Nikos Niko­laidis in ret­ro­spect, through the eyes of kith and kin

Greek Film Archive set to host a tribute to the provoca­tive late di­rec­tor

Kathimerini English - - Life - BY P. PANAGOPOU­LOS

The mar­riage of fan­tasy with re­al­ity in the works of Nikos Niko­laidis re­sulted in one of the most com­pre­hen­sive and ho­moge­nous oeu­vres in Greek cin­ema. The di­rec­tor, who died in 2007 at the age of 68, had pre­vi­ously told Kathimerini in an in­ter­view: “Ever since I was a kid I knew that if my imag­i­na­tion and re­al­ity never clicked I would be un­happy. So I did the only thing I could do: I made my fan­tasies re­al­ity.”

Com­fort­able with be­ing an out­sider and also with the five awards he re­ceived over the course of his ca­reer at the Thes­sa­loniki In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, Niko­laidis liked to be on the out­side look­ing in as it gave him a bet­ter view of the world and kept him out of a “sys­tem” of which he was crit­i­cal.

Niko­laidis’s world is the sub­ject of a full ret­ro­spec­tive of his work, or­ga­nized by his friends and fam­ily, at the Greek Film Archive from May 26 to June 1, and co­or­di­nated by Marie-Louise Bartholomew, his com­pan­ion since 1970, mother of his two chil­drenand pro­ducer of his eight fea­ture-length films and some 200 tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials. One can even say that Bartholomew was his cre­ative part­ner, as she served not only as pro­ducer, but also as­cos­tumedesigner, ed­i­toror any other dis­ci­pline that was nec­es­sary. She spoke to Kathimerini re­cently about her re­la­tion­ship with Niko­laidis, the con­tra­dic­tions of his char­ac­ter and her ad­mi­ra­tion for him, which never waned dur­ing their 40 years of liv­ing and work­ing to­gether.

I don’t think he would. Ini­tially he had turned down a tribute pro­posed by the Thes­sa­loniki Fes­ti­val. De­spina Mouzaki, then the di­rec­tor of the event, in­sisted and Nikos agreed but only af­ter writ­ing down 10 con­di­tions on a piece of pa­per. He never got a chance to see it though, and in the end, when we saw that his terms were be­ing re­spected, we agreed for it to go ahead. The tribute at the Greek Film Archive is dif­fer­ent. It is be­ing put to­gether by friends and by his son. The pur­pose is to in­tro­duce young peo­ple to his work. I re­al­ize now that over 30 years have gone by [since he started mak­ing films] and he made ref­er­ence to things that are hap­pen­ing right now or have yet to hap­pen. I think his films are time­less; they haven’t aged and

I don’t be­lieve they will.

Nikos was very hard when he worked. He was per­fec­tion­ist and would con­duct re­hearsals for a year, teach­ing and talk­ing, and he de­manded that there were no ques­tions af­ter­ward or that he be made to re­peat things he’d al­ready ex­plained. He could be very hard; there were times when he was hard with me as well. But with friends, over din­ner, at par­ties, he was a won­der­ful friend; he was ro­man­tic and sen­si­tive. At work he was a dif­fer­ent per­son: tough, but also fair. him very much, be­cause he rep­re­sents a free spirit and ca­ma­raderie. They look at him as a men­tor and con­tinue to watch his works be­cause they agree with his opin­ions, his lines, his ob­ses­sion with revolt, his fear­less­ness. He did ex­actly as he wanted. Of course only as far as the es­tab­lish­ment al­lowed, be­cause he took a lot of beat­ings. I be­lieve that if he had lived he would have made an­other film. He had a lot left to say, but he seemed to know that he didn’t have much time left.

Mostly his au­di­ence, which be­gan to leave him af­ter “Sweet Gang,” when he started mak­ing the films he wanted to make. But, the peo­ple who had grown to love him through his work also felt that he was aban­don­ing them. The crit­ics had a hand in this. He was dis­ap­pointed too by the state of Greek cin­ema be­cause there was a time when film­mak­ers were a gang and they fought to­gether.

He would laugh and use it to his ad­van­tage. He did it with “Sweet Gang” and with “The Thrushes Are Still Singing.” He didn’t need the crit­ics or the con­fir­ma­tion. He knew ex­actly who he was, even if this could be con­strued as snob­bery. What he wanted most was to con­nect with his au­di­ence, and es­pe­cially with young peo­ple. He loved his au­di­ence, but when he saw them start­ing to leave, he turned his back on them as well. ed to woo his own kind, those who loved his work and wanted it. “Sweet Gang” was a film that had an im­pact on the 40some­things of the time [1983] and the fact is that we were not hurt by its com­mer­cial suc­cess. We had had to bor­row to make it so get­ting some money helped. What bugged him most, I think, is that it was on the brink of be­com­ing main­stream and that he was ex­pected to con­tinue in this direc­tion af­ter­ward.

Not at all. We were both equally ro­man­tic, other­wise I wouldn’t have been with him. I was just more grounded. His mind was like a nu­clear bomb set to go off. And his work – a film, a book, an ad – ex­pended just a frac­tion of the en­ergy he had. That’s why he could have done so much more if he had been given more time and if it hadn’t been made so dif­fi­cult for him.

was a liv­ing con­tra­dic­tion. He could be as ten­der as he could be strict and as funny as he could be cyn­i­cal.

Marie-Louise Bartholomew (r) and Nikos Niko­laidis (c) with the cast of ‘Morn­ing Pa­trol.’ Nikos Niko­laidis pe­rus­ing his book ‘The An­gry Balkan,’ which was pub­lished in 1977.

All,’ a 2002

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