THE TEMENOS EXPERIENCE

Almost by accident I was introduced to Temenos by sitting in on P. Adams Sitney’s showing of Markopoulos’ films at Princeton University. The course was titled, The Image of Greece in European Cinema. As the film screenings were open to the pubic and as I live in Princeton, teach film, and was keen to know more about my Greek heritage, I made sure I attended whenever possible. The Illiac Passion was shown that night along with a few of Robert Beaver’s (Markopoulos’ partner) films. Mr. Beavers presented the films and spoke about Temenos where every four years Markopoulos’ films are shown in a remote area of the Peloponnesus under the stars. I was on fire. The thought of seeing Markopoulos’ films in a meadow high in the Peloponnesus ignited my imagination.  I vowed I would go to the next one. I kept my promise; however, I added to my motivation by applying and getting a Fulbright grant to research Markopoulos, his drive and his creation of community. As Robert Beavers said at this year’s Temonos, the showing of Markopoulos’s films which are free and without any commercial restraint provide an artistic respite for the filmmakers who attend -a community, certainly.

I looked forward to participating in this three day “community forming.” However, circumstances altered my place in this newly formed group. Since my son and I had a car, we were not housed in Loutra Iraias where most of those attending were housed, but, instead, almost 30 minutes away in Rafti.  Consequently, we were somewhat isolated from the rest of the group. Also, we didn’t arrive until close to 7 P.M. the first day, another consequence of driving from Athens and getting lost on several occasions. By the time we got to our rooms, we were too tired from the stress of driving and didn’t make the first night’s celebration in Lyssarea where the films are shown.

Robert Beavers, when speaking to the group on Sunday, told of how a friend of his described him and Markopoulos as a “society of two.” My son and I for the most part were a “community of two.” Nevertheless, the thrill of making our way to each evening’s films and the experience of the films themselves created exhilarating and challenging discussions as we made our way back to Rafti in the middle of the night . As an undergraduate sculpture major, he had ideas about what art should do to an observer. I defended Markopoulos’ intentions while he questioned if those intentions made their mark with the audience,

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FROM WES ANDERSON TO GREGORY MARKOPOULOS

One night my son and I were looking at a commercially successful film Moonrise Kingdom in Athens: two nights later we were in a remote area of the Peloponnese watching parts of Eniaios, filmmaker Gregory Markopoulos’ life work at Temenos, his sacred grove near his father’s birthplace of Lyssarea.

My son, Larry, chose to be the first driver but was unable to give up that position when I developed acrophobia as we climbed the narrow mountain roads with no side rails. On our way to Corinth, we discussed Anderson’s film, Moonrise Kingdom. Being annoyingly picky, I pointed out that saddle shoes worn by the female protagonist were not “Sunday” shoes as described in the film nor were they popular in 1965. They were all the rage much earlier. The film can delight most spectators with its fairytale mise-en-scene, its belief in true love, and a plot whose obstacles are overcome first by two protagonist and then by the “in-crowd” who realize they should be good “scouts” and join together to save the orphan and his love. Perhaps I’m jaded; perhaps I gazed at the lit up Acropolis too long during the film. Yet, the idea of a truth existing no matter how outrageous, no matter how difficult to bear, is not so far from Markopoulos’ intention as he decided to go his own way, making films by doing every part, filming and editing by hand. Then, he allowed his films to only be shown as he instructed no matter what the cost, which was often quite high as his films were not often seen. He had a vision, a truth and, since the eighties, he shared it with whomever made the journey to Temenos. Then, as today, there is no charge. A pilgrim has only to pay for his or her room and board.

Several hours outside of Athens, we started to climb up and down the Peloponnese mountains. We both agreed that the drive with its hairpin turns, its goats and sheep blocking the road, with the undulating blue of distant peaks welcomed us into the miracle of Greece, a miracle that Temenos creates every four years enticing filmmakers, students, and academics from different cultures to
it’s sacred grove.

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CINE PARIS ATHENS

Another child has joined me for the last leg of the trip, my son. We repeated in one day some of our first outings in Athens when he was only eight year old. On most of these excursions, there was a significant lack of tourists, good for us, bad for Greece. Yet, newspapers reported that once the elections were settled, plans to visit Greece went up 27%.

We began the day at the Acropolis, a good day to visit. The day was overcast, the heat less intense, and the crowds thin. We took pictures in front of the steps where once he had sat and now visitors are forbidden to trespass. Then, we made our way to Monistraki to eat the city’s best souvlaki. Here there were hoards, some tourists, many locals stopping for a quick lunch, street vendors selling knickknacks, and children playing instruments, hoping their serenades would entice a euro their way, But this has always been the way in Monistraki.

That evening, we went to my favorite outdoor theater, the Cine Paris to see the new Wes Anderson movie. The air, cool and clean, blew gently across the theater, and finally when dusk became night, the Acropolis lit up. My heart, mind and soul were full: a good companion, delicious air, an excellent film, and history lit up like a jewel.

Afterwards we had dinner down the street at a famous taverna. The restaurants around the square in this usually busy area of the Plaka were barely filled. Will those tourist ever come?

SPETSES, PARADISE FOR SOME

A very privileged few days. My friends and I got the last ticket on the Flying Dolphin from Athens to Spetses: since most voyagers disembarked on the other islands along the way, we were finally able to sit together.  When we landed, we were rejected by one taxi which, according to my friend, was the result of our age.  She said we were too old for him.  However, a younger driver, Andros, was game, and he and his partner now taxi us around. Both are friendly and easygoing. My friend, an honorary Greek, speaks the language and knows a number of people who have houses on the island. She believes these two drivers are thrilled to have work.

The island does seem deserted, but, it isn’t quite the season. However, two tavernas favored by my friend are no longer in business: one, perhaps, due to the economy, the other is a different story. This particular one was on a beach. The mayor allowed the restaurant to build its base by having concrete cover the sand. However, the government got wind of this construction and discovered that the owner didn’t have a permit. Does this mean the government does work, but slowly?

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AN EVENING IN ATHENS

I spent my first night in Athens on the rooftop garden of the Hotel St. George Lycabettus, a posh hotel. The person who had initiated this trip to Greece with me and four other women, was an honorary “Greek” as she had spent many years visiting every summer and working in Athens. She invited to this gathering two people who made their home in Greece were knowledgable of the crisis the country was facing as well as being part of a large education circle. Both were charming, graceful, and well-informed.

The woman of the duo did comment on the graffiti that seemed to be everywhere in Kolonaki, the wealthy area of Athens, the location of the missing swimming pools, that is, those not claimed for tax purposes.  I had been faithfully watching CNN to get news of Greece. I mentioned the statistics given by newscasters: seventy percent of small businessmen were leaving Athens to return to their villages to work the land as the only way thier families could survive. She corrected me, “That would be seventy Greek men.” I threw her another statistic from CNN: thirty percent of Greeks were below the poverty belt.  She asked me where that belt began. What followed was a discussion of how most media mislead us in an effort to get viewers or readers. So, I still don’t know how life is faring for the vast majority of Greeks.

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