Theo Angelopoulos: Days of 75 in Paris

It was the winter of 1975-76 in Paris. Greece was a nation struggling to join the big European family following the collapse of the military dictatorship and the Cyprus tragedy — and a presence in France?s market of moral and political values.

Superficial characteristics, leftovers from 1960s Greek folklore, were losing ground. The troubled country?s most vital creative forces abroad were mainly expressed through composer Mikis Theodorakis and his music.

Amid this euphoric mood shared by most Greeks in the French capital, a fresh name emerged in local artistic circles: Theodoros (Theo) Angelopoulos, the director of ?The Traveling Players? who won the International Film Critics Award at Cannes.

My drama school (IET) professor Jacques Lassalle had nothing but praise for Angelopoulos?s film. I felt bad because I had not yet watched the movie, and instead mumbled something about ?Reconstruction? and ?Days of 36.?

When I got my first day off at the restaurant where I worked three days later, I headed for the cinema on rue Saint Andre des Arts. The line of people outside the venue stretched for some 30 meters. I was one of the last to make it inside, and when the movie began, I felt happy. When the credits began to roll at the end, I felt proud. A Greek director had shown to the world that Greece was more than just the syrtaki dance, retsina, moussaka and Zorbas. It was a country that inspired respect among experts, also in these modern times, thanks to yet another big artist.

As the years went by, I came to realize that Angelopoulos also showed to us Greeks that our country is more than the Attic light and the Aegean of the descendants of Pericles Yiannopoulos, but also the mist of Greece?s north, together with our dark political and social passions. But back in those years, in the City of Light, Angelopoulos?s rain and mist shined inside us and warmed our souls.