‘Lilly’s Story’ fuses fact with fiction from turbulent 1970s

Combining rare occurrences can produce special results, as is the case with «Lilly’s Story,» director Roviros Manthoulis’s first film in almost 30 years, which stars the extremely popular veteran actor Thanassis Veggos in one of his rare movie appearances in recent years. The two, who last collaborated on Manthoulis’s «Hands Up Hitler,» were drawn together by the new film’s script, which combines fiction with facts that helped shape the course of Greece’s left-wing politics during the turbulent 1970s. The plot of «Lilly’s Story,» Manthoulis’s first outing since 1973’s «Blues With a Sealed Mouth,» is based on the lives of two exiled Greeks living in Paris during Greece’s military dictatorship (1967-74), and their efforts to write a film script. However, external distractions, both real and fictitious, intervene to make a mess of the writing couple’s lives. The events depicted in «Lilly’s Story,» Manthoulis insists, are absolutely real and refer to a film with Melina Mercouri that was never completed, as well as aspects of the film director’s life. «If anybody sees the film, he or she will say all this was not possible, and that it’s exaggerated. But, it’s all authentic,» said Manthoulis, on a break from a scene’s shoot in Athens. The scene this writer witnessed, shot on a cold and rainy morning at a cultural complex in the capital’s Gazi district, Hytirio, depicts an Athens far different from the reality of the 1970s, and dates back to the Nazi occupation of Greece. It was shot to be projected as older footage in «Lilly’s Story,» like a film within a film, viewed by the movie’s stars at an open-air cinema in Slovenia. A short, simple scene, it depicts two Nazi soldiers confiscating loaves of bread from passers-by. Veggos spits on his loaf to avoid losing it. On screen, the aforementioned scene will last just a few seconds. But, reflecting the tedious pace at which films are perfected, getting this scene right took time and patience for all parties involved. It took repeated efforts to satisfy the film’s director of photography, Nikos Kavoukidis, with the scene’s camera flow. Also, the director was not content with the way rehearsals were shaping up, and, to delay procedures further, during the final rehearsal before shooting, the two Nazi soldiers got too aggressive and sent Veggos crashing onto the cement surface. «Are you all right?» members of the crew asked, as they ran to the scene in anguish. «I’m fine. I hope he repeats it just like that,» Veggos, renowned for his humor and professionalism, replied before telling the shocked actor to not loosen up. Filming is expected to be completed in Paris over the next couple of weeks. Besides Athens, other locations included Mani, in southern Greece, Hungary and Slovenia. «Lilly’s Story» should be edited by July. Producers hope it will be ready for the Venice Film Festival. Besides Veggos, other cast members include Giorgos Vogiatzis, Bruno Putzulu, who had starred in Jean-Luc Godard’s recent «Eloge de L’Amour» (In Praise of Love), Olia Lazaridou, Minas Hadzisavvas, Christina Alexanian, Anna Galiena, Iota Festa, Spyros Kalogirou, Athina Pappa, Renos Mantis, Antonis Antoniou, Anestis Vlachos, and Argyris Bakirtzis, the frontman of cult rebetika surrealist group Himerini Kolymvites. The film, budgeted at approximately 1.9 million euros, is a French-Greek-Slovenian co-production financed by Ygrec, Greece’s national film center, Greece’s state television and radio network, pay-TV channel Filmnet, and Eurimages.

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