One of Greece's most respected veteran directors, Pantelis Voulgaris--who's virtually unknown outside Europe--has earned a reputation as a subtle prober of his country's social strata and a sensitive observer of the psychological shifts in everyday life. His debut feature, The Engagement of Anna (1972), which opens the Film Center's mini retrospective, serves as a lucid introduction to his main thematic concerns and his understated yet insightful visual style. Much of the film's action takes place in a courtyard of a bourgeois family in an Athens suburb, as family members gather for the first meeting between the maid Anna and her suitor. Gradually their posturing, bantering, and asides--presented as casual cinema verite--reveal a hypocrisy and condescension beneath the altruistic facade. In contrast, Anna, the poor village girl who's been "adopted" by the grandmother, is shown as an island of seriousness and quiet strength; her docility only strengthens her moral appeal. The film's mood darkens after Anna and the prospective bridegroom spend the night out on the town: the family now suspects the worst and demands that Anna remain a servant and a spinster. With compassion but also a critical distance Voulgaris unfolds Anna's anguish in having to choose between her future happiness and the needs of her two families. Her choice is a harsh indictment of a class system in which a working-class girl is always a sacrificial lamb. In the excellent ensemble acting--which at times seems improvised--Anna Vayena's portrayal of Anna stands out as an excellent study in stoicism. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, February 4, 4:00, 443-3737. --Ted Shen
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.