To Be Alive is to Undo Your Belt and Look for Trouble

Lady L - (1965) Directed by Peter Ustinov

Starring Sophia Loren, Paul Newman, David Niven

It was nice to watch. I have to admit that I have yet to find a Sophia Loren film that I love. I might have to check out her italian films or the work she's done with her husband. She is fine, though. And the make-up in this film was really good, for a moment I really thought they casted another woman to play the older Lady L.

Zorba the Greek - (1964) Directed by Mihalis Kakogiannis

Starring Anthony Quinn, Alan Bates, Irene Papas,

Lila Kedrova

Mind versus body. The failings of an intellectual mind is the unwillingness to act, instinctively and without regard for appearance. To selfishly make it a principle to enjoy life and not dress it up behind the cage of a mind. Though I have never read the novel this film is adapted from, much of the themes are also found in the works of two of my favorite authors, Aldous Huxley and D.H. Lawrence.

It was, in fact, the contemporary and friend of the two, Katherine Mansfield, who wrote the following--"Why be given a body if you have to keep it shut up in a case like a rare, rare fiddle?" In this case, a mind.

Anthony Quinn is great as Alexis Zorbas, the free-spirited greek who is loyal, friendly, honest, and despite not being well-read or educated knows a thing or two about life and living it. Alan Bates plays his boss, Basil, a young writer who comes to Crete to start a business in mining and later timber, both with the help of Zorba.

I watched most of this film with the embarrassment of how true it echoed through me, how intelligence is the cast set over the body and its naked desires. Its the same feeling I get when I hear Instinct Blues by The White Stripes, "...'Cause every worm thats under your shoe; and every bird and bug in the jungle, too; and everything in the ocean blue--They just happen to know exactly what to do. So, why don't you?" What good are books and rational thoughts, if you can't go about acting on what you want, when you want it. As Zorba was told by Basil when asked about the practicality of books, "they tell me about the agony of men who can't answer questions like yours." I found myself, during the movie, wishing Basil would act, despite himself, take action and step forward against himself. This, however did not happen and is in fact, the beauty of the story; all the more applying to it, a truthful reflection of real life. In the end, we do begin to sense that Basil's life has been opened towards a new direction and perspective, one that will most likely help shape him into the sort of writer he should strive to be.

Enough about the story, since it is from a good source. Zorba the Greek is also beautiful to look at and listen to. Mikis Theodorakis handled the soundtrack, I remember the name from when I worked in music retail, unfortunately, I never got to experience his music until this film. The film was also wonderfully shot on location on the island of Crete, in black and white, which won Vassilis Fotopoulos an Academy Award for Best Art Direction and Walter Lassally, one for Best Cinematatography.

I'm definitely going to read Nikos Kazantzakis' novel, that is if I ever finish The Tim Drum and a couple of others I have piled up on a waiting list.

No Highway (in the Sky) - (1951) Directed by Henry Koster

Starring James Stewart, Marlene Deitrich, Glynis Johns

Interesting story. Doesn't seem like this film is too celebrated but it wasn't bad. Both supporting role performances were handled well by Marlene Deitrich and Glynis Johns.

A Girl in Every Port - (1952) Directed by Chester Erksine

Starring Groucho Marx, Marie Wilson, William Bendix

A gem. Really fun and ridiculous, this is its aim and it doesn't miss. This is my first Groucho Marx film, so I can't gauge it against his other works. William Bendix is the perfect support for Marx's character, who by the way is named Benjamin Franklin (Benny for short). Bendix as the lovable lug, think Homer Simpson as a sailor, who is conned into buying a horse with his inheritance money left to him by his dead, and apparently quite popular, aunt Gussy. Marx then has to help Bendix get his money back through con after con, that involve horse racing, horse twins, and horse abducting. The film is silly and the story is far from anything you could take serious and so are the characters but I doubt this film was made for any other purpose than to obviously be just that. In all fairness, the film's comedy gives you a parallel world that sucks you in. An example of this, would be the "Beware of Saboteurs!" signs that we see through the harbor scenes. Repeatedly these warnings are presented and when saboteurs indeed do appear, we have no idea that they have anything to do with anything other than the schemes of Marx. You become surprised when anything happens outside of that ridiculous world of Franklin and Dunnovan (Bendix).

I am glad this was my first Groucho Marx film, as it gives me so much more to look forward to, since I'm positive this wasn't Marx at his best. The cast also included Dee Hartford who, in this film, I couldn't help but notice bears a bit of a resemblance to today's Emily Deschanel.

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