Monday, August 27, 2012

Performance Review: Lila Kedrova in Zorba The Greek

Lila Kedrova received  her 1st Oscar nomination and won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Madame Hortense, an aging, lonely hooker in Zorba The Greek.

It's incredibly hard sometimes to determine the frontrunners/dark horses of winners from 40 years ago  and before. Yes, we have books like Inside Oscars among others to tell who were the locks/surprises, but they don't always tell us this in their analysis of the year's races. Anyway, I assume Lila Kedrova's win may have been a surprise given Agnes Moorhead had won the G.G for her performance in Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

Anyway, Zorba The Greek is one crazy movie. It is brilliantly made and acted, but it is sometimes confusing and hard to follow. Still, you've never seen a movie quite like this before!

Lila Kedrova plays Madame Hortense, a larger then life, flamboyant prostitute who's life has become extremely lonely. She has no one to talk to in the village,she no longer gets the men she used to get, and everyone seems to laugh at her. Things start to improve slightly when Zorba (Anthony Quinn)and his boss Basil (Alan Bates) come from Britain  and stay at her hotel. He courts her, and Madame Hortense mistakenly  believes he is in love with her, or more likely, she latches all her feelings on to him in a desperate way.

Kedrova is simply incredible in this movie. Her performance is so full of zest and sadness. In the beginning, Kedrova is very lively and infectious, filled with stories about her youth. You can't help but be intrigued by her and can't stop watching her in these moments, but when Basil laughs at her, she is heartbroken. Kedrova makes her loneliness so real and heartbreaking, and we so want her to have a happy life again.

As the film progresses, her life continues to go downhill. Zorba loses interest in her, and she starts to become more obsessed and hopeful that he will come back. This is where she REALLY is devastating. Despite how sad her work and character is, when something good happens to her, she seems to come to life again. I especially love the moment when she tells Basil to order wedding silk for her. She is now so grand and commanding, like a French Queen. I love it! I also must mention that she disappears into the role completely. You can tell that Lila was 100% committed to the part and the transformation is astonishing.

She is equally riveting towards the end,when she is dying. Kedrova plays it so compelling, and I was moved to tears! Not to mention the horrible aftermath of her death. I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen it, but it is awful!

Lila Kedrova gives a stunning supporting performance that is now in my Top 10 and perhaps my number #! favorite winner ever! She leaves me speechless...


Nues20 said...

Brilliant review!
I've only ever heard good things about this performance so am happy to here you singing her praises also!
Now here's a tough question - you say Kedrova's in your Top 10 winners...
Care to share the list?:)))) DDD

Louis Morgan said...

Simply an incredible performance, one of the very best winners.

joe burns said...

Nues20: Thanks! I was waiting all day for someone to comment on this, LOL. SEE HER SOON!

Ha Ha, I was hoping someone would ask me.... Well, I'll rewatch all the winners in both categories, but here's a list of my current favorites:

10. Cloris Leachman in The Last Picture Show
9. Sandy Dennis in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Wolf?
8. Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago
7. Monique in Precious
6. Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker
5. Dianne Wiest in Hannah And Her Sisters
4. Angelina Jolie in Girl Interrupted
3. Shirley Jones in Elmer Gantry
2. Lila Kedrova in Zorba, The Greek
1. Eileen Heckhart in Butterflies Are Free

Thoughts? What's your list?

joe burns said...

Louis: She certainly is! What's your current Top 10? Have you seen all the Supporting Actress Winners? I think you've seen more of them then Best Actress, am I right?

Louis Morgan said...

I have seen most but not all the winners in the category. I have probably seen more in supporting than lead though. I really do not have a top ten at the moment.