Two years have passed since German-born cinematographer Walter Lassally — who won an Academy Award for the 1964 movie “Zorba the Greek” — died at 90 years old on the island of Crete
Born in Berlin on December 18, 1926, Lassally had retired to the village of Stavros in the 1990s and lived outside of Hania — near the beach that served as the backdrop for the movie’s final scene with actors Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates dancing to the music of “Zorba the Greek.”
He donated his Academy Award to Christiana’s Restaurant, a beach front taverna near the exact spot where he filmed the famous dancing scene with Quinn and Bates. The statuette remained on display at the bar until a fire destroyed it in 2012.
Lassally was a local fixture for years, spending time talking to visitors and showing them film locations and sharing stories from the set.
“When we shot Zorba there were no roads, no electricity, no water and no trees — and not too much has changed,” Lassally once told travel blogger Joel Stratte-McClure while drinking a glass of honeyed raki on the sandy beach.
“I’ve been around the world and never found a place to live that’s better than this spot in Crete. It’s easy, relaxed and I like the volatile attitude of the mountain people,” he said.
Beloved by visitors and locals alike, Lassally acquired the nickname “Walter the Greek.”
In a 2015 interview with Radio Prague, the German native summed up the importance of the look of a film.
“To me cinema is visual,” he said. “In a good film, you should be able to turn off the soundtrack and still get the story. Nowadays it’s the other way around. Most of the information tends to be in the dialogue and not in the pictures, and that’s not cinema to me.”
See the original “Zorba” movie trailer
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