(Le Prince des Gueux; Les Apaches d’Athènes) [The Apaches of Athens]
Directed by Dimitrios Gaziades
Recorded orchestral accompaniment: Greek Radio Symphony Orchestra

Oi Apachides ton Athinon [The Apaches of Athens] is the first screen adaptation of an operetta by Nikos Hadjiapostolou (libretto by Yannis Prineas) that premiered on 19 August 1921 to wild acclaim and remains celebrated for its revolutionary populist treatment of working-class characters – “Apaches” in this case comes from the French term for members of an underworld subculture of the period. The film takes liberties with the operetta plot while notably incorporating atmospheric scenes of daily life in Athens circa 1930.
It tells the story of the charming but penniless Pierre Lambetis, known as “The Prince,” beloved by the flower-seller Titika, and his two chums, the comic duo Karoumbas (played by librettist Prineas) and Karkaletsos. Looking to play a trick on the pompous
nouveau riche Greek-American Xenofon Paralis, the friends hatch a scheme to infiltrate the arriviste’s mansion (filmed at the nationalized former summer royal palace at Tatoi) by having “The Prince” pretend to be an aristocrat. Once inside, he discovers that the rich man’s daughter Vera is the mysterious woman he rescued earlier from a riding accident, and he’s smitten. An unexpected inheritance suddenly makes him a suitable suitor in Paralis’s eyes, but in the end the social order will remain intact.
Director Dimitrios Gaziades (1897‒1961; billed on the French print as “Dem Gasiades”) studied fine art in Munich before becoming involved in the Berlin film scene, where he is alleged to have worked under Lubitsch and Lang, among others. After a stint with the German Army’s film unit during World War I, he was hired by the Greek government in 1919 to film military manoeuvres in Asia Minor; in the 1920s, together with his brothers Kostas, Michalis, and Alexandros, he set up the DAG-Film company. Frustrated by the technical inadequacies of the Greek studios when he was planning
Oi Apachides ton Athinon, Gaziades took his cameras onto the streets, shooting on location in ways that radically departed from the traditions of the operetta and romantic comedy genres. While this was not the first time he worked on location (he was already doing so on his unfinished 1922 feature To Elliniko Thauma [The Greek Miracle], as well as Oi Delfikes Eortes [The Delphic Celebrations], 1927), with this film he went beyond simply featuring glimpses of the city’s landmarks, instead showing the working-class neighborhoods of Plaka and Thission and capturing the poverty and refugee settlements with a realism hitherto unseen in Greek popular cinema. In so doing, he offers an accurate depiction of a society in the throes of deep social division, revealing the irreparable fissures which hobbled what became known as the “Stillborn Republic”. Even if the plot diverts the spectator from focusing too much on the social context, the images of destitution and inequality provide an inescapable counterstory, acting as silent commentary on the human toll of warring government factions, coups, and counter-coups.
Oi Apachides ton Athinon is considered to be the first Greek sound feature (with music and sound effects only, no dialogue). The first (and last) attempt in Greece at synchronized sound with 78 rpm discs, according to the press of the period it used a system devised from locally assembled units. For decades the film was considered lost, until a 35mm nitrate print was fortuitously found at the Cinémathèque française four years ago, but without the sound discs. A restoration was begun, thanks to a generous donation from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, involving the Greek Film Archive (Tainiothiki tis Ellados) and the Cinémathèque française, together with the laboratory L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna. The image restoration in 4K and 35mm has been carried out using the Cinémathèque française’s nitrate print, with its original French intertitles. Ioannis Tselikas of the Hellenic Music Centre in Athens reconstructed the music tracks based on the operetta’s score, with the addition of three new songs that were specially composed for the film. The final sound mix on the DCP includes original recordings of the period and a new recording by the Greek Radio Symphony Orchestra and singers from the Greek National Opera, conducted by Anastasios Simeonidis.

Maria Komninos

(Le Prince des Gueux; Les Apaches d’Athènes)
[Gli apache di Atene / The Apaches of Athens] 

regia/dir: Dimitrios Gaziades.
scen: Yannis Prineas, dall’/from the operetta di/by Nikos Hadjiapostolou, Yannis Prineas (19.08.1921).
photog: Michalis Gaziades.
mus: Nikos Hadjiapostolou.
cast: Petros Epitropakis (Pierre Lambetis, “Il Principe”/“The Prince”), Mary Sayannou-Katseli (Titika), Stella Christoforidou (Vera), Yannis Prineas (Karoumbas), Petros Kyriakos (Karkaletsos), George Christoforides (Xenofon Paralis), Mary Mantiniou (Aretoussa), Marie J. Prineas (Barbara), Angelos Chryssomallis (Notaio/Notary), Nik Perdikis (Segretario/Secretary), Constantinos Pomonis (il suo amico/his friend), Vassilios Afentakis (café owner), Olga Valtetsioti (nuova ricca/nouveau-riche woman), Titica Sophiades (Governatrice/Governess).
prod: DAG-Films, Gaziades Brothers.
première: 28.04.1930 (Pallas cinema, Athens).
uscita/rel: 1930.
copia/copy: streaming digital file, 92′ (da/from 35mm nitr. pos.); did./titles: FRA.
fonte/source: Greek Film Archive (Tainiothiki tis Ellados), Athens. 

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