Here’s another Jules Dassin film starring his wife Melina Mercouri in the titular role (I like saying “tit”).
This film set in Greece isn’t quite as much fun as Never On Sunday and takes a tragic turn (Ilya from Never On Sunday would not like it!). Basically a wealthy shipping magnate takes Phaedra as his new wife and then immediately ships her to London to try to talk his son back into the family. The son played by Anthony Perkins in yet another of his early sweetheart roles (not even a glimmer of killer in his eye) falls for his step mother in a big way. They romance, break-up, get angry . . . basically have a whole relationship in fifteen minutes that they then try to hide.
This is the thing about that. Human beings have been around for a 100 millennia. We’ve had civilization of some form or another for about ten thousand years. We’ve had at least two millennia of written word, history, stories, poetry something like collected wisdom (one of the very definitions of intelligence). Why are we still such babies about our passion and our biology? Why should strangers being attracted to one another and following their Epicurean pleasures necessitate all manner of tragedy? Of course, the answer is because we love the drama! But why can’t human beings just laugh about such things. Perhaps even congratulate one another on their love and fun. Who cares really?
The real sorrow in this film happens when a magnificent ship founders on the rocks in Norway and many sailors from the town are lost. Meanwhile, we’re supposed to be concerned about a past fling between a man and a woman who can’t keep their stupid mouths shut about what they did? Mercouri is famous for having a big mouth that lost her some acting jobs, and she’s not really beautiful in any classic sense and Perkins says it right out, she’s unique. Apparently she got into politics in the 70s, was something of an activist politician.
The film is a crafted soap opera drama with Greek dressing for 4 bucks on Prime. But It’s not better than The Graduate and covers some of the same themes. It is worth watching these two Dassin films just to get to know this film-making team!