Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Essential Cinema - 38

Never On Sunday

Melina Mercouri ... Ilya
Jules Dassin ... Homer Thrace
Giorgos Foundas ... Tonio
Titos Vandis ... Jorgo
Mitsos Ligizos ... The Captain
Despo Diamantidou ... Despo
Dimos Starenios ... Poubelle
Dimitris Papamichael ... A Sailor
Alexis Solomos ... Noface

Jules Dassin

Jules Dassin

Jacques Natteau

A well educated American tourists attempts to 'enlighten' a Greek prostitute in a small seaside village.

Newer is not always better, and sometimes over analyzing a problem can only make it worse. Leave well enough alone. It is more important to be happy than to understand everything.

Every recent prostitute film from 'Irma la Duce' to 'Pretty Woman' owes a lot to this work. It was one of the first films that shed light on the idea that prostitution was a respectable and acceptable way to make a living.

If nothing else this film is a homage by Jules Dassin to his wife, Melina Mercouri. She is the focus of the film and she captivates any scene she is in with her zest for life and smoldering sexuality. The other thing you tend to fall in love with is the romantic ideal of living in Greece in 1960. It appears care free, relaxed and almost infectious with its love of the simple life.

The plot of the film is not overly complex and deals with an outsider, Homer (Dassin) arriving in town to study Greek culture. He is almost immediately captivated by Ilya (Mercouri) as one of the local prostitutes that 'freelances' and does not work for the town pimp. She negotiates a price with whomever she chooses, and sleeps with all the towns vendors in exchange for her daily goods (food, wine, drinks, etc), but she never 'works' on Sunday. Hence the title to the film.

Homer is smitten by Ilya and decides that he must 'save' her from what he perceives as a wretched life that is going no where and decides to educate her so that she can see the error of her ways. In the end, this does nothing but frustrate everyone in town. The education of Ilya does have a silver lining, which if anything, leaves the town more corrupted than when Homer found it.

The underlying theme of the film is that one should strive to be happy in what you do and more importantly, who you know. There is an interconnection between people in a small town, and disrupting those connections may lift some people up, but is not good for the whole of society. Regardless of his meddling, the towns people never turn on Homer, or blame him for anything. At their core, they know that life is to be enjoyed and blaming people for your troubles is just not part of the mix.

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