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Greek moviegoers opt for local films November 14, 2007

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Yiannis Smaragdis’s historical drama ‘El Greco’ is ahead in the box-office battle so far.

Recent box office figures, since the season’s “unofficial” start in late August, show that, so far, local audiences prefer to watch local productions as well as family films. Two of the three Greek films that have opened are currently in the box office top five, while the third, despite a generalized attack by the critics, made an impressive debut in the first four days of screenings.

Despite initial hesitation, Yiannis Smaragdis’s “El Greco” has been recognized for its love of the subject matter and the quality of its production. Up to now, the film has sold more than 565,000 tickets. Olga Malea’s “First Time Godfather” is also on the right ticket path. An entertaining story coupled with recent political history references, the movie has attracted 189,000 viewers. Nikos Zapatinas’s “Kiss of Life” which opened last week, is also expected to do well.

Judging from the figures, it seems that audiences are eager to watch Greek films, when the latter are aimed at movie theaters, as opposed to being screened at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

The second element emerging from the recent figures is that family entertainment is a sure bet. The fifth installment of Harry Potter, for instance, reached 400,000 tickets, “Ratatouille” climbed to 270,000 tickets, “Shrek the Third” reached 190,000 tickets, “The Simpsons Movie” notched 125,000 tickets, while recently released “Surf’s Up” has already surpassed 40,000 tickets.

Film genres which have traditionally attracted large audiences to movie theaters, namely action, crime, science fiction or comedy, appear to be on a downward spiral. All this points to the changing habits of moviegoers. The cinema public’s basic core, young people, are now downloading movies from the Internet or picking up counterfeit DVDs.

Top 10 >

  • El Greco : 565,000
  • Harry Potter 5 : 400,000
  • Ratatouille : 270,000
  • Shrek The Third : 190,000
  • First Time Godfather : 189,000
  • The Bourne Ultimatum : 170,000
  • Rush Hour 3 : 140,000
  • The Simpsons Movie : 125,000
  • Zodiac : 120,000

Pallas Theater welcomed VIP’s for “El Greco” premiere October 21, 2007

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Recently renovated Pallas Theater welcomed Queen Sofia of Spain and other VIP’s for “El Greco” film premiere

queen_sophia_president_papoulias.jpg  H.M. Queen Sofia of Spain with Greek President Karolos Papoulias at the Pallas Theater.

It had been a while since Athens had seen such a glittering film premiere. The once-regular Monday premieres at the Pallas, Attikon, Rex, Orpheas or Maxim cinemas, with homegrown stars such as Aliki Vouyiouklaki and Elli Lambeti surrounded by Athenian high society of the time, scenes that once drew large crowds, are now only seen in photographs at the Cinema Museum in Thessaloniki.

Now only a win by our National Soccer Team can bring people out into the streets. But a Greek superstar of the past, Domenikos Theotocopoulos, better known as El Greco, managed to attract the Spanish Queen and her sister, Princess Irene, to the renovated Pallas Theater this week for the premiere of a film of the artist’s life by Yiannis Smaragdis.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his wife Natassa, government Ministers and other officials and politicians were also there, along with Greek composer Vangelis Papathanassiou, who wrote the score, and Cretan singer Loudovikos ton Anogeion, who appears in the film, set on Crete where the artist was born, and in Venice and Spain.

The artist is played by British actor Nick Ashdon, with Juan Diego Botto as Nino de Guevara, a likely contender for an Oscar in a supporting role. Laia Marull plays Jeronima and Dimitra Matsouka plays Francesca.

Related Links > http://www.elgrecothemovie.com

Queen Sophia of Spain honored in Athens October 18, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece, Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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hm_queen_sophia.jpg  Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis presented H.M. Queen Sophia of Spain with the City of Athens Golden Medal of Merit during a formal ceremony held at the Ceremonies Hall of the Athens Municipality Mansion, Kotzia Square in Athens.

H.M. Queen Sophia of Spain is of Greek descent and is the sister of the Former King of Greece Konstantinos and a member of the Former Royal Family of Greece.

H.M. Queen Sophia is currently visiting Athens attending the special celebrations honoring Dominikos Theotokopoulos El-Greco, the Greek born Master, on the occassion of the worldwide film premiere “El Greco”, directed by Yiannis Smaragdis, a Greek-Spanish production, as well as the opening of “El Greco and his Workshop” exhibition at the Museum of Cycladic Art. The exhibition runs until January 5, 2008.

Museum of Cycladic Art, 4 Neophitou Douka Street, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 7228321 – 3. Nearest metro station “Evangelismos”.

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El Greco celebrations for a week in Athens October 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Museums, Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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el_greco_filmscene.jpg  Nick Ashdon interprets the role of El Greco in the film directed by Yiannis Smaragdis.

An “El Greco” week is under way in Athens, with a series of events dedicated to the celebrated painter. The exhibition “Moments from ‘El Greco: The Film’” opened in the Syntagma metro station earlier this week, featuring costumes and photographs as well as paintings used in the movie directed by Yiannis Smaragdis.

el_greco_film_premiere.jpg  Queen Sophia of Spain and director Yiannis Smaragdis at the Pallas Theater during the film’s premiere night

The film’s premiere took place on Monday night, in the presence of Queen Sofia of Spain, the Greek President Karolos Papoulias and the Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. At the premiere, Smaragdis noted that the film is a 10-year journey that has now come to an end and now belongs to its audiences. The director also spoke about the three artists, Savvas Georgiadis, Stelios Petroulakis and Nikos Moschos, who created the copies of El Greco paintings used in the film, becoming the artist’s “hand.”

British actor Nick Ashdon, who takes the role of the celebrated artist in the film, spoke of what he felt was a great honor in being asked to interpret the part and how he came to see things through the “Cretan soul.” Juan Diego Botto, Nino de Guevara in the film, mentioned another dimension: “The film talks about how power can burn people, something that is also very contemporary.”

Queen Sofia of Spain was expected to inaugurate the “El Greco and his Workshop” exhibition at the Museum of Cycladic Art last night. Featuring 58 works from major Spanish Museums, including a number of original El Greco works, the show opens to the public today. The exhibition runs to 5 January 2008.

Museum of Cycladic Art, 4 Neophitou Douka Street, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 7228321 – 3. Nearest metro station “Evangelismos”.

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Greek painter comes to life on the big screen October 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Movies Life Greek.
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The film, “El Greco”, will be released on October 17, starring Nick Ashdon as Domenikos Theotocopoulos and late actor Sotiris Moustakas, among others.

Ever since he did “Kafavis” in 1996, director Yiannis Smaragdis has been obsessed with El Greco. This interest eventually turned into a big-budget, for Greek standards certainly, production, with Greek and Spanish subtitles. “El Greco,” a movie exploring the secret life of painter Domenikos Theotocopoulos as well as the special spirituality in his work, will be hitting mainstream theaters on October 16.

Exactly one year ago, Smaragdis was in Crete coordinating a massive, multinational cast and crew during filming at the Iraklion Exhibition Center. While his anxiety was great, so was his optimism and his sense of calm as he ran a set ringing with the sounds of Greek, English, Spanish and French.

The production then went on to Rhodes, Venice and Spain, though not to Toledo, the city in which Theotocopoulos lived the greatest and most creative part of his life. “We did a few scenes in monasteries,” says Smaragdis, “because we couldn’t get a license to film in Toledo. It has become a major tourist attraction and this is all locals are interested in. But, it has a debt of gratitude to El Greco because without him it would have been just another medieval town. Nevertheless, the Spanish participation was pivotal because they invested a lot of money and provided an artistic crew of very high standards, actors as well as other associates, such as Lala Huete, who also did the costumes for ‘Belle Epoque’ and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth.’”

Just a year later and just a couple of weeks before the premiere, Smaragdis is feeling a bit calmer about the entire project, which began as a mere idea 20 years ago. “I am happy because my dream has finally materialized. It has body and soul. Twenty years ago I did a television series and one episode was about Kazantzakis and his ‘Report to Greco.’ I did a few scenes at the writer’s tomb and without any reason whatsoever dressed up as an El Greco figure. It seems that ever since that moment I began to cultivate the idea of making a film about this fellow countryman. Ten years later, as I was finishing ‘Kavafis,’ I was sitting with Vangelis Papathanassiou, who has composed the music for ‘El Greco’, and he asked me what my next film would be about. ‘Why don’t you make a movie about Domenikos Theotocopoulos?’ he said. I told him that I really wanted to, but it was not so easy. A few years later, out of the blue, the businessman Andreas Metaxas approached me and said that if I did a film on Theotocopoulos the seed money would be provided by a group of businessmen. This funding was very important because it was enough to make a medium-budget production,” says Smaragdis.

In contrast to other artists about whom films have been made, such as Van Gogh, Picasso and Rembrandt, El Greco, for all his influence, was never seen by the public in quite the same light. “I have tried to talk about the spirit of Crete, of Greece, the spirit of the painter which has the particular Greek quality and spirituality. One of the main motivations for doing this project was that he had an especially adventurous life that translates well into dramatic action. We all know who he is, but not what he was. Another thing is that he always insisted on signing his paintings in Greek; not as El Greco, but as Domenikos Theotocopoulos and what’s more as ‘The Cretan.’ His forms were also very daring and he never joined any particular school. He defended a special kind of spirituality in his work. Add to that the element of the insubordinate Cretan and you’ll see why he is such an interesting subject for a movie.”

The screenplay, written by Smaragdis and Jackie Pavlenko, is based on the book and research of Dimitris Siatopoulos, which mentions never-before-published details of the artist’s life. The author is no longer alive and, says the director, he essentially gave him the book because he wanted to see it made into a film.