DVD Reissue: Z ***1/2

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on November 28, 2009)

https://i1.wp.com/4.bp.blogspot.com/-a1pfGXghYZQ/VZtgxWsoP5I/AAAAAAAALwc/CiwUsKcr9a8/s1600/tumblr_mwoxpo5hXs1soltn6o1_1280.jpg?w=474Z – Criterion Collection DVD

This 1969 film was a breakthrough for director Costa-Gavras, and a high-watermark for the “radical chic” cinema that flourished at the time. Yves Montand plays a leftist politician who is assassinated after giving a speech at a pro-Peace rally. What at first appears to be an open and shut case of a violent action by an isolated group of right wing extremists unfolds as a suspenseful conspiracy thriller.

The story (set in an unspecified Balkan nation, but based on the real-life assassination of a Greek political figure back in 1963) is told from the perspective of two characters-a photojournalist (a young Jacques Perrin, future director of Winged Migration) and an investigating magistrate (Jean-Louis Trintignant). The great Irene Papas is also on board as Montand’s wife.

The film is a bit of a stagey talk-fest for a political “thriller” but it is still essential viewing. It’s part Kafka, part Rashomon, but ultimately a cautionary tale about what happens when corrupt officialdom, unchecked police oppression and partisan-sanctioned extremism get into bed together. Criterion’s edition has a beautiful, restored print. Extras include a commentary track and interviews.

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