(Original Title: Ποτέ την Κυριακή)
In the early ‘60s a young American named Homer Thrace (a name inspired by Homer of Ancient Greece) embarks on a trip to Athens. When he arrives at Greece’s biggest port, Piraeus, he starts to observe and make notes of what Greek people are really about. In the process, he develops a deep fascination for a famous prostitute, Ilya.
Ilya lives in the port of Piraeus. She is beautiful, full of life and everyone loves her. Even though she works as a prostitute, she cannot be bought. She controls her actions and chooses her clients based on her own ideals. Additionally Ilya never works on Sunday: this is the day that she has an open house, filling the place with food, music, guests and good friends.
When Homer finds himself invited to her house one Sunday, he realizes that Ilya is perhaps not what he had initially hoped for, or wanted. Ilya is an independent woman, who refuses to be controlled by the vice king of the area named ‘No face’. She enjoys going to the festival of ancient drama, even though she gives her own interpretation of the story. Ilya changes certain parts that she doesn’t approve of. Homer can’t help himself in avoiding the Pygmalion cliché, deciding that he wants to transform her, educate her and take her out of her current business. His only problem is that he doesn’t have the means. That is, until ‘No face’ finds him and pushes him into a deal, offering to fund the project himself.
Within the next two weeks, Ilya begins a radical transformation. We see her turning into someone educated but less happy and somewhat subdued. Soon enough, Ilya finds out about Homer’s deal with the king and she rebels wildly.
‘Never on Sunday‘ was written and directed by Jules Dassin, who holds the role of Homer as well. Melina Mercouri plays Ilya elegantly and magnificently. When Dassin wrote the film, he wanted to show the world many aspects of Greek culture, and personally I think he did it brilliantly. Dassin, through his direction, manages to create a movie that would always be contemporary – he combined all characteristics of Greek society excellently, in a way that shows its uniqueness and strange beauty in a global context.
‘Never on Sunday’ or ‘Pote tin Kuriaki’ in Greek, got nominated for several awards. Melina Mercouri’s performance won the Best Actress award in the Cannes while Manos Hadjidakis won an Oscar for Best Music.
With Dassin being placed on the Hollywood Blacklist during the McCarthy era, ‘Never on Sunday’ is definitely a political movie. After all, Ilya is a portrayal of everyone out there who doesn’t follow standards, practises independence, who sets a ‘dangerous’ example and who gives people ideas; an outlaw that is not just happy, but free to make others happy. If you want to live in a controlled world, ruled by people like ‘No face’, then it is clear that there cannot be space for a personality like Ilya. Unfortunately, it is this way, and has always been this way for as long as history allows.
Never On Sunday at IMDb
Never On Sunday at Rotten Tomatoes
Jules Dassin (bio) at IMDb
Jules Dassin at Wikipedia
Jules Dassin at guardian.co.uk
Manos Hadjidakis at Wikipedia
Manos Hadjidakis official website at hadjidakis.gr