This film about Walter Lassally is one of my favorite works. From a very young age, cinema had been a substantial part of my life; it was my shelter. And cinema, apart from the director, is made by the cinematographer. And Walter Lassally had been one of the greatest in the world.
When I first heard, many years ago, that the illustrious Walter Lassally had decided to become a permanent resident of Stavros, the small village in Hania, where Kakogiannis’ “Zorba the Greek” was shot, I got the idea for a documentary -portrait.
The concept was, no doubt, very intriguing.
We are talking about the DP, whose name became synonymous with the British Free Cinema, in the period between the mid 50s until the mid 60s, and who was the “eye” of
leading filmmakers, such as Lindsay Anderson, Tony Richardson, James Ivory and many others.
But he was also the cinematographer who had divided his career between international and Greek cinema. He worked with many Greek filmmakers, but predominantly with Michalis Kakogiannis, with whom he shot six films, namely, “The girl in black”, “A matter of dignity” (To teleftaio psema), “Our Last Spring” (Eroica), “Electra”, “Zorba the Greek” and “The day the fish came out”.
Lassally was awarded an Oscar for best cinematography for “Zorba the Greek” and when he returned to Greece and Stavros, almost 35 years later, he decided to offer the golden statuette to the town taverna, as a token of gratitude to the locals, who had participated in the picture.
I called him up and he agreed to do the film straightaway. He was already 78, at the time, but in perfect shape, both mentally and physically.
We got together in Crete, in early June 2004. I had just finished sound-mixing “Alemaya” and I was emotionally, physically and financially drained.
Only on the ship during the trip to Crete, did I find time to read Lassally’s autobiography, which he had published himself in England, several years earlier.
Cinematographer Giorgos Argyroiliopoulos, (whose contribution in the film was enormous, since he even acted as production manager, when needed), producer, Michalis Panagiotopoulos, Claudio Bolivar, Christos Papadopoulos and myself spent an amazing week following Lassally with the camera everywhere; where he walked his dogs; wherever he had his meal; at the taverna, where his Oscar was, and where tourists came just to take snapshots with him; at his place, where he held film screenings for friends; and of course at the locations of Zorba. He discussed his entire career, from the first moment he got involved in cinema, and shared all his wisdom with delightful wit.
The result was a lovely picture, rich in imagery and emotion as well as with certain liberty in style.
I remember vividly that after filming had been wrapped up, we stormed out, in order to catch the opening match between Greece and Portugal, in the Euro Championship. As we were racing, loaded with equipment, to get to Stavros’ coffee house in time for the game, we heard the hoorays over Karagounis’ first goal. We started screaming as well (always running), and at the same time poke fun at Claudio, whose father while he is a Spaniard, lives in Portugal. But Claudio did not seem to mind at all, for he hates football...