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George Corraface: “An actor is someone who creates ethics through his behavior…”

article's cover image (George Corraface: “An actor is someone who creates ethics through his behavior…”)

Sunday afternoon and George Corraface travels around French motorways and answers through telephone to our questions…

We meet you occasioned by the film “The Joy and Sorrow of the body” of Andreas Pantzis. The film deals with the meaning of friendship and betrayal. Could the film be seen as an allegory of Greece being betrayed by the “friend” Europe?

Of course it can! Although the film was not written on this purpose. But as it is proved, when somebody deals with a very humane theme, he has to realize that such reflects on many other levels. Truly, there is indeed a strange friendship between Europe and Greece. Europe is a big “monster” related to Greece and whenever it is convenient, Europe is friendly, but when it’s not, it turns out being cold and frigid. Therefore, it betrays us! However, Greece has got used to betrayals for centuries now. In general, the thing is that when everything goes well, everyone is pleased, but when things get tough… that is when true friendship can be traced. In hard times…

article's image (George Corraface: “An actor is someone who creates ethics through his behavior…”)

Mr. Pantzis described your schedule as particularly demanding during the filming. You had to travel from Paris (where your theatrical performance took place) to Budapest and from there to Varna, where few hours of rest were succeeded by long filming and after that, was the trip back to Paris and all these almost within 24 hours. How could you ‘immerse’ into the world of the movie amongst all this travelling? Do you always work so intensively?

Certainly not always, I do this only for friends! You see, I ‘overdid’ it for friendship! It was definitely an overstretching period. I had to travel back and forth and the theatrical performance was wearing, since my part was exhausting and instead of taking a rest for two days or a day and a half, I made all those trips. It was absolutely crazy, but as we said, we ourselves are a little bit crazy and like doing things like that. Andreas (Pantzis) is a friend of mine and I am happy working with him. Thus, it is not a sacrifice, but pleasure!

article's image (George Corraface: “An actor is someone who creates ethics through his behavior…”)

The first film that you made with Andreas Pantzis, “Slaughter of the cock”, approached being nominated for the Oscar of best foreign language film. How do people from abroad feel about Greek film productions?

They do not have the slightest idea about them… Lately, there are some Greek award-winning films at festivals. However, there has been Theodoros Angelopoulos, who had surpassed the theme of “Greek film”. It was the “Angelopoulos’ Film”. He was well-known and fortunately, his name sounded very Greek and he himself cared about Greece. Still, I myself also try and especially, when I was at the Thessaloniki Film Festival, did my best to help create a “new wave”, let’s say, a New Greek cinematic wave. I am glad to see that this new wave has indeed been created.

And in France and particularly in Paris-which is the ‘matrix’ of cinema throughout the world- we revitalized the Panorama of Contemporary Greek Cinema, along with Kostas Gravas and Alexandra Mitsotakis, representatives of the Greek Cultural Centre of Paris. The Panorama takes place every two years in Paris, although it was about to stop as an institution due to difficulties. We did everything we could, not to let this happen and allow the Panorama continue informing the European citizens about Greek cinema. I have to admit that the Panorama was very successful last year and will again be organized next year, while we hope that there will constantly be interesting movies. More particularly, movies that will be radical in style and intriguing in themes. Except for the cinema, the French wish for a society unlike the one we need here in Greece. A society of stability, equality, justice and values, for which the French themselves also strive for at the moment and consider Greece being a laboratory animal trying to make its first steps. Never the less, the French, or at least the ones who do not trust everything is said by the media, show sympathy towards Greece.

article's image (George Corraface: “An actor is someone who creates ethics through his behavior…”)

You have already covered my question on what is your opinion for the contemporary cinematic Greek reality as the former president of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

I have a positive attitude towards the contemporary Greek cinema and I think that we should all be as such, have hope and create things even when it seems impossible to…

article's image (George Corraface: “An actor is someone who creates ethics through his behavior…”)

Let’s talk a little bit about you now. You were born and raised by a family of artists, a family of musicians. How did you find yourself in the world of acting?

It’s a long story! I started following another path; I wanted to be an adventurer and travelling around South America… I started studying economics at the university, but, at least in the beginning, it was not stimulating for me. Ι registered in the French Literature studies and a friend from there brought me to a theatrical school. Even though, it was in the middle of the academic year, they told us that we would be able to take exams along with the other students that had attended the courses from the beginning of the year. If we did well in the exams, we would be accepted in the school. The truth was that they needed boys, since most students were girls. And the fact that there were more girls at this school and that we would be welcomed and accepted considering that they needed boys, was something very positive for my friend and me. Thus, I rushed into learning by heart a monologue and a poem in order to take the exams. Considering that we had studied poems before at school, this monologue was something totally magic… Being the One expressing the feelings of Another person, through the writing of Alfred de Musset in the “Lorenzaccio” play… From then on, I got obsessed with this art. I started gaining an understanding quickly, because a teacher of mine was also the president of the Versailles theatre. This theatre dates back in the Ludwig era; it’s a pearl and a beautiful tool of great aesthetics for performers. It is pleasant acting in a place like this. Well, I started with classical education and then, I took exams in a bigger national theatrical school and eventually, in the great theatrical school of Paris. I was also working, because the principal assigned us small parts to perform at first and later, bigger ones. So, I started studying and at the same time, earning my living, which made me feel that the adventurer inside me could be really satisfied through the pursuing of theatre. The tours and the traveling began after a while and all this resembled a lot to what my heart desired.

You took a big break travelling and having various unusual jobs between the end of your studies and the beginning of your cooperation with Peter Brook for six years. Was this break for adventure a constructive experience that enriched your acting afterwards?

The truth is that, after some years in classical theatre, Ι had started looking down upon things, having high demands and feeling that my work seemed inadequate. I got obsessed with the work of Antonin Artaud, a great poet of the 20th century, ‘a man of theatre’, a genius that suffered a lot (he found himself quite often in a psychiatric hospital). Artaud was a wonderful man, with wonderful ideas on life and theatre. He wrote, among all his other works, the prominent “Le théâtre de la cruauté”, which demands from the theatre to impress, rattle and subvert the audience… Anyway, I was not pleased with what I was doing and wanted to try out something closer to rock n’ roll. I saw the danger and the madness at Doors’ concerts and felt that something dramatic could happen at any time. I found this being more “tangible” than the classical theatre. What is more, I did not want to live a merely artistic life, but attempt having a number of different jobs. I worked as a gas pipe installer, a worker on roads, a carrier in lorries and a whole lot of other jobs. The travelling and all these jobs was a true life experience that I needed in order to go along. At the same time, I was writing and singing rock, rap and (I do not know if this type of music exists in Greece) slam music (a type of music that is between rock, rap and jazz). I met people that played music and although their music was full of energy, they were not all “electrified”. The thing with music lasted for three years and it was then that I found my way again through Peter Brook. He was experiencing the same ‘non-fancy phase’ of life likewise me. He was pursuing the ‘blood’, the truth, the real life. He was in a big quest for years and I was very fortunate having met him. It seems that he got interested in me and hired me because I had not chosen the classical route. In this way, I was able to be part of the team for six years and learn things beyond theatre, learn about narration, learn everything. Knowledge that can of course be integrated in the art of cinema. Brook did not have specific requirements and make us work on something that he had already had on his mind. He discovered what we were eventually to do through searching, since he did not have a shaped idea in mind. This is something that I kept and will always do. That is not to rely on a standard, familiar and safe recipe, but keep on searching and lying around some kind of danger. It is not simple, but still, I try. Certainly, I do not always achieve it, since there are times that I tend to choose the ‘convenient’ way. Never the less, there are no such ‘heroes’ never attempting to do the ‘convenient’ and neither do I…

You have cooperated with directors and actors from different countries. What it is that you like in Greek productions and what bothers you related to abroad?

I like the fact that they are Greek! I like that they have a Greek identity and it is a great experience and honor for me to be welcomed at my parents’ country. Even though, I am a Greek born and living abroad, that went to a foreign school and became part of a foreign culture; a lot of opportunities were given and continue being given to me regarding my Greek roots… My knowledge on Greece and its history is entry-level though, all the professional proposals that I have accepted up until now have helped me enhance my Greek identity. It is kind of strange but this does not distort my French identity. My French identity is the one of a French with foreign roots, unlike many other French people. There are millions of French people with foreign roots that either live in France for years, or have just arrived, and that’s a real aspect of France. Most certainly, it is a fact that when things get tough, generosity diminishes and xenophobia starts…

What bothers me is the administration of Greece, including both the government and those who own money and vested interests. They do not understand that the existence of a strengthening cinema, which is not measured by its productivity, would be profitable both for them and the country (of course, I do not mean large amounts of money to be wasted for nothing). People should not consider that cinema must necessarily be money-making and return on investments. France, which is a great culture and force, can implement this. Meaning that, it can use public money and invest on cinema around 100 times more, relative to what Greece can. We cannot say that all this money lead up to profit through cinema, but through the selling of other French products. They enhance the image and fame of their country through the cinema and benefit from that both geopolitically and economically. In my opinion, Catherine Deneuve, for instance, does not only ‘sell’ films, but also warplanes, fashion, perfumes and wine! That is, the image of France is enhanced through the promotion of its cinema. This is an ingenious and applicable concept, since, now more than ever, Greece does generate and need enhancing its image! Moreover, we need more and more people to work in order to let the production and investments on cinema to flourish. This would be really useful and would also help the filmmakers of the Greek cinema, who live dramatic moments and ‘suffer misfortunes’ so as to create a film and therefore, others stop and others get sick… But, although the circumstances are dramatic, some find their way through this framework and create remarkable things. Well, what bothers me is, on the one hand, the deficient support of the state and administration and the deficient understanding of the general interest. And on the other hand, the fact that cinema does not only aim at the exposure of an image abroad but, is related to everything that happens on the inside too. Cinema is, like the public transport, a public piece of work and a form of interaction with the society! It reflects the issues and the progress of the society and is a reflection that people do need. People cannot only watch American films. Yes, American films are indeed well-made, entertaining and interesting, but they ‘talk’ about them, not us. Only some of their themes concern us but, there are also themes that do concern us and cannot be found in such movies…

article's image (George Corraface: “An actor is someone who creates ethics through his behavior…”)

Is cinema a luxury? What can it offer to a turbulent society unlike the Greek one?

Cinema, like theatre and literature, can offer a lot. In general, whatever has to do with narration is important to society. The ancient drama, the cinema and even the songs that we still sing till today get through messages. Messages that our society gets through and are either new or different, or the same as always, but expressed through a more direct and modern language. After all, an actor is someone who creates ethics through his behavior, and behavior is in general, associated with the ethics –either individually, or collectively – of a society. In other words, getting through messages is about ethics and the way one must or mustn’t behave. The audience draws conclusions through stories and cinema makes you project your own self and say e.g. “this was a mistake or that one wasn’t…” What happens when you go to watch a movie is a challenging of soul and is something necessary that must never stop… Otherwise, we end up being people losing their strength, ethics, dignity and becoming society’s stooges… Therefore, each country’s cinema is substantial.

At this moment, you are filming “Promakhon”, a juridical drama about the case of the Elgin Marbles. You enact the architect- manager of the conservation program of the Acropolis Museum’s exhibits. George Clooney stood for the return of the Marbles to Greece at “The Monuments Men” film’s press conference. What is your opinion on the matter?

Since I participate in such a movie, it is quite obvious that I am in favor of the Marbles’ return to Greece. Above all, there is again a controversially ethical issue. On the one hand, it was the marbles’ seizure. During it, there were so many damages and a brutality that should never have happened… On the other hand, it is the fact that these marbles are not just some works of art. They represent the tremendous development of the society that created them. A society, whose development was unprecedented, and chose to worship a goddess of justice, social equity and knowledge. Until then, gods were the subject of blind faith, while in the case of this society, god represented the opposite of ‘blindness’, wisdom! One has to be awakened, ask questions, philosophize, search and be a friend of wisdom, rather than blindly follow some beliefs. And this entire concept ‘is narrated’ on the monument of Parthenon. The loss of the elements that were seized undermines the wholeness of this ‘narration’…

article's image (George Corraface: “An actor is someone who creates ethics through his behavior…”)
article's image (George Corraface: “An actor is someone who creates ethics through his behavior…”)

Andreas Pantzis, the director of “The Joy and Sorrow of the Body”, in which you enacted the dark character of Millen, talked about you in a recent interview at the Artcore magazine. He believed that, if we asked you about your most important cinematic performances, you would probably answer the “Slaughter of the cock” and “Evagora’s Vow”. Which are the moments of your cinematic career that you consider the most precious and unique?

I will not disagree. I have indeed kept these two films deeply in my heart because of the cooperation and let’s say, the ‘conspiracy’ that existed between us. Certainly, there were a lot more films and cooperations that were very good and addressed to a larger audience. I have filmed in Spain, England and U.S.A and played parts, which were totally different one with the other and this made me very happy. Along with that, I have also made films and cooperated with many other directors in Greece. For instance, the “Touch of Spice”, which I made with Boulmetis and was a very powerful and totally Greek oriented film. This film helped me approach an audience not used to films, which are more ‘difficult’ and more…I do not want to say artistic, because the “Touch of Spice” was an artistic one, but movies that the average viewer is not familiar with. The film that I made with Karantinakis, the one with Loukia Rikakis and the other with Kapakas are all springing to my mind right now. That is to say, every film has each own identity and influenced me to a large extent. The film, which I have lately made with Haralambopoulos, “The Signature”…

All these movies and all these performances were greatly significant for me. Some of the performances were more difficult and more demanding. Certainly, as far as my performance is concerned, the movies we made with Andreas were really demanding in many levels but, at the same time, really satisfying…

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