Cinemalphabet: Z is for – wait for it – Z (1969)
In his review, which highly praised both the tenacity and artistry of Z, Roger Ebert stated the following:
- “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.”
I’d like say my childhood on the isle of Crete shaped my understanding of the events – mockingly suggested to be “fictional” – depicted the film, but I was ten when I lived there and nobody ever mentioned the events the film portrays, their relationship to real life events or even the brilliance that is director Costa-Gravas, who also co-wrote the film. What I can say is that I have both Bruce Willis and La Mommie to thank for leading me to this film. See, in the mid-90 Willis starred in a ill-conceived remake of The Jackal, which I mentioned to La Mommie and she mentioned this film. So I sought it out, couldn’t find it, gave up and finally stumbled upon it one night in graduate school.
I was completely floored by the frenzied storytelling on display in this French language film. A modern film that tends to remind me of Z – for better or worse – is Munich, which borrows color palettes, camera angles and I suppose even the shaggy hairstyles, though that has more to do with the era than anything else. However, Z is a darkly comic, scathing and lightly fictional retelling of the events surrounding the assassination of Greek political figure Grigoris Lambrakis in the early 60s.
“Any resemblance to real events, to persons living or dead, is not accidental. It is DELIBERATE.”
Z is not a knee slapper the way many American political satires tend to be, because the film does not seek to lampoon every one of its characters, just the characters the filmmaker believes to be chuckleheads. It also never devalues the tragic events at the heart of the film; another trademark of American political satires. I am reluctant to say too much more about the Z because I believe it just has to be viewed without a lot of commentary. If you like smart, thoughtful, cheeky political thrillers possessing sharp satirical analysis, this is a cannot miss film. And as of this blog post it’s available for instant viewing on Netflix!
And this concludes another round of Cinemalphabet! Don’t fret. It’ll be back in February!