Z (1969)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Z</strong> (1969)

(On Cable TV, February 2018) Most movies are almost entirely separate from reality, but Z is a shining exception. Based on real and infuriating events, Z also led to real changes in Greece years after its release. The line between fiction and reality is further blurred by an aggressive cinema-vérité style, taking us in muggy streets as protests between left and right-wing groups lead to aggression and, eventually, the death of an anti-war politician. The investigation in the events ends up triggering a national crisis, and the film ends on a sombre note as investigators are killed or marginalized after a military coup. The ending is both grim and darkly amusing as the film lists the items forbidden under the new regime (including the letter Z, which symbolized resistance). While real-life events had a happier ending (the junta was overthrown a few years after the movie, and its investigator protagonist became president of the country a decade and a half later), Z the movie itself is oppressive and gripping, still powerful in the way it presents a thoroughly deglamorized portrait of street violence for political goals. Director Costa-Gavras has since become an exemplar of a director-provocateur, and Z is as successful as politically engaged features can be. While long, the film steadily improves as it advances, and as its dark humour becomes even darker. It’s still very much relevant, as we hope that it doesn’t become even more relevant in today’s semi-insane American politics.

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