Z is a punchy political pic [from the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos] that mixes action, violence, and conspiracy on a robust, lavish scale. Originally subtitled 'the anatomy of a political assassination,' it is based on the murder of a noted progressive Greek political figure some years earlier but also makes references to [the right-wing military junta governing Greece at the time of the pic's release]. All this is masked in setting it in a Southern-looking country that is never named. [Pic was shot in Algeria.]

Z is a punchy political pic [from the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos] that mixes action, violence, and conspiracy on a robust, lavish scale. Originally subtitled ‘the anatomy of a political assassination,’ it is based on the murder of a noted progressive Greek political figure some years earlier but also makes references to [the right-wing military junta governing Greece at the time of the pic's release]. All this is masked in setting it in a Southern-looking country that is never named. [Pic was shot in Algeria.]

Characters are firmly and quickly blocked out as types. There is an idealistic professor called ‘Z’ fighting against A-bombs (Yves Montand), his wife who fears for his safety (Irene Papas), a young judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) put on the case on the theory he will not upset things after the professor is killed, and a battery of others.

An ambitious newsman, fired by sensationalism rather than any nobility, finds a witness who can identify the killer and the young judge on the case turns out to be surprisingly strong and obdurate.

Director Costa-Gavras seems influenced by dynamically paced Yank pix of this sort but manages not to exploit violence and political innuendo for its own sake. Players are all convincing in this political maelstrom, and Montand, with a small role, shows strength, dedication and dignity.

1969: Best Foreign Language Film

Z

France - Algeria

Production

Reganne/ONCIC. Director Constantin Costa-Gavras; Producer Jacques Perrin, Ahmed Rachedi (exec.); Screenplay Jorge Semprun, Constantin Costa-Gavras; Camera Raoul Coutard; Editor Francoise Bonnot; Music Mikis Theodorakis; Art Director Jacques D'Ovidio

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1969. Running time: 126 MIN.

With

Yves Montand Irene Papas Jean-Louis Trintignant Jacques Perrin Francois Perrier Charles Denner
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