Z (1969 film)  

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Z is a 1969 Algerian-French epic political thriller film directed by Costa-Gavras, with a screenplay by Gavras and Jorge Semprún, 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.

The film stars Jean-Louis Trintignant as the investigating magistrate (an analogue of Christos Sartzetakis who later served as president of Greece from 1985 to 1990). International stars Yves Montand and Irene Papas also appear, but despite their star billing have very little screen time. Jacques Perrin, who co-produced, plays a key role as a photojournalist. The film's title refers to a popular Greek protest slogan (Template:Lang-el, Template:IPA-el) meaning "he lives," in reference to Lambrakis.

The film had a total of 3,952,913 admissions in France and was the 4th highest grossing film of the year. It was also the 12th highest grossing film of 1969 in the U.S. Z is also the first film—and one of the few—to be nominated for both the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture.

Contents

Plot

The story begins with the closing moments of a rather dull government lecture and slide show on agricultural policy, after which the leader of the security police of a right-wing military-dominated government (Dux) takes over the podium for an impassioned speech describing the government's program to combat leftism, using the metaphors of "a mildew of the mind", an infiltration of "isms", or "sunspots". A the time (1969) was it obvious that these high ranked Police bosses were heavily inspired by the neighboring country Spain, and Franco's outspoken Fascism there.

The scene shifts to preparations for a rally of the opposition faction where the pacifist Deputy (Montand) is to give a speech advocating nuclear disarmament. It is obvious that there have been attempts to prevent the speech’s delivery by the government. The venue has been changed to a much smaller hall and logistical problems have appeared out of nowhere. The Deputy is hit in the head by supporter right-wing anticommunist bullies (some sponsored by the government) but carries on with his sharp speech. As the Deputy crosses the street from the hall after giving his speech, a delivery truck speeds past him and a man on the open truck bed strikes him down with a club. The injury eventually proves fatal, and by that time it is already clear to the viewer that the police have manipulated witnesses to force the conclusion that the victim was simply run over by a drunk driver.

However, they do not control the hospital, where the autopsy disproves their interpretation. The examining magistrate (Trintignant), with the assistance of a photojournalist (Perrin), now uncovers sufficient evidence to indict not only the two right-wing militants who committed the murder, but also four high-ranking military police officers. The action of the film concludes with one of the Deputy's associates rushing to see the Deputy's widow (Papas) to give her the surprising news of the officers' indictments. The widow looks distressed, appearing not to believe things will change for the better.

An epilogue provides a synopsis of the subsequent turns of events. Instead of the expected positive outcome, the prosecutor is mysteriously removed from the case, several key witnesses die under suspicious circumstances, the assassins receive (relatively) short sentences, the officers receive only administrative reprimands, the Deputy's close associates die or are deported, and the photojournalist is sent to prison for disclosing official documents. The heads of the government resign after public disapproval, but before elections are carried out, a Coup d'etat occurs and the military seize all the power. They ban modern art and popular art in its many features, such as popular music and avant-garde novelists, as well as modern mathematics, classic and modern philosophers, and the use of the term "Z" (Template:Lang-el, which was used by protesters against the former government), which referred to The Deputy and means: "He lives".

Cast

Soundtrack

The soundtrack, by Mikis Theodorakis, was also a record hit. The Greek junta had placed the composer under house arrest but he was able to give his approval to Costa-Gavras for the use of existing musical pieces.

The film features, but does not credit, Pierre Henry's contemporary hit song, "Psyché Rock". The soundtrack as released on LP and CD replaces Henry's song with a similar track written by Theodorakis named "Café Rock."

  1. Main Title (Antonis) from the "Mauthausen Trilogy" of Mikis Theodorakis
  2. The Smiling Youth
  3. The Chase-The Smiling Youth
  4. Murmur of the Heart
  5. Cafe Rock
  6. Arrival of Helen-The Smiling Youth
  7. Batucada
  8. The Smiling Youth (Bouzouki Version)
  9. The Smiling Youth
  10. Who’s Not Talking About Easter
  11. Finale-The Smiling Youth
  12. Murmur of the Heart
  13. In This Town

"The Happy Youth" and "Who’s Not Talking About Easter" were among the poems adapted from Brendan Behan's play The Hostage by Theodorakis in 1962. By referring to the Irish struggle against British rule rather than Greek realities, they offered a way to circumvent censorship in Greece and condemn Greece's post-war right-wing establishment. "The Smiling Youth" (το γελαστό παιδί) was also one of the nicknames of Lambrakis.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Z (1969 film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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