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Recalling dialogue


Our Last Spring
Walter Lassally Film-maker
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So, between 1955 and 1967, which was the year of the coup in Greece, I made 12 films in Greece. Six with Cacoyannis and six with other directors. The films with Cacoyannis was more or less every two years: '55, '57, '59, then there was a bit of a gap to '64. No, that's not right. Well, it doesn't matter, every two years, roughly. So the next film was 1959, a film called in English, Our Last Spring. It's actually based on a fairly famous Greek novel called Eroica, and it features a group of young men in the town of Nafplion who form like an amateur fire brigade and they wear helmets and uniforms, and they have an old fashioned pump fire engine, and they run that through the streets, and that's how the film begins. They have trumpets that they blow. It's quite a performance. That was a very nice film... a very nice subject for a film. The problem with that film is that, I think it was a big mistake to make it in English. For some reason, Cacoyannis thought it would have a better chance at distribution abroad if it were made in English, and that was an unfortunate decision, because the whole story involves two Greek boys who fall in love with an English girl who's the daughter of the consul. A sort of 14-year-old, 15-year-old English who is the daughter of the local consul, and it would've been much better were they to speak English with the girl and Greek among themselves. And that didn't happen. They spoke English all the time, and that doesn't work, it doesn't work. And it didn't help the film at all. In fact, it hindered the film. It was one of Cacoyannis' least successful films outside Greece. I think because of that, because of that problem. And then there were certain casting problems in as much as the children, I mean, the young boys were all inexperienced and Cacoyannis showed them every gesture, everything they did was directly dictated by Cacoyannis, and to this day, when I see that movie, when I see the girl saying... 'He won't come now, it's much too late, I think, I think I'll...' you know, I hear Cacoyannis, and I see Cacoyannis in all the things she does, because he showed her exactly. You do this, then you say that, then you do that, then you say this, and you can tell, even years afterwards, you can tell that isn't, that doesn't come out of her, that comes out of Cacoyannis. So that was part of what I said, the puppet aspect, which works fine when you have Irene Papas or Ellie Lambetti who don't take any notice of some of the things that Cacoyannis says in the first place, because they can do it by themselves. But in the case of Our Last Spring, the mechanics tend to show through. And... and for me it was one of the most difficult films to make, because it had some quite extensive interiors in it with crowds of people, a big party that takes place in a house in Kifissia with a garden and 30, 40, 50 people, and there's a little performance, there's a little stage set-up in the garden, and they have a little theatrical performance. And all that, of course, has to be lit. We spent many, many nights in Kifissia, seven, eight nights filming that sequence. And using a slightly more sensitive film stock. At that time, we're talking about 1959, I don't really remember why we couldn't use the Ilford material, because I had... there must have been some reason.

Anyway we shot on Tri X and I was never very happy with that. Tri X wasn't a good film material, as the Ilford materials were. There must've been some reason why I didn't use Ilford on that film. Because I used it subsequently. But Taste of Honey, of course, is later. Yes, maybe they weren't available yet. Because Taste of Honey is two years later. That's probably the reason. Anyway it had this very extensive scene, and because we couldn't have... the largest generator that we could use at that time was 15kW, but in Caphicea I think we had a tap into the electric system, but even with that we were limited in the amount of power we could draw. So it was a bit of a stretch for me, technically. And... then there were extensive location sequences in Aegina and on the sea, on a yacht at sea, and quite a lot of detail. There's some lovely scenes in that film. There's a scene where they performed something called funeral rites, and they all go to the seaside. One of their companion's dies and they all go to a beach, and they perform... no not funeral rites, funeral games, which is a Greek thing, certainly of the, of the period, and they all assemble on this beach and they do gymnastics and athletics. Spear-throwing, like the Olympics, like a miniature Olympics. And then at the end all the victors are crowned with little laurel wreaths, which they then toss on the waves, and that's a beautiful scene, which I shot, again, through a heavy red filter, so it's very stylised. Because it is, it is... It's realism but it's also poetry. It's poetic realism. That scene works very well. There's also some nice day-for-night. Again, it's a black and white movie and so there's again some very nice effective day-for-night. But unfortunately it all goes for nothing. It's such a pity when you spend such a lot of time and you do your best, you work very, very hard and then in the end it flops. But of course, sometimes life is like that. You can't always have a success. But in that case I think it could've been foreseen. It could've been foreseen.

Born in Germany, cinematographer Walter Lassally (1926-2017) was best known for his Oscar-winning work on 'Zorba the Greek'. He was greatly respected in the film industry for his ability to take the best of his work in one area and apply it to another, from mainstream to international art films to documentary. He was associated with the Free Cinema movement in the 1950s, and the British New Wave in the early 1960s. In 1987 he published his autobiography called 'Itinerant Cameraman'.

Listeners: Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen is a Canadian who came to Europe to study and never got round to heading back home. He did his undergraduate work at Carleton University (in Biology) in Ottawa, and then did graduate work at the University of Western Ontario (in Zoology). After completing his doctorate at Oxford (in the Department of Zoology), followed with a year of postdoc at the University of London, he moved to the University's newly-established Audio-Visual Centre (under the direction of Michael Clarke) where he spent four years in production (of primarily science programs) and began to teach film. In 1974 Bowden became Director of the new Audio-Visual Centre at the University of Warwick, which was then in the process of introducing film studies into the curriculum and where his interest in the academic study of film was promoted and encouraged by scholars such as Victor Perkins, Robin Wood, and Richard Dyer. In 1983, his partner and he moved to Greece, and the following year he began to teach for the University of Maryland (European Division), for which he has taught (and continues to teach) biology and film courses in Crete, Bosnia, and the Middle East.

Tags: films, language, casting, director, performance, film stock, generator, funeral games

Duration: 6 minutes, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008