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February 17, 2010

Z (Classic Film Pick)

CostaGavrasZ In 1969 the Greek-French filmmaker Costa-Gavras adapted Vassilis Vassilikos's novel about the 1963 political assassination of Greek leftist political leader, Gregoris Lambrakis. Following in the footsteps of activist filmmakers including Francesco Rosi and Gillo Pontecorvo, Gavras opened this defiantly agitprop film with the caveat: "Any similarity to real persons and events is not coincidental, it is intentional." Yves Montand plays the doomed deputy, soon to be assassinated by a cabal of hired goons with the tacit consent of police officers who stand idly by. Enter Jean Louis Trintignant as the Examining Magistrate who, aided by pictures provided by a local photojournalist (Jacques Perrin), interviews the right-wing murderers and the military officials who sanctioned the crime. Deploying quick cutting, a delicate use of flashback sequences, and a verité style, Gavras  captured a hard line of rebellious defiance that was ultimately defeated by the more deadly methods of rightist colonists. Arriving at the end of a decade that witnessed the murders of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, "Z" hit cinemas as a shockingly cynical view of a corrupt manipulation of military and political power that citizens of the world now take for granted. There's a white-heat to the outrage that "Z" expresses about the fractured state of societal collapse. It's a film that bluntly and stylistically depicts the impotence of truth as a weapon against authoritarian injustice.


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