Z on TCM

I review the Criterion release of Costa-Gavras’ Z for the Turner Classic Movies website.

Yves Montand in Z
Yves Montand in Z

Z, the defiant 1969 political thriller as provocative expose by Costa-Gavras, begins with a statement that frames the film in no uncertain terms: “Any similarity to real persons and events is not coincidental. It is intentional.” In place of a disclaimer, he offers a proclamation: Though he never names the country in which it takes place, the rigorous fidelity to the historical record is obviously Greece, the homeland of Costa-Gavras, where a right-wing military junta staged a coup in 1967 and put the country under repressive authoritarian rule. This is the filmmaker’s angry denunciation of the fascist tactics to harass the liberal opposition, attack the leaders and ultimately overthrow the democratic government that had tacitly supported the military’s tactics all along.

Z is based loosely but unmistakably on the real life murder of Greek liberal politician Grigoris Lambrakis, an Olympic athlete, doctor, peace activist and Member of Parliament who became the magnetic leader of the rising progressive movement, and the documentary novel by Vassili Vassilikos of the same name. Z is no documentary but Costa-Gavras and his writer partner, Jorge Semprún, conducted their own research of what was essentially a state-sanctioned assassination and added their findings to their screenplay. It’s agit-prop, to be sure, but it’s thrilling, compelling, run through with vivid supporting characters and narrative twists and turns that have the dramatic punch of fiction even (perhaps especially) when based on real events.

Read the complete feature on TCM here.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website (www.streamondemandathome.com). I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org).. I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, GreenCine.com, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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