Sunday, July 17, 2011

Film: Z (1969) [Costa-Gavras, Dir.]

My Matinee darlings, we are switching gears dramatically this week and going political--not only is the brilliant Z a story of political protest but the making of the film is an exercise against fascism. Filmed in the late 1960s--era of global revolutions--Z is a Greek-French collaboration and although the location is a fictionalized nowhere space, the understanding is a critique of the right wing government in Greece.

Costa-Gavras's film begins the bracing music that continues throughout--a sexy contrast to a film that contains a substantial amount of drama in bureaucratic offices and between suits--the feds are getting a lowdown on political activism the disease of diverse political thought, the "isms" (socialism, communism, existentialism...basically matinee lovers, anything intellectual--the isms are mutually exclusive and this government is old school militaristic fascism).

"Ideological mildew spreading from the workers and students to the peasants..."

Meanwhile, the leftie pacifists are prepping to host an anti-nuclear, disarmament good time global peace rally, featuring a politically vocal doctor "Z" (suave Yves Montand) who already has death threats piling in before he even comes to town...the lefties are also dealing with permit problems and needing a space to host their shindig.

The lefties approach the government for protection for their honored guest but are told, "Vague. No basis for action." So Yves lands in town and makes his dapper political entree to adoring student pacifists and secret enemies who have been tailing the lefties for days..."Permit or not," Yves says, "People will be here."

Here is where we also begin the flashbacks of Yves and his beautiful wife, Helene played by Irene Papas and are confronted with vignettes of their complex relationship.

The pivotal action of Z takes place in this first half, and I don't want kill it for you matinee viewers, but know we are talking violent politics. Hippie students passing out leaflets are met by hired thugs before Yves/Z's big night. The big political rally is juxtaposed with the visiting Bolshoi ballet taking place on the other side of town in un petit tableau of activism/pacifism v. bourgeoisie/conformist culture. And the rally screams of late 60s cold war politics, "We are against the bomb, Russian or American!" And here is where things become dangerous and muddled...

Post the rally, we head into the investigation of the night and uncovering of the deep machinations at work.

Central are the charming photojournalist, played by Jacques Perrin (with a super 60s 'stache crowning his debonair smile)

And hottie hot Jean-Louis Trintignant, "le juge d'instruction"---our chief investigating magistrate. Who looks too young and delicious for the job at hand, but trust him...

The investigation peels back layers of violence, class and political affiliation, and even hypocrisy between "good politics" and "bad love."

Bracing and breath-taking, Z is a quintessential film of political revolution, not only in its story but in the actual production. A most cerebral matinee, with late 60s fashion and intellectual idealism, Z is a protest of violence and conformity. I dare you not to be inspired...

Added bonus, the film score is glorious, by legendary Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis

Bon mot: Z means "He is alive" in ancient Greek.



1 comment:

  1. Wow, Z is cray cray. Sunday Matinee hits the bullseye again! BroCo needs one of those three-wheelers, preferably in baby blue.