It is, unfortunately, a bad film, unwatchable at times, poorly conceived and disastrously executed, one of those horrible international co-productions – Greek, British, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian – doomed to failure by its desire to appeal to the lowest common denominator, involving, worst of all, a fatal dose of cheap Hollywood values and, for some reason, largely spoken in English. Make a Greek film about Theotokopoulos or a Spanish film about El Greco, but don't try and be all things to all men.
Still, the scenes involving Titian are funny, I enjoyed the Cretan music and dancing, the filmmaker's love for Theotokopoulos and Crete is admirable and infectious, while the reproductions of Theotokopoulos’ work are stunning. They remind us what great art is and what it is for and give us the confidence and the right to reject the rubbish that constitutes the majority of contemporary art and the impostors posing as today’s artists.
* A note on Nikos Kazantzakis and Theotokopoulos.
The ‘Greco’ in Kazantzakis’ Report to Greco is, of course, his fellow Cretan Theotokopoulos, while in his book on Spain, Kazantzakis describes Theotokopoulos as the ‘vehement taciturn Cretan’, whose ‘life had been strange, his words few and like the blows of an axe’ and who replied to the Inquisition in Toledo when it demanded to know why he was in Spain: ‘I do not have to give an account of myself to any man.’ Kazantzakis also quotes Theotokopoulos saying of Michelangelo: ‘A good man, but he didn’t know how to paint.’ Of Theotokopoulos’ spirit, Kazantzakis writes it was ‘pierced by light on the one side, pitch dark on the other; unapproachable, on the heights of endeavour, where, as the Byzantine mystic said, lies the starting point of divine madness.’
Needless to say, the kind of man Theotokopoulos was according to Kazantzakis is not the man depicted in the film – delicate, confused, emotional.
The painting above is The Death of Laocoon at Troy.
An extensive collection of Theotokopoulos’ paintings can be seen here.