Mina (Helle Lambeti) is a charming salesgirl. She buys a lottery ticket, but she finds out soon that it has been stolen from her. Pavlos (George Pappas), a married lawyer, enamored with her, helps her to track down the ticket. After a while they discover it at a penniless musician’s hands (Dimitris Horn), who had bought it from a street kid. When Alexis, the musician, wins the lottery, Mina claims the money with the help of the lawyer. Soon, Mina and Alexis fall in love.
A short introduction
Great debut film by Mihalis Kakogiannis (he used to write his own name “Michael Cacoyannis” – he even released this film in UK under the name “Michael Yannis”! – imdb and most online sources have adopted the modern standard convention of transliteration of Greek into Latin characters, but the official “Michael Cacoyannis Foundation” still uses that old name).
The story of the disputed lottery ticket in “Windfall in Athens” seemed hardly original even in 1954. Lottery tickets play a major role in the scripts of Rene Clair’s Le Million, Duvivier’s La Belle Equipe and Becker’s Antoine et Antoinette, to name a few precedent examples. However the cinematic feel of whole movie was truly original by the standards of Greek cinema up to early 50s. That’s why all Greek critics hailed this film as breath of fresh air into Greek movies suffering then from theatricality and a general lack of imagination. The right-wing daily Kathimerini played on the literal title of the film in Greek (Sunday Awakening). Her editor Eleni Vlachou characterized it as an “awakening for Greek cinema”, “it’s not just a ‘noble effort’, ‘a step of progress’, it’s a (real) film.” The left-wing ‘Avgi’ wrote: “There’s a Greek director who knows his job”. An extremely rare occasion of agreement between the right and the left back then. The film was also received warmly at Cannes Festival and by British critics. Thus “Windfall in Athens” proved to be Kakogiannis’ ticket for establishing himself both in the interior and abroad. The secret of its success was the combination of Cairo’s studio system (always an option for Greek producers of that time) with extended shooting on location in streets and neighbourhoods of Athens, of great performances with good-balanced pace, of French lightness with American (Hollywood) narrative techniques. Unlike his later dramas or tragedies there’s no room here, in this comedy of misapprehensions, for articulating anything substantial and profound about human nature and relations. Still it remained his best effort in this genre if we count “Zorbas”, not strictly belonging to any genre, out. It also remained a permanent “hit” with TV audiences in Greece.