I met Leonidas Embiricos, the son of the great poet, like Marina Karagatsi, on the occasion of my documentary about Christine Tsingos. Marina had mentioned that Leonidas was in possession of a sound recording his father had made of Tsingos. Eventually, that recording was never found, but Leonidas and I grew closer.
As I got to know him more I found him fascinating. He had the soul of a small child, he was well-read, with a singular sense of humor, and as kind as his father is said to have been.
Andreas Embiricos, apart from being a great poet and psychoanalyst, was an extraordinary photographer and used to film his friends and family on his super 8mm camera.
These home movies span twenty years, between 1951 and 1972 and feature family occasions or meetings with friends, among whom were the most prolific figures of art and literature in Greece;
Yannis Tsarouchis, Odysseas Elytis, Nanos Valaoritis, Yorgos Mavroidis, Aris Konstantinidis and even Princess Marie Bonaparte.
All those were involved in everyday scenes, where Leonidas was almost always the protagonist, since his father was obsessed with filming his son.
Embiricos’ photos number more than 40000, the majority of which are portraits and pictures, taken all over Greece mostly of common people, but of his famous friends as well, and they are true masterpieces. The only reason Embiricos wasn’t given the place he deserves as a great photographer, is that he was an even greater poet, an attribute, which overshadowed all others.
Adding to that the numerous amateur recordings he had made of long conversations with friends during home gatherings, this makes for an extensive body of archival material.
I thought that a film on Embiricos, that wouldn’t be based on experts’ analyses of his work, but rather on the images he had created himself, would give the possibility of a different point of view on his artistic and intellectual particularities.
And if all that were to be accompanied by the commentary of his beloved son, who is fully versed in his father’s work and the main protagonist in those home movies, the result could be powerful.
And that was exactly what happened. It was as if Leonidas was having a continuous dialogue with his father. He presented, with fine sense of humor and an unaffected manner, the great poet’s universe, their relationship and also an illustration of the life in upper-middle class Greece during the 50s, 60s and 70s.
I did the shooting on Andros on my own. I can say that my camera skills had improved considerably.
It was the same trip to Andros, during which I did additional shooting for the Karagatsis portrait. I stayed on the island for a week, as a guest in Marina’s house. I spent the mornings filming Leonidas on various spots on the island and in the afternoons I would film Marina. Or the other way round. In the evenings we dined all together. Besides, Marina and Leonidas, in spite of their age difference, are linked with by more than a simple friendship. Both carry in them their great fathers, their common past and the memories they share, and even though they are only children, they feel more like brother and sister.
I will never forget that week on Andros. It was one of the greatest and most fulfilling weeks in my life.
Eight years later, in July 2016, a cinema club on the island held a joint screening of both movies, with the presence of Marina and Leonidas. The small open air cinema was full. It was a wonderful evening in a family atmosphere with Marina and Leonidas holding long conversations with the audience. Pantelis Voulgaris was also there.
Both these pictures are among my favorite, owing also to the close relationship I developed with Marina and Leonidas over the years that followed. Further than that, because through them, I came closer to a now entirely lost period of Greece, which I hold dear.
But mostly because they’re both nonscholarly and unconventional portraits.
Karagatsis and Embiricos are presented from an oblique point of view. I found out in practice that this is the way to go when one has original sources.
Here I should say, that the portrait on Embiricos owes much of its quality to the work of my editor, Myrto Lekatsa. She did an amazing job. And this was meant to be our last work together for “Paraskinio”.