning seven Academy Awards, this classic black and white film also starred Irene Pappas and Lila Kedrova and was based upon the Nikos Kazantzakis novel.
Must see movie....
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on 15 June 2004
Something is definitely wrong with this picture!! Where is Criterion, or some other company that is neglecting one of the greatest movies of the 20th C?
Cacoyannis assembled one of the most sublime international casts ever in this classic. Few movies can approach great literature as far as providing a microcosm of "the human condtition," to use an overworked, but apt phrase. This is one of the few that can. The plot, which is secondary to the theme, revolves around the wizened, but still vibrant Greek peasant Zorba (Quinn) teaching the young, uptight, sexually confused (OK, maybe that's not PC of me, but it's certainly the subtext) Brit mine-owner "boss" Basil (Alan Bates), about the facts of life.
Zorba is one of the great lovable rogues of cinema history, maybe even the most memorable. Wine, women, song and dance are his credo, and we come to learn that they are his defense against some personal tragedy in his background. This film is unmatched in terms of playing the comic against the tragic, the many facets of life that color actual existence, as opposed to the usual Hollywood, one dimensional perspectives. There are layers within layers to the message here, just as in great fiction or theater. What it boils down to, however, is about friendship. Zorba and Basil go through so much together, running the full gamut of human emotions, that by the perfectly realized ending (the best I can recall in recent or distant memory, outside of Fellini's La Strada maybe [another Quinn movie, incidentally]), this viewer was breaking down in sheer joy/release/catharsis. The Greeks have long had a knack for this, have you noticed?
As a footnote, the soundtrack is also legendary, thanks to Greece's most noted score composer, Mikis Theadorakis. I'm not going to gripe here, but how did Alan Bates pass on without an Oscar on his mantle? This was essentially Cacoyannis' and Quinn's project, however, and they should live on in every film buff's memory for ages to come for this masterpiece on both their parts. Irene Papas, as a widow who shoots some of the most unforgettable darting glances in film history, and Lila Kedrova as the sad, but ever hopeful Madame Hortense, are also highly memorable. And where did Cacoyannis find those old, withered, diminuitive, toothless harpies that hung about the bedside like vultures gathering for a feast?
Do what you can to re-view this true classic on VHS while we hope and pray that the eventual DVD treatment will be of worthy quality.
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Despite its somewhat undeserved modern reputation as a bit of lightweight tourist bait, Zorba the Greek turns out to be a surprisingly dark and anarchic film - not so surprising when you consider that it's based on a novel by Nikos Katzanzakis, who also wrote The Last Temptation of Christ. Indeed, the film originally began with Anthony Quinn playing Zeus (or at least Zeus as Zorba sees him) in a deliberately theatrically artificial heaven in a prologue that can be found in the extras on the US DVD and Blu-ray editions (but not the less fortunate Region 2 PAL editions).

It certainly paints a less than flattering portrait of Cretan village life. One Sunday the villagers leave the church to harry and then kill a woman they blame for a suicide, and when ex-prostitute Lila Kedrova lies dying they cannot even wait for her to stop breathing to loot her hotel. Functioning like some leaderless medieval fiefdom in thrall to machismo and misogyny, it is as far from a good commercial for the Cretan tourist Board as you can imagine.

Similarly, Anthony Quinn's performance in the title role is more layered than its many parodies over the years would lead you to expect. A loser with a gift for life who inveigles his sway into working for Alan Bates' excellently underplayed half-English observer of life who has come to make a go of his father's mine, there's a genuine sense of laughter in the face of death and despair in his performance. More low-key than you would expect, it is all perfectly underlined by Mikos Theodorakis' surprisingly varied and versatile score and Walter Lassally's Oscar-winning cinematography.

While, typically for Fox, the European PAL DVD releases of the film come up short on extras, their region-free US Blu-ray carries over all the extras from their two-sided US DVD release, and it's an impressive bunch: audio commentary by director Michael Cacoyannis and Nikos Katzanzakis expert Demetrios Liappas, the alternate opening sequence, documentary Anthony Quinn - A Lust for Life, 2 Movietone News extracts, stills gallery, TV spot; teaser trailer and full trailer (they're not all listed on the packaging but are all present and correct on the disc itself).
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on 5 June 2005
This film is my all time favourite. A true classic. I am a great lover of Greece and all things Greek and this film captures the essence of the Greek people. It makes me laugh and cry. It is a beautifully written story of happiness and tragedy. Anthony Quinn is marvellous and Alan Bates is on top form. It is a must for any collector of true classics.
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on 9 June 2016
Enjoyed this DVD even if it is a bit dated. Not surprising as it is 52 years old. Anthony Quinn was certainly a very charismatic actor. Alan Bates was an excellent opposite in character. I would have loved it to have been in colour to appreciate the beautiful scenery of Crete.The music of course is classic. Just getting me in the mood for our holiday in Corfu this year.
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"Zorba the Greek" is one of those magical, bittersweet movies that reminds you what living should really be about. Not existing, but LIVING.

Anthony Quinn created a vibrant, lovable personality that leaps off the screen in every scene, and he rules the movie as its trickster god. Though "Zorba" reminds viewers that life can be unfair and bitter, it can also be full of joy, love, fun and simple pleasures. It's hard not to have some happy tears when this film finally ends.

Stuffy, prissy, uptight Basil (Alan Bates) is journeying to Crete to take care of his inheritance, some land and mines. On the way, he meets the scruffy, earthy Alexis Zorba (Anthony Quinn), who volunteers to be Basil's all-round sidekick ("I like you... take me with you!"). Basil can't exactly say no, especially since he is as different as can be from the native Cretans. In fact, he sticks out like a sore thumb all the time.

But Zorba has more than music and soup to offer. His gusto for life is all about women, wine and general joie de vivre, but he also hides secret pains in his past. And he introduces Basil to a beautiful, tragic young widow, an aging prostitute with a sad past, and the beauties of Crete itself. With Zorba to guide him, Basil finds out how to really live.

The setting is the stark, primal beauty of Crete -- lots of dusty, stony roads, mountains full of gnarly trees and cruelly beautiful landscapes. It's reflected in the heartless behavior that small communities sometimes have (such as the poor widow), but it's also a backdrop against which the simple pleasures of life (through Zorba) can shine the brightest.

Director/writer Michael Cacoyannis got two Oscar nominations for this movie, and it's not hard to see why. He made the dialogue quirky in a realistic way ("What kind of man are you? Don't you even like DOLPHINS?"), and let the story unfold in a natural, sometimes bittersweet way. The only problem is the way in which all the main women in the story end up.

Zorba is one of those really magical movie characters -- he laughs, drinks, weeps, dances, and worries about his crazy brain. He's an impish figure like a trickster god with no real harm in him. Even a collapsing mine shaft can't keep him down -- he just walks out and curses the mountain ("I'll eat your guts!"). Alan Bates is the ideal counterpart, as a repressed, bookish little Englishmen who starts to realize that propriety is overrated.

"Life is trouble. Only death is not," sums up "Zorba the Greek," an enchanting look at how to enjoy your life. It's a memorable, lovable little movie, and a deserving classic.
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on 8 June 2015
As a friend rightly remarked, everyone remembers the jolliness of this film (Quinn and Alan Bates dancing at the film's close) and forgets the nastiness - the very parochial villagers murdering the pretty young widow because she has sex with Bates rather than the young villager who has a crush on her. And the villagers all seem to approve of the murder and there's no sense that anyone will be prosecuted. Doesn't make you feel good about the Greeks, so making it was a bold thing to do. Nice music though.
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on 23 February 2006
Basil (Alan Bates), a somewhat boring Englishman that also happens to be a writer, goes to Crete in order to take charge of small inheritance. In his journey to that island he meets Zorba (Anthony Quinn), a Greek that is his polar opposite. Zorba is temperamental, and acts before thinking, enjoying life at it fullest with no regard for the consequences.
Circumstances, and Zorba´s wish to earn some money, join this two men. Their interaction is something to be enjoyed as we watch “Zorba the Greek” (1964) once and again. Of course, the scenery is beautiful, and the music outstanding, but the real magic of this film is that it shows you what really good actors can do with a great script, and a director that knows what he is doing.
This film has hilarious scenes, but also others so dramatic that you will literally feel the pain of the characters. And of course, the ending is nothing less than perfect.
On the whole, I believe that this film is an excellent example of a true classic. Enjoy it.
Belen Alcat
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