What It Is: The big screen adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ beloved novel directed by Michael Cacoyannis and starring Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates.
The movie follows reserved and uptight Englishman,Basil (Bates) who is traveling to a small rural village in Crete to take charge of a a mine passed down to him by his father. En route, he meets and is befriended by Alexis Zorba (Quinn) who takes a liking to Basil and eventually convinces him to take him along to help with the mine.
Throughout their time together, Zorba ends up becoming the much needed spice in Basil’s life and helps him experience and then cope with love and loss. In the end, Basil loosens his tie and is forever grateful to the boisterous Zorba.
Why You Probably Missed It: This movie was a massive success and was nominated for three Academy Awards, winning three, but now is usually only talked about by snobby movie buffs, which is a pity.
The only reason this movie has probably fallen under your radar today is because it’s an old black and white film with a run time of over two hours and was directed by a guy who is not really all that well known today, especially outside of Greece.
Why You Should Watch It: Aside from being the ancestor to hit modern films like Sideways, I Love You, Man and even Superbad, this film is also responsible for the infamous sirtaki or “the dance of Zorba” (which I’m currently teaching myself).
To be honest, I only watched the movie to see Zorba’s famous dance, but there is so much more to it than just that. Anthony Quinn is renown for his spectacular talent as an actor and he embraces the role of Zorba. Director Michael Cacoyannis butted heads with Quinn in the early stages of the film because he thought Quinn was going overboard with Zorba’s enthusiasm. Cacoyannis probably ate his words when Quinn was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal.
This movie is so sweet, but also much sadder than it lets on. The rural village of the movie is viscous (as most small communities tend to be) and when tragedies hit they hit hard; but you always feel a little better knowing that Basil and Zorba have each other.
If you love buddy movies and are willing to be patient, watch this film and you’ll wish you could bump into Zorba on your next vacation abroad.