Let’s throw some plates and yell “opah!” because it’s time for another installment of Classic Movie Monday, where I sift through Netflix’s Classic section so you aren’t stuck watching The Walking Deceased. This week I watched the 1960 Greek and American comedy, Never on Sunday.
The film follows a free spirited hooker with a heart of gold named Ilya (Melina Mercouri), who calls the Greek port of Piraeus home. Being a port town, Piraeus is a call-girl’s ideal marketplace. Drunken and love-starved sailors come to shore daily and everybody wants a piece of Ilya. She’s fun, she’s pretty, and she loves what she does; there’s no hint of bitterness from Ilya. Because everyone loves Ilya she picks and chooses her clients, and there’s a long wait list.
All seems to be going well until an American philosopher from Connecticut comes to town and cannot believe that the vivacious and happy woman before him makes dates by the hour. The man, Homer Thrace (Jules Dassin, who also wrote and directed the film), goes out of his way to try to convince Ilya that she cannot possibly be happy, that no woman can be happy degrading herself and submitting to such physical indulgences.
So, while we have Ilya who misinterprets the Greek tragedies as comedies or love stories, smashes plates, hosts parties where she takes one client after another, and sings beautifully to those upbeat Greek songs, we also have the stoic and intellectual-to-a-fault Homer. Homer spends his days analyzing the great philosophers and he is convinced that true happiness comes from the mind not the body. He is so convinced that he makes a deal with Ilya: if she gives him just two weeks of her time, he promises that he can make her truly happy.
The next part of the film is a rather lengthy montage of Ilya and Homer listening to classical music, analyzing great works of art, and reading long treatises. Does Ilya find true happiness? Is it found in the arms of a different sculpted sailor every hour or in the musings of Plato? And what never happens on Sunday?
The film has plenty of accolades if a movie about a fun greek prostitute isn’t enough to convince you. It won the Academy Award for Best Song and Mercouri won Best Actress at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. It was also nominated for Best Actress, Best Director, Best Costume Design, and Best Writing at the 1960 Academy Awards. If you watch it be sure to tell me what never happens on Sunday because I still haven’t figured that out.
You’re allowed to have trivia every day of the week, so here it is:
– “Never on Sunday” was the first song from a foreign movie to win the “Best Song” Academy Award
– Jules Dassin and the character he wrote/plays are from the same town, Middleton, Connecticut.