Startling, subversive, and explosively controversial, the films of Ethiopian-born Greek iconoclast Nico Papatakis have long been frustratingly hard to see, but they constitute one of the most radical and neglected bodies of work in all of European cinema. A man of the world who rubbed shoulders with Jean Genet and John Cassavetes (he produced the former’s UN CHANT D’AMOUR and the latter’s SHADOWS), Papatakis began his directing career with the incendiary call to class warfare LES ABYSSES, which nearly provoked a riot when it premiered at Cannes in 1963. The scandal was merely a warm-up for a career that courted controversy at every turn and which includes the deliriously surreal romantic tragedy THE SHEPHERDS OF CALAMITY and the shocking Algerian War parable GLORIA MUNDI, a film so inflammatory it could not be shown in Paris for three decades. With their expressionistically heightened style and transgressive themes, Papatakis’s films have served as a major inspiration for the so-called “Weird Wave” of contemporary Greek filmmakers like Yorgos Lanthimos and Athina Rachel Tsangari, who carry on the cinematic rebellion that he launched.
Richard Linklater and Athina Rachel Tsangari on Nico Papatakis
In this conversation, filmed in the summer of 2021 in Greece, filmmakers and friends Richard Linklater and Athina Rachel Tsangari talk about the lasting impressions the films of Nico Papatakis have left on them.
Directed by Nico Papatakis • 1976 • France
Starring Olga Karlatos, Roland Bertin, Philippe Adrien
One of the most shocking and transgressive films of the 1970s, this incendiary political parable centers on Galai (the fearless Olga Karlatos), an actress starring as an Arab terrorist in a film abo...
Directed by Nico Papatakis • 1991 • France
Starring Michel Piccoli, Lilah Dadi, Polly Walker
Based on an incident in the life of director Nico Papatakis’s former friend and collaborator Jean Genet, WALKING A TIGHTROPE casts Michel Piccoli as Marcel Spadice, a thinly veiled version of the celebra...