God Loves Caviar Reviews
With Sebastian Koch, John Cleese
It is a dramatization of the life of a Greek historical figure - Ioannis Varvakis (1745-1825). He began as a 17 year old pirate on the Aegean, attacking Turkish merchant ships for booty and much praised by his fellow Greek countryman, who at the time were under the oppressive yoke of the Ottoman Empire. His fame brings him to the attention of Catherine the Great of Russia who hires him to open up the Caspian Sea for Russian-Ottoman trade. There he prospers, first with simple fish then gains exclusive rights to trade in caviar. He discovers a way to preserve the fish eggs allowing them to be carried to distant markets. Many Honours are bestowed upon him by Catherine and soon he is a millionaire. He is also a great philanthropist and invests in schools in Greece and a monastery.
The one thing that baffles me is the inaccuracy in the story of Tzar Paul - Catherine became the ruler of Russia after the assassination of Paul - she was married to him! How could the script writers get this detail wrong?
Years pass successfully, but he hankers to go back to Greece once more and after the death of his grown up son, he gives his wealth over to his daughter who is with him in Russia and travels back to Greece to help in the 1821 revolution and civil war. Once again he is seen as a hero in the country but is too divisive a figure for the new government to handle. Thus he is kept in isolation on a remote British Greek island Zakynthos, where he eventually dies.
It is too sentimental at times - the character is obviously well regarded by the director. It also flips fairly quickly through the episodes of his life so the film is effectively a sketch rather than an exploration of an extraordinary character.
In times of economic turmoil for my country, Greece, Yiannis Smaragdis (Kavafis, El Greco) continues ostensibly to think big, in terms of production values. I guess the russian funding should have played a decisive role to that daring project. Honestly, the epic story of the born greek pirate Vavrvakis, albeit little known to his compatriots, apart from being acclaimed as one of new greek state
(1830) great benefactors, was a life lived to the fullest, passion- driven, danger-defying and personal tragedies overridden. It?s a common pattern for Smaragdis to preserve traditional, nearly fairy tale-like storytelling, entertaining a history lesson for grade students, rather than aiming for a more individual, less folklore approach. There are always the pros and the cons that come with this combo: idyllic cinematography, uplifting score to pinpoint the present importance of its message, almost linear character development. Easy come-easy go. Add the indispensable in such multinational projects funny man John Cleese and grand dame Catherine Deneuve, a plethora of greek stars in cosmetic roles (Lakis Lazopoulos, Giannis Vouros, Pavlos Kontogiannidis, Akis Sakellariou) and a strong masculine lead, a cross between George Corraphace and Pasxalis Charouhas (Sebastian Coch, back from obscurity after The Lives of Others). The film opened here in a small screening room to a couple dozens of journalists. I hope it fare significantly better after its greek release, come early October. This is not the freaky new wave of greek art house film as signalled lately by George Lanthimos and co, but it will appeal to infrequent moviegoers, who use to overflow greek movie theaters a decade ago with Politiki Kouzina.