Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Two films from Nikos Papatakis

Nikos Papatakis is an interesting character (1918-2010). Born in Addis Ababa, he lived in Ethiopia, Lebanon, Greece and France – where, after the Second World War, he moved in Parisian avant guarde circles and became most notably associated with Jean Genet. In 1957, he went to New York, where he befriended John Cassavetes and was financier/producer on Cassavetes’ first film, Shadows. Also, in the 1960s and still in New York, Papatakis got to know the singer/model Christa Päffgen –  aka Nico, of ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’ fame – who, indeed, was nicknamed after Papatakis.

Anyway, in between all this, Papatakis was a film-maker in his own right, starting off in 1963 with Les Abysses, an adaptation of Genet’s The Maids. Papatakis then, in 1967, made a film in Greek, Οι Βοσκοί  – aka The Shepherd’s Calamity or Thanos and Despina. It’s very difficult to get hold of Papatakis’ films, I’ve not seen Les Abysses and only managed to find Οι Βοσκοί the other day and I have to say it’s one of the most remarkable films I’ve ever seen, heavily influenced by Genet, with themes of outcasts, social repression and rebellion and the ineluctable road to catastrophe. Papatakis followed in 1976 with a French film, Gloria Mundi, which I haven’t seen, and then in 1986 he made The Photograph, another brilliant Greek-language film, set in Paris and Kastoria, and the Papatakis work I’ve known about and seen the most.

Papatakis’ last film was Les Equilibristes, from 1992, which is about Genet’s doomed relationship with an Algerian circus performer. I saw this film a while ago in Athens and, again, thought it was superb.

Now, I’ve uploaded both Papatakis’ strange, disturbing and occasionally hilarious Greek films – The Shepherds and The Photograph, and even managed to get English subtitles for The Photograph. No subs, unfortunately, for The Shepherds.