EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|PHAEDRA (director/writer: Jules Dassin; screenwriters: based on Euripedes' Hippolytus/Margarita Liberaki; cinematographer: Jacques Natteau; editor: Roger Dwyre; music: Mikis Theodorakis; cast: Melina Mercouri (Phaedra), Anthony Perkins (Alexis), Raf Vallone (Thanos Kyrilis), Elizabeth Ercy (Ercy), Olympia Papadouka (Anna), George Sarris (Ariadne), Jules Dassin (Christo); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jules Dassin; Lopert Pictures; 1962-USA/France/Greece)|
|"I found it entertaining as a bad film, one
that detracts from the Greek tragedy with ludicrous offerings of sex."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Blacklisted American filmmaker Jules Dassin ("Brute Force"/"The Naked City"/"Topkapi"), ever since 1952, directs while in exile in Europe. Dassin updates in a heavy-handed manner Euripides' Hippolytus with co-writer Margarita Liberaki. Dassin's loose version loses the original's poetry and the ancient's sensibilities, as it instead becomes lurid and overblown soap opera fit only for modern times. I found it entertaining as a bad film, one that detracts from the Greek tragedy with ludicrous offerings of sex. The visuals of cinematographer Jacques Natteau, shot in a stunning black-and-white, give the pic a good look. Of interest, it got mixed reviews and was a commercial hit in Europe but bombed at the box-office in America.
It revolves around a love triangle between wealthy workaholic
Greek shipping magnate Thanos Kyrilis (Raf Vallone, Italian actor), his lonely seductive second wife Phaedra (Melina Mercouri, Greek actress--future wife of the director) and, from his previous marriage, his
first-born 24-year-son Alexis (Anthony
Perkins, American actor).
After christening a new boat
named Phaedra in Greece, Phaedra is persuaded by her husband to go to
London and urge his estranged beloved son Alexis to return to Greece
for the summer. The son and step-mother find an attraction to each
other and carry on a steamy affair in Paris. The lovers return to see
Thanos at his residence on the island of Hydra, with Alexis overcome
with guilt. Meanwhile Thanos rejoices to see his son again and makes
plans for him to be part of the shipping business and to marry, Ercy
(Elisabeth Ercy), the daughter
of his rival in the shipping business, someone he's about to have a
business merger with.
Tragedy fills the third act, as the jealous
Phaedra can't let go of
Alexis and tells her hubby about the affair. Thanos goes berserk and
rails verbally against his wife and beats his son. The shamed Alexis
commits suicide by driving his car off a cliff, while the despondent Phaedra commits suicide by taking an
overdose of sleeping pills.
A miscast Perkins makes for an unconvincing
lover, which doesn't help this depressing pic; a film that offers
precious few psychological insights into the tragedy. Instead Dassin
offers an edgy hard look of contrast between the lives of the
super-rich and the super-poor.
REVIEWED ON 7/16/2011 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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