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Screening the Golden Ages of the Classical Tradition$
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Meredith Safran

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474440844

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474440844.001.0001

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Confronting the Ancient Greek Golden Age in Jules Dassin’s Phaedra (1962)

Confronting the Ancient Greek Golden Age in Jules Dassin’s Phaedra (1962)

(p.119) 6 Confronting the Ancient Greek Golden Age in Jules Dassin’s Phaedra (1962)
Screening the Golden Ages of the Classical Tradition

Emma Scioli

Edinburgh University Press

In the second of three chapters examining Athens’ golden-age legacy, Scioli traces how Jules Dassin repeatedly draws attention to the origins of his 1962 melodrama Phaedra in Greek myth and tragedy through visual imagery, as a complement to his 1960 comedy Never on Sunday. Phaedra’s use of ancient Athenian art, and its suggestive modernization of elements from the ancient Athenian tragedyHippolytusand Racine’s 1677 adaptation Phèdre, force a confrontation with a particular modern formulation of the ancient Greek past. Dassin draws upon the golden age to characterize the world of ancient Greece that irrupts into the early 1960s setting of the film both visually and thematically. Rather than fostering nostalgia for a golden age that might prompt a desire for its return, Phaedra presents it as an intrusive presence from which its characters feel alienated, only to demonstrate that they are inextricably bound, in their modern dress, to repeat what the tragic past has prescribed for them. Such self-conscious appropriation of Athens’ literary-dramatic and artistic-material remains informs the tragic belatedness of Phaedra and reflects upon the American expatriate director’s sense of foreignness in the homeland of his lover and artistic muse, Greek actress and activist Melina Mercouri.

Keywords:   Phaedra, Never on Sunday, Hippolytus, Jules Dassin, Melina Mercouri, belatedness, foreignness, golden age of Athens, Athenian tragedy, Racine’s Phèdre

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