By Alexis Varouxakis*
I never really got a chance to properly thank you. Thank you for ‘Ulysses Gaze’, for ‘Landscape in the Mist’, for ‘The Travelling Players’ and for Eleni Karaindrou. On a more personal level, thank you for changing my life.
I was 19 when I came to work for a few months on the set of ‘Eternity and a Day’. It was the first time I was on a film set, the first time I met an actor. It was the first time I saw a production designer take a derelict house and transform it into a luxurious 19th century villa. And it was the first time that I got to work with a producer, a path I was to follow a few years later. The minute I set foot on the set, I felt at home. You and Mrs Phoebe made me feel welcome, you were both so gracious. ‘Eternity and a Day’ went on to win the ‘Palm d’Or’ at the Cannes Film Festival.
Since then you very kindly let me into your house and your family. I always felt welcome by you and the formidable Phoebe who I consider a second mother to me. You both gave me direction when I needed it. The most important thing you taught me, although indirectly, is to give back to the younger generation. Your door was always open for me, giving me advise, encouragement and guidance. It is a marvelous gift when someone who has reached the top takes the time to help the young.
I remember the conversations we had and with what intensity and focus you spoke. I always felt that you were never really present, or rather that you lived in two worlds. The material world had no meaning for you; you lived in the world of ideas, of dreams. It seemed to me that your body was only a vessel which allowed you to bring that other world, your real home, to this world. Your films, these images and moods you gave us, were part of that other world. And I know that there was so much more of that world that you wanted to show us.
I will never forget that summer day that changed me forever. You were setting up a shot on the beach. It was an ugly, deserted beach in the north of Greece. You put a few actors in the background and an actor with an accordion in the foreground and then.. and then you said ‘Action!’. Before my eyes something magical happened. This dead beach came to life. Out of nowhere you breathed life and color into something that was sad and void of life. Then time stopped. The sky opened and thunder struck me, electricity went through me and my hair stood on my body. It was at that moment that I said to myself: ‘I want to make films for the rest of my life’. It is to this day one of the most powerful experiences I have had. It is still what keeps me going today, that passion that was unleashed that summer day. For that and for everything else, thank you Mr Angelopoulos.
*Alexis Varouxakis is a Los Angeles based film producer. He is currently finishing post-production on ‘Dark Hearts’ a psychological thriller starring Kyle Schmid, Sonja Kinski, Lucas Till, Rachel Blanchard, Juliet Landau and Goran Visnjic. He has a number of films in development including ‘The Cure’ set in the Jazz world of 1950’s New Orleans. The film is inspired by the life of Chet Baker and Louis Armstrong.