Z

1969, Movie, M, 127 mins

Review

Z
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A chilling, manipulative rollercoaster ride. Originally subtitled "The Anatomy of a Political Assassination," this intense political thriller is based on the real-life 1963 killing of Gregorios Lambrakis, a Greek liberal whose extreme popularity and advocacy of peace shook the stability of the government in power. Starring is Yves Montand, who, although referred to only as "the Deputy," is clearly Lambrakis. After his liberal organization, the Friends of Peace, loses a large meeting hall at the last moment, the Deputy is forced to find another venue. He appeals and is given a permit to hold the meeting in a small, 200-seat auditorium, although it is expected to draw over 4,000. During the meeting, the Deputy's supporters are taunted by a violent right-wing faction, while the police "protection" stands by passively. Later, the police do little to protect the Deputy from a truck that speeds by, from which one of the passengers ferociously clubs the Deputy in the head, killing him. In order to give the appearance of an investigation, the general in charge appoints an Examining Magistrate (Jean-Louis Trintignant), who is believed to be a pawn of the government, but soon surprises all by probing deep into a government conspiracy and cover-up.

Rather than appealing only to a politically minded audience, Z found a great deal of enthusiastic support from almost everyone who saw it. At the Cannes Film Festival it received a unanimous vote for the Jury Prize, with Trintignant receiving Best Actor honors. The Academy Awards also responded, with Oscars for Best Foreign Film and Best Editing (it was nominated for Best Picture as well). Z succeeds where so many political pictures have failed because of its concentration on the thriller aspects of the story. Borrowing heavily from American gangster/prison/anti-Facist melodrama conventions, Costa-Gavras' film contains many breathtaking, pressure-filled scenes that help pummel home the sometimes confusing politics. Rather than worrying about which right-wing general did what, the audience becomes wrapped up in whether or not a character will survive a beating, or be run down by a speeding car. Detractors complained that the film commercialized and simplified the Lambrakis incident and politics in general. Costa-Gavras responded: "That's the way it is in Greece. Black and White. No nuances." The glorious Irene Papas plays Montand's wife--she's an actress whose eyes speak volumes even when she's standing stock-still. The score is by Mikis Theodorakis--who was under arrest in Greece at the time. Z was filmed in Algeria, in French. leave a comment

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