Thursday, May 3, 2012
Zorba the Gross
By: Alex “The Savant” Heisman
The Particularly Good-Looking One and I do apologize for our lack of recent output towards our site in the past three weeks or so. We have no excuse outside of the fact that completing our classes and studying for finals has taken up nearly all of our waking hours. Never fret, however, as all the skills deemed “necessary” towards proficiency that I learned in my English classes this year have thus far, and will continue to, certainly make us “more gooder” writers in the future.
Everyone’s experienced those moments in life where, say, a familiar song comes on the radio and you’re enthusiastically jamming out in the car but after a while, by the sixth chorus, you’re just good and ready for the song to be over. I recently rented the highly famous and acclaimed movie Zorba the Greek to watch for the first time, as I had heard nothing by exemplary references on its behalf. I must say, with all due sincerity and acerbity, that Zorba the Greek remains one of the five worst (most disappointing) movies I’ve ever seen, hands down. It pains me to think that the reason Paul and I began our series where we examine a culturally significant movie we have not yet seen for one reason or another was to broaden our horizons, but has now turned into me essentially ranting about how I just can’t fathom the importance of a particular work or two- such negativity was never meant to pervade our site.
I bring up the song analogy to emphasize that Zorba is just the movie that literally keeps on giving. It’s two and a half hour runtime (I know there should be connecting dashes somewhere in that time stamp, I’ve just never figured out where. Look at me being a more gooder writer!) drips, oozes like molasses until my father actually got up from the couch he was so bored with the film. The movie is literally a series of unfunny, and worst of all, uneventful vignettes where ambition changes from scene to scene and that are barely tied together by the adventures of the wanderer Alexis Zorba- apparently expertly played by the Greek-as-his-name Antonio Rodolfo Quinn-Oaxaca, Stage Name- Anthony Quinn. (Now I’m doubting myself that I’ve used too many dashes…). Each time I check how much longer remains in the film, ninety minutes…. thirty-four minutes…. thirty-two minutes, I can’t help but wonder how this protracted film from 1964 was held in high regard against other classics from that year like Dr. Strangelove or Becket.
The three main acting performances must be singled out- I expected a tremendous, powerhouse performance by Anthony Quinn after understanding him to be the catalyst for the film’s lasting integrity. Indeed, the entire film rests on his shoulders. It is with a bewildering gaze that I then viewed the film, as Quinn’s place in the film is so hammy he’s too busy using one of the logs so important to the plot of the film as a toothpick to remove from his teeth the Greek scenery that he’s been chewing the entire damn runtime. I hold Alan Bates, who played Zorba’s best pal, Basil, in the utmost regard as an actor but he is just essentially too out of his depth in these surroundings. It is not Bates’ fault, however, as the script does little to truly serve the development of the character. Lastly, and most importantly as I get to mention Oscar at least once in this post, I TRULY expected to be blown away by Lila Kedrova’s performance as she earned the award for Best Supporting Actress this particular year of 1964. One word: ghastly. Two words: oh god. More words: As much as I rib my good buddy Paul as to Cuba Gooding Jr. and Russell Crowe’s questionable place in the pantheon of Oscar winning performances, I would take them handedly any day over this absolutely gothically abhorrent performance. Please, someone, make a comment in the comment section below defending this selection just so I can be made wise towards the opposing argument- that’s how awful the acting is.
As is only fair, and as I did with my Taxi Driver post, I will comment upon one item I enjoyed. The music in the film serves the picture exquisitely well. Switching between a blend of diagetic source music and non-diagetic typical Greek fanfare, the score parallels the action without completely detracting from the plot…I mean the “plot”. I guess that in some perverse way, if you also look at the group of very elderly women as those Jub-Jub creature things from Star Wars that run around in the desert making excruciating cawing noises, then you might have some fun there.
God bless you Alan Bates for being the single thing that prevents me from giving Zorba the Greek zero out of zero stars.