Famous people

Walter Lassally

 

 

One of the factors which to a considerable extent contributed to making Crete known and loved in Western Europe is the screen version of Nikos Kazantzakis' novel "Zorba the Greek" by the Greek-Cypriot film director Michael Cacoyannis.

At the Cannes Film Festival 1954 the cinematographer Walter Lassally was recommend to Cacoyannis. One year later Lassally went to Athens, and they started a long co-operation, which resulted in six films of which the best known is probably "Zorba the Greek".
The film was shot in Crete in four different locations:

 

Kokkino Chorio on the Apokoronas Peninsula. The scene of the men kidnapping the widow's goat was shot in one of the coffee houses. And a number of landscape scenes are from this village and from the area in general.

Stavros on the Akrotiri Peninsula. Here Zorba (Anthony Quinn) danced his famous dance on the beach, and here you find the rock and the house of Basil (Alan Bates),

Kokkino Metochi, where you can still see the house of Madame Hortense (Lila Kedrova),
 

and Chania Harbour, where among others the scenes from the harbour pub at the beginning of the film were shot.

 

Walter Lassally was born by a Polish mother and a German father in 1926. He grew up in Poland and in Berlin. Before World War II the family tried to flee to Canada but was stranded in England.

 

Walter Lassally made his début, when the British Free Cinema Movement sprang up. In addition to his many co-operations with directors such as Lindsay Anderson (among others the famous documentary "Wakefield Express" (1952) and "Thursday's Children" (1953)), Karl Reisz and Tony Richardson, he wrote articles to "alternative" journals such as "Film" in the 1950ies as a proponent for personal low-budget films.

He has been working with a vast number of independent film companies and co-operated with Michael Cacoyannis on six films (among others "A Girl in Black" (1956), "Electra" (1961) and "Zorba the Greek" (1964)). For the latter Lassally received an Oscar for best Cinematography, Black-and-White in 1965, but unfortunately he was not able to participate in the prize giving, as he was already busy with new filming in Canada. Nowadays you can admire the coveted statuette in the restaurant Christiana in Stavros.

Lassally has also been the cameraman on a number of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory productions (among others "Savages" (1972), "Heat and Dust" (1983) and "The Bostonians" (1984)).

With his love for smaller, independent and international productions and his clear and crisp style, Lassally continued his work in newer time with films like "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" (1991).

In 1998 Walter Lassally moved permanently to Stavros so that he every day can enjoy the sight of the beautiful Stavros rock, which means so much to him. He himself mentions that one of the lines, which made the strongest impression on him during the shooting of the film, is the scene where Zorba is sitting on the beach making a model of the mountain of which they are going to bring the tree trunks down. Basil comes to him and asks what exactly he is doing:

 

 

Basil:

 What is it?

Zorba: 

 It's a mountain. That one!