Yannis Bakogiannopoulos, the top film critic in Greece, in his only appearance on camera allows us to find out he is one of the greatest intellectuals of our time.
There are only a few people I have met in my life, for whom I have complete respect.
I had already put Yannis Bakogiannopoulos on a pedestal from the day the legendary “Cinema Club” first aired on ERT.
His foreword, which indicated profound knowledge, coupled with generosity of spirit, was very engaging and made me grow fond of the films he presented.
The same applied to his film criticism in Kathimerini.
He was the one that helped me develop a better understanding of cinema and therefore to love it even more.
I had been fond of him for already, 23 years before I actually met him in person!
My first attempt to work together with Yannis (like with many others) had fallen through. When I was preparing my first documentary for “Paraskinio” on Takis Kanellopoulos, I had a mutual friend ask him to participate and talk about the scandal of 1966 at the Thessaloniki Film Festival. That year, Yannis was a member of the best jury in the history of the festival, that also included Manos Hadjidakis, Yannis Tsarouhis, Elli Lambeti, Yannis Theodorakopoulos, and others. Among the films that competed, were such gems as the “Excursion”, “Face to face”, “With a sparkle in the eyes” or “Until the ship sails”, but after some serious scheming from the technocrats in the jury, the decision was a monstrosity and the prize went to a film by James Paris!
Yannis kindly declined to participate in “Paraskinio”, because, at the time, he was an advisor to the funding commission and was very cautious of his appearances on the media.
I was really disappointed then, but I got the chance to get to know him in 2005, at the launch of Nikos Papatakis' autobiography.
We magically connected immediately and thus began a profound and meaningful friendship.
Our long meetings carried on until dawn. We discussed everything under the sun, but mostly cinema.
For two years I had been trying to persuade him to agree upon a portrait for “Paraskinio”, but he was very humble and insisted against it. Never before, had he stood in front of a camera for any reason other than his job.
Eventually, in 2007, he announced that we could go on with his portrait. That made me very happy.
He was open, sincere, precise and proved to be a great speaker - storyteller.
Seated in front of his TV, he delivers an extraordinary commentary on John Ford’s “The Searchers” and Antonioni’s “Blow up”.
What we’re left with, is an invaluable live document of one of the really great men in this country.
He also talked extensively about the 1966 Festival. With a 7-year delay, he gave a witty and detailed account of everything that had happened then.
Another important aspect of the documentary, was exposing the myth of the detached bespectacled intellectual, who came upon the screen and drawled languidly about cinema. Anyone who watches this portrait finds out, what everyone who knew Yannis, knew all along; that he was a very gracious man, open, friendly and cheerful with a delightful sense of humor and quite the chatterer.
Yannis is a gentleman, uncompromisingly honest, with an upper-middle class education and awareness, widely learned and a left-winger, but not in the conventional sense of the word, and above all, in love with the cinema. He is the most genuine European I have met in Greece. And, like me, he is a cat enthusiast.
That is another thing we have in common, regardless of the 34 years age difference between us.
Our friendship goes on, uninterrupted and that fills me with pride and joy.
He is like family to me.
I really wish he was...