Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Ta Kokkina Fanaria
Greece, 1963. Th. Damaskinos & V. Michaelides. Screenplay by Alekos Galanos, based on his play. Cinematography by Nikos Gardelis. Produced by Vion Papamihalis. Music by Stavros Xarhakos. Production Design by Petros Kapouralis. Film Editing by Memas Papadatos. Academy Awards 1963. Cannes Film Festival 1964.
Deeply affecting look at lost souls in the port town of Piraeus, centering around a brothel run by Despo Diamantidou. The government is beginning to shut these houses down, meaning that the drama in the lives in a number of the girls working there is about to reach a boil: one is dating a kind young man who has no idea about her life, another has become the sweetheart of a much younger client, a third lives under Diamantidou’s thumb in more ways than one, a fourth has a child and is waiting for her boyfriend to return, and still another is desperate for her boyfriend to make an honest woman out of her despite the odds; meanwhile their cleaning lady bides her time and hopes to eventually take up residence with her own sailor boyfriend. Based on the play by Alekos Galanos, the action mostly takes place in one location and as such gives away its theatrical origins, but in a formidable way that contributes a great deal to the dramatic intensity. Director Vasilis Georgiadis does a terrific job keeping it energetic throughout the seasons that these women ply their exhausting trade, while also being brutally honest about how exploited they are from all who enter and all who live there: a sign hung on the door that reads “Open Even On Sunday” is a declaration of the realities of prostitution and poverty being presented in direct opposition to Jules Dassin’s comedy classic. A plucky collection of personalities and even a few great musical numbers keep it from being miserable or hopeless, and it features great performances, especially Mairi Hronopoulou as the savviest of the girls.