When Omar Sharif frantically chased Jean Paul Belmondo in Athens

It is something we often hear: “Our country will become a cinematic destination. We will attract large productions that will bring direct profits to the national economy and indirect benefits to tourism. "The recognition of Greece will skyrocket to the stars, and the Hollywood stars will become the best ambassadors of our country". In fact, from time to time, the wishes come true, and a remarkable film is made, which sometimes manages to become an international success. Such a beautiful moment of the Greek cinematic dream was recorded exactly 50 years ago, in 1971, with the French adventure The Burglars ("Le Casse" in French, or "The Burglars" in English).

Starring two distinguished Zen premiums of the time, Jean Paul Belmondo and Omar Sharif.


The first was the international burglar who stole the emeralds of a Greek millionaire, and the second the policeman who swore to find and keep them! A typical burglary adventure, based on the novel by David Godis "The Burglars" directed by Henri Verneig and music - hold on - by Ennio Morricone. Certainly, a big production with an international cast (not a single Greek actor played) and with a scenario as convincing as the coexistence of a French burglar with an Egyptian policeman in Athens, that is, not at all.


However, a guaranteed occasion for impressive scenes where illegal money circulates, plenty of wood falls, love ignites, and of course the board of Athens unfolds. Especially the last one. The film is now virtually forgotten, but not the ten-minute car chase, which went down in history as one of the stormiest in cinema. A red Fiat 124 and behind it a black Opel Rekord. The start takes place at the PPA passenger station. Belmondo notices Sharif behind him and presses the accelerator. It passes in front of the emblematic buildings of Piraeus, goes up the uneven passage next to the factory of Keranis, heads to the coastal avenue. It rushes to the stairs of the underground passage of the ISAP station in Neo Faliro and after a while it emerges back to the surface, from the ramp.


All this time, terrified pedestrians and drivers are stepping aside last minute. Film license, the drivers are at an altitude: is it Turkovounia? In a little while they descend and like siphons the candles of the believers are extinguished in an imaginative religious procession with dozens of women in black, around Agia Marina in Thiseio. With another cinematic leap, they descend another impressive staircase and find themselves again in Castella. A second choreography of the crowd takes place at the Veaki Theater with hundreds of spectators leaving a performance of traditional dances (at noon!) To watch the fantastic chase. The hunt stops with an unexpected de-escalation to a dead end. After ten minutes of tension, even the spectator is relieved that the match against the asphalt ends. This is a real pursuit of an anthology, during which one can see Athens filmed with the excellent media that had at that time an international production. Also, throughout the film one can admire as postcards landmarks of architectural modernism in their original, original state. The film has several other fun moments, such as the last scene in which Belmondo enters with Sharif through a door in a silo in the port of Corfu and leaves (without Sharif) through another door, in the port of Piraeus.


Another element that is not entirely realistic, is the way the protagonists sip glasses of pure whiskey. Whiskey is a friend, but vermouth is a favorite when we talk about cosmopolitan persecutions in a metropolis of the eastern Mediterranean, such as the complex of Athens and Piraeus. We are sure that both - and with Italian roots on his father's side - Jean Paul, and the Alexandria-born Omar, would rejoice drinking an Athenian Spritz. In Kastela or Thiseio, in the same places from where their dizzying circus passed in the film Pulling the handbrake, gazing at the Saronic or the Acropolis, and bringing to the lips an icy agreement of 70ml aromatic vermouth Otto's, 70ml sweet 35ml sparkling prosecco.

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