by Maria Spiliopoulou, Valentini Anagnostopoulou
ATHENS, June 19 (Xinhua) -- The open-air cinema in the yard of the Greek capital's Technopolis cultural center was filled to capacity -- with social distancing -- for the screening of Chinese director Wong Kar Wai's movie "In the Mood of Love."
Released 21 years ago, the film enthralled the audience. This came as no surprise to Loukas Katsikas, the artistic director of the 11th Athens Open Air Film Festival, who had already seen the movie during the Cannes Film Festival two decades ago.
Katsikas is still moved by it and he organized this special screening on Tuesday night this week to celebrate the masterpiece, he told Xinhua.
The poster of this year's festival in Athens, which opened on Monday and runs until late August, was inspired by Wong's movie.
The Athens Open Air Film Festival, organized by the Athens International Film Festival in collaboration with the City of Athens' Cultural, Sport and Youth Organization, has again transformed the Greek capital into one big cinema.
Film buffs can enjoy the unique experience of watching dozens of quality movies against the backdrop of emblematic monuments, squares, parks, pedestrian paths and beaches -- all free of charge.
The size of the audience has had to be reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic for safety reasons from 1,000 to an average 250 people at each screening, but the joy of watching a film under the stars with other people is still there, Katsikas said.
"This year's festival program, as in previous years, is for the umpteenth time an effort on our part to promote a kind of cultural tourism," he explained. One goal of the festival is to highlight the Greek capital's popular spots and overlooked corners.
"The other aspect is our love for the movies, the old, classic movies that rarely get screened. So, we do our 'excavations' all year round and find movies we want to see on the big screen again," he said.
Katsikas and his team were planning to host the celebratory event for Wong's film last summer as part of a series of similar events held across the world for the 20th anniversary of its release but failed to do so due to COVID-19.
"We loved this movie very much. I had the pleasure to attend its premiere in Cannes in 2000. I will never forget the huge screen that was illuminated and the opening shot had letters in white against a red background. I think I have never seen a nicer red color," he told Xinhua shortly before Tuesday's screening.
"In my opinion it is Wong Kar Wai's masterpiece. He is one of the most important directors in modern film history. He gives tremendous emphasis to the image, to good taste, to elegance, to aesthetic pleasure. He pursues absolute beauty that we more or less have lost in our lives and in the arts," Katsikas said.
"His film is a love story without necessarily a happy ending, but the kind of love story that leaves indelible marks on its heroes and the viewers alike. So, for many of those who will watch the movie again tonight the memory of that first screening in Cannes in 2000 still resonates.
"This is reason enough to celebrate this film for its 20-year anniversary, but also to screen it every year in cinemas, in homes and wherever else possible," he said.
"I have known the film for a long time," commented Thalia, a member of the audience in Athens. "I went to see it many, many years ago, when it was released. However, I never saw the ending, because it was so moving that I had to compose myself, so now I came here after so many years to make up for this," she told Xinhua.
Urania had read about the film on social media and brought her friend along. "I found it very interesting, and I would like to see it and that's why we came for this screening," she said.
Antonis escorted his girlfriend, Katerina. This was the first film they watched on the big screen after several months in lockdown, stuck at home with cinemas closed. "We have seen many (films) at home, but it is not the same. We are very happy," he told Xinhua.