Astronauts (1962) Sokrates Kapsaskis

Astronauts (1962)
aka Astronaftes 
Genre: Comedy | Sci-Fi
Country: Greece | Director: Sokrates Kapsaskis
Language: Greek | Subtitles: English (Optional, embedded in Mkv file)
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 | Length: 75mn
Tvrip H264 Mkv - 640x480 - 25fps - 601mb

Kapsaskis’ Astronauts is a low-budget satirical take on Cold-War “Space Race” filmed in 1961, the year of the first human spaceflight. It's a film funny and silly, imaginative and clichéd in equal measure. The main attraction here is Thanassis Vengos, immensely popular comedian of the golden age of Greek film industry, who gives an athletic performance as usual. The barrages of almost nonsensical, surreal lines were surely one of the trademarks of his art. Veteran thespian, Ksenides is hardly passable in the role of the semi-crazed scientist but Kostas Voutsas, another “top bill” comedian in the sixties, here in his starring debut, becomes unbearably convincing as the idiotic Polykarpos.

Two fused comical ideas lie in the dramatic crux of this film: the first, quite trivial, is that of the alliance between the mad scientist and the simple-minded but obsessed with science Thanassis to achieve the unachievable goal of conquering outer space without any state and military backing. The second, more original, is that of an “ill-fated” Greece in a desperate effort to catch up with the more advanced protagonists of space exploration. In a what-I-consider bitterly funny turn, the Greek pioneers of spaceflight claim that their project “will create many jobs” for tormented Greek people.
Of course, in Astronaftes the more subtle satire is frequently lost under much less refined gags meant for the somewhat crude mass audience of filmgoers of the era, the new urban working class being formed by sweeping internal immigration from the 1950s on. Sexually starved male audience is also allowed some “skin”. Doctor’s niece turns up in a quite revealing nightie although we soon learn she is a churchgoing humble girl. Later a sort of “counter-espionage” operation merges with a surrounding manoeuvre of “peeping” to the detriment of some unsuspected women changing clothes on the beach.

Settings and art direction in general despite being equally paltry came out much better in depicting that fantasy of poor man’s spaceflight station, which is a little bit of surgery, a little bit of warehouse and a little bit of hideout.

Comedy often is based on wordplay (though we find a good deal of visual gags in Astronaftes) and this wordplay is often hard to translate from one language to another. That’s true for Astronaftes as well. The doctor speaks in “katharevousa” (archaic version of Greek, official for the most part of 20th century but which no normal person ever spoke in real life) and Thanassis in a coarse “demotic” (people’s language). Though in practice it’s not so fun as it sounds, this differentiation can not be easily conveyed in translation.
 Astronauts (1962)

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