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When the preview of "Z" was shown at the Oscars, it received a standing
ovation. I didn't know why until I saw the movie. The Oscar forced it
to be shown in the United States. At the time, the US backed the
military government in Greece. The totalitarian government represented
a stand against communism. This movie depicts the true story of a
beloved olympic athlete who became a doctor and began speaking out
against his Greek government. For that, he was murdered. This is about
a brave investigator who begins to search for the origin of the orders
to have the doctor killed.
It leads to the downfall of a country. Mikis Theordorakis wrote the music from house arrest in Greece and it was smuggled out to be placed on the film. Yves Montand played the lead role and was blacklisted from getting a US Visa for his participation until some strings were pulled and he was allowed a 24 hour visa, to be extended each 24 hours in order to allow him to film "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever". At the end of filming,that night he made a surprise appearance on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. He told the story about "Z" and commented that he was in the care and custody of US Immigration and the FBI. The camera panned right and a dark suited man slid quickly behind the curtain. He apologized for his abruptness, but his visa expired at midnight and he had to get to the airport. When I saw these things, I was shocked my government would take a movie so seriously. When it showed up in an obscure movie theater in Houston, I had to go. I was the only person buying a ticket just after noon that day. Upon entering the theater, a dark suited man was sitting in the lobby. I walked into theater and then stuck my head back out to see what the only other individual in the theater was doing. He was stepping away from the ticket booth. I watched as he walked the short distance to my car, took out a notebook and wrote in it while looking at my license plate. This is how it happened. It was 1969. J. Edgar Hoover had stated publicly that no truly loyal American would pay money to see such a movie. It was unpatriotic. Newspaper articles that spring reported it.
Watch this movie and consider the importance "entertainment" can have on government, media, and yourself.
The film '' Z '' is based upon the same-titled book written by Vassilikos and referring to a real-life event: the assassination of one of the most honorable Greek politicians ( his real name was Grigoris Lambrakis ), who sacrificed his life in the name of peace and human dignity. Costas Gavras did his best to present the prevailing atmosphere and the political situation in Greece ( although Greece is at no point straightly mentioned, but implied ) during May of the year 1963, which is the year when the real events took place. Choosing an adventurous, thrilling or hilarious style according to the facts and scenes presenting at each part of the story, he made an '' all time interesting and provocative '' film. Great acting was also put in by everybody and particularly by Jean-Louis Trintignant, who was great as the Examining Magistrate. As long as the script is concerned, the plot builds up very satisfactorily and carefully, thus not leaving any holes. Great respect should also be paid to Mikis Theodorakis who wrote the original score for the movie, helping it gain the marvelous rythm it retained right until the very end of it. As a concluding remark I would like to mention that anybody who's interested in late Greek history ( from post World War II era to date ) should watch it carefully. The whole result is very rewarding.
First and foremost, it is a true story. It's the story of the
assassination of Grigoris Lambrakis, that eventually led to the
military junta. Every time I see it, it gives me the chills. Since Z
was released while the junta was still in power, it was banned in
Greece for several years. After the fall of the military junta, Z was
worshiped, although we saw it on TV much later in order to avoid
stirring passions. In terms of the plot, if you're not Greek, it's
quite possible you might be left with many unanswered questions, but,
in general, it is an accurate description of Greece during that era.
While Vassilikos' novel (written in 1966) has driven him to exile from 1967, Theodorakis was still in Greece under surveillance and managed to write his excellent score secretly.
Costa-Gavras gives us a top-class fast paced direction which hasn't aged even today, although I'm sure the Oscar was as much a political decision as a purely artistic one. What is truly spot-on is the casting. Both Montand and Trintignant excel, but even minor roles like Vago and Yago are portrayed in an extremely realistic way. My small objection would be Irene Papas staying near-silent throughout the movie. Although her talent allows her to pull it off with class, I really didn't understand why she was not supposed to talk.
Having seen this at the Art Theatre in Akron, Ohio, upon its first American release, this film was a forcefully stunning, face slapping wake up call to keep a vigilant eye on most politicians because they are controlled only by the constraints we present and confine them with. Grown men left the theater with tears pouring down their cheeks not only because of the great performances and story, but because these were the Nixon years, and the film made us realize we were only a pen stroke away from the horror of losing freedom and democracy here in the United States. No country is safe, and it could be argued in areas of Florida today that, even though we preserved our nation and eliminated Nixon, it was a Pyrhic victory, a temporary victory, and our democracy and how it is supposed to ethically work was left disheveled and browbeaten in the end, anyway. One thing is for certain; the rats are in the cupboard now. And this film hits all the right buttons; great music, acting, an avant garde documentary style of filming that was sensational in its time and still is good today, but so many people have copied it, it seems to lack originality since we are so accepting now of something that was novel at the time...but this is the real thing that started it all. A film that should be in everyone's home and shown to every civic class in America.
One of the best political/muck-wracking films ever made, it set the stage for the great US political films of the 70's. Costa-Garvas at his finest, it's filled with detailed performances and camera work, a memorable score, and breathtaking content. If only they made films like this now, I'd be a happy camper. By the way, it was the first foreign film (French) to be nominated for Best Picture. That should tell you something.......
I have to start by getting slightly off topic. I've wanted to see this film
for thirty years. Not because I've read or heard anything about it, but
entirely because of the trailer I saw when it was first released, back when
I was 14. Although I now remember more the feelings the trailer inspired
than the trailer itself, it still reminds me how awful trailers almost
always are. The trailer for "Z" was some the most intense, exciting few
seconds of film I had ever seen, and I wanted to see more. A brilliant
ultra-short film production. And it did it without revealing and spoiling
the movie's story. So when I finally did see "Z" I was able to enjoy
something fresh and new.
It wasn't what I expected, but turned out to be one of the best political thrillers I've ever seen. You don't really have to know Greek history to see it, in part because the movie never explicitly mentions Greece. Better to do it the other way around, by getting swept up in the gritty often tawdry intrigues you will be learning Greek history without realizing it. Or if you are into conspiracies and cover-ups in general you'll learn how they really aren't the brilliantly crafted master-plans of distant omnipotent figures that most movies show, but are usually the creation of dull mediocrities, full of flaws, stupidities, and ham-fisted improvisations. That they often succeed is more because of brute force than any innate cleverness. This is a powerful and effective movie, which is almost certainly due to its being based closely on reality and the passions that inspired it's making, and from it not being a recycled and denatured Hollywood product. I highly recommend it.
I would like to give a little history of Greece from WWII to the time
when "Z" happens. The Greek people had successfully expelled the Nazis
when English forces invaded the country and put the Nazi collaborators
in power. The US army took over the effort in 1947, rounding up
thousands of people and putting them in reeducation camps. By 1949, the
"civil war" was over, with Greece under military rule.
Then, the story portrayed in "Z". Dr. Gregorios Lambrakis was beginning to speak for the people, when the junta gunned him down. In "Z", we get to see the investigation into the murder, exposing how the generals orchestrated it. They never say that the movie happens in Greece (although it clearly does), and more than simply a look at the CIA-installed regime that was ruling Greece from 1967 to 1974, it's a reminder of all totalitarian governments in the world. "Z" will very likely chill you.
This is not a review.All that is need to be written about this
masterpiece of a film has already been written.
However there are 1-2 things worth mentioning that might interest some folks that are not from Greece: Jean Louis Trintignant's character "The Examining Magistrate" was in reality Christos Sargetakis who became the president of Greece for 5 years(1985-1990).
The film ends with the rise of the military dictatorship and it is suggested that the upposition didn't really capitalise on Lambrakis' assassination.That's not what happened in reality.
In reality the Lambrakis assassination caused the resignation of prime minister Karamanlis(the right wing P.M of Greece at that time) and the triumph of the upposition(something like the democrats in the U.S,the G.Papandreou party,NOT Lambrakis' left wing party) in the elections of 1963 with a whooping 54% which becomes even bigger when taking into account the situation in Greece at that time,with right-wing police controlling everything and manipulating the citizens.
Of course the film was made after the democratic-elected government had fallen and junta had taken over.(in fact the democratic government had fallen 2 years*in 1965* before the junta took over and we had a false semi-democratic government that consisted right wing members of parliament and defected members of the G.Papandreou party)
So in reality the Lambrakis assassination DID make a difference in Greece,if only for 2 years(1963-1965) while on the film nothing changed.I guess with the ultimate rise of the junta that was reigning at the time the film was made it was proper to make the film bleaker than the true events.
This is a great Costa-Gavras' masterpiece about a political confusion
caused by a murder of a politic. Costa-Gravas again shows his talent in
this interesting film that is full of conspiracy, tension and
confusion. The plot is complex but you can follow it and, once you do
it, you enjoy the film a lot. There's this dark atmosphere in the whole
length of the movie that gives it a nice and enchanting look. I think
the best way to watch "Z" is in total silence, with your eyes glued to
the screen and your mind turned towards the frames and all the great
actions and dialogues.
My rate 8 out of 10
In this film, we find ourselves in a big city in a nameless country,
whose political system is royal democracy. However in effect it is
under a military regime. At that time, a pacifist
politician-doctor-athlete arrives to deliver a speech about
disarmament. This does not please the military, who devise a plot to do
away with him. The politician is killed and his murder is covered up as
an accident. The rest of the film is about the efforts of the Examining
Magistrate and a newspaper photographer to uncover the truth.
For those who are up to date with Greek history, the country is Greece, the city is Thessaloniki and the politician is Grigoris Lambrakis. But that is of small importance, since this is a story which could have (and possibly has) happened anywhere at any time in history.
About the film: the cinematography is excellent, even by today's standards. The acting and direction are both top class. But what impressed me the most was the film's editing. After the slow first 15-20 minutes or so, the film picks up a pace which is tight and lightning fast. The dialogue is concise and to the point - the film's last lines, spoken by the Narrator and found in the quotes section of IMDb, never fail to bring tears to my eyes. Finally, the film offers what I consider to be the best film score of all time (but I may be a bit biased on this, since the score is by Mikis Theodorakis, my personal favourite).
This kind of documentary-style film making has been done plenty of times since, especially in political thrillers. But this is what sparked everything up. Watch this film. You'll be rewarded.
My rating: 10/10
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