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A Louis Skorecki text



Who was Stavros Tornes?


He died on the 26th of at sun-set. He was the greatest film-maker of Greece. Pasolini resurrected. One had to catch his films in the concealed corners of obscure festivals. And now?


This man died. Artists also die, even the great ones. And Stavros Tornes the name of this man a G reek, we see him herein his 1982 film “Balamos” alive, more frahtic than the crazy horse  he is confronting – This man died.

Every death is a scandal, but his was inadmissable. Stavros Tornes did not have the right to die. He allowed himself to. He probably had his reasons, but he should have remained eternal. And the strange  thing is, he could have. Stavros Tornes was a fiim-maker. A word which today sounds like an insult, a curse refering to frauds. This era definitely belongs to television (so much the better), and makers of video films, TV films and any kind of clips, are usurping the meaning of cinema.

He was a film - maker. He was nothing but this. Poet, philosopher, prophet. But poet in cinema, prophet of images / messages for the planet.

He was todays greatest film - maker. He died in anonymity by choice, conscious of being an animal  on the way of extinction, the survivor of a finished era where the words art and cinema, artist and film-maker were not yet Vulgar words.

He was young; 56 is childhood for a film-maker; But to be the greatest and yet unknown is exhausting. It exhausts quickly and certainly, even if one has chosen to remain unknown to be able to continue to make films.

Every minute Stavros Tornes was aging one hour. Tormented by the agony of the cinema, he was dying for desire -LOVE- of resurecting it, be it at the cost of his life.To give life to the woman cinema, and to die.

To exhaust his body by feeding on anything - a poor man's philosophy. Without asceticisms or other crap. Without an alibi. Whithout second thouhts.

Excluded, marginal, road companion of all "SQUATTERS” of a post-industrial society of  all vagabonds of the urban delirium. A friend of the animals because he was one of them, welI yes, an anomality, a mineral, a landscape all by himself, he passed through this half a century too quickly to be noticed and too sliowly for people realize he was moving at all. Too intense to be loved.

S.Tornes at Thessaloniki Film Festival, 1982

His films are but his own. Unless you see them (we are waiting to see an important retrospective at the film library, real projections in one or two cinema's, articles, dedications, traces) it is impossible to describe them or talk about them.

Is he a Pasolini more Pasolinian than Pasolini, a Straub less dogmatic, a Murnau of the present?

Stavros Tornes died last Tuesday, a 26th of July, nine o'clock at night. For the past year, he was engaged in a battle with the bureaucrates of the Greek Cinema Center in Athens about a budget of four million drachmas for his film. He knew it would be his last. He knew he was going to die (cancer, refusal of hospital etc.), he simply wanted to use his last energy for this Robinson Crusoe which will never be seen.

Four million drachmas is about 200.000 french francs, twenty old lousy million french francs, the average cost of his films.

Greek "Film-Makers" the others, taking turns, receive fifty, sixty million, at least. It often  takes them up to five years to direct, emphasis, "Films" worth twenty Stavros Tornes.

Stavros makes a masterpiece within a year while others spend half a decade piecing together their monuments of academism. Papatakis, alone, perhaps (he loves, admires tornes and tries to organize a retrospective) escapes this horde of drachma-eaters who killed old Stavros a bit earlier.

The very day of his death, a few hours before the end, the Center announced that it would finally grant the four million for Robinson Crusoe. 

They didn't know. Today, perhaps they are sorry. Time will judge.

Stavros Tornes co-directed his first film "Theraicos Orthos " with Kostas Sfikas in Greece.

We are back in 1967. He has already been working as an actor, a technician, doing odd jobs. He will continue to survive like this in Italy, appearing majestically in Fellini's "City of Women", being Rosi's assistant, earning just enough to stay alive and get around.

"STUDENTI, ADDIO ANATOLIA, COATTI (his first long-length film dazzles the audience and is perceived as a comet in the Toulon/Hyeres festival in the mid 70's), Eksopragmatiko, so many titles, at present, only the promise of ever so many marvels in the future.

So many Italien marvels, stolen on from the street, from dispair, from misfortune.





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