Monday, August 01, 2011


Z (pronounced Zi) is a 1969 French language political thriller directed by Costa Gavras, with a screenplay by Gavras and Jorge SemprĂșn, based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Vassilis Vassilikos. The film presents a thinly fictionalized account of the events surrounding the assassination of democratic Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963. With its satirical view of Greek politics, its dark sense of humor, and its downbeat ending, the film captures the outrage about the military dictatorship that ruled Greece at the time of its making.

Z stars Jean-Louis Trintignant as the investigating magistrate (an analogue of Christos Sartzetakis, who 22 years later was appointed President of Greece by democratically-elected parliamentarians). International stars Yves Montand and Irene Papas also appear, but despite their star billing have very little screen time compared to the other principals. Jacques Perrin, who co-produced, plays a key role. (From Wikipedia.)

Writes Roger Ebert:

There are some things that refuse to be covered over. It would be more convenient, yes, and easier for everyone if the official version were believed. But then the facts begin to trip over one another, and contradictions emerge, and an "accident" is revealed as a crime.

The film "Z" is about one of these things: about the assassination, six years ago, of a leader of the political opposition in Greece. It is also about all the rest of them. For Americans, it is about the My Lai massacre, the killing of Fred Hampton, the Bay of Pigs. It is no more about Greece than "The Battle of Algiers" was about Algeria. It is a film of our time. It is about how even moral victories are corrupted. It will make you weep and will make you angry. It will tear your guts out.

It is told simply, and it is based on fact. On May 22, 1963, Gregorios Lambrakis was fatally injured in a "traffic accident." He was a deputy of the opposition party in Greece. The accident theory smelled, and the government appointed an investigator to look into the affair.

His tacit duty was to reaffirm the official version of the death, but his investigation convinced him that Lambrakis had, indeed, been assassinated by a clandestine right-wing organization. High-ranking army and police officials were implicated. The plot was unmasked in court and sentences were handed down -- stiff sentences to the little guys (dupes, really) who had carried out the murder, and acquittal for the influential officials who had ordered it.

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