Friday, May 17, 2013

2013 Cannes Marathon: Z

(Winner of the Jury Prize & Best Actor Prize to Jean-Louis Trintignant at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival)

Based on the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos, Z is a loosely-based story on the assassination of Greek left-wing activist Gregoris Lambrakis as a murder is covered up by the government prompting a magistrate to finally uncover the truth. Directed by Costa-Gavras and screenplay by Costa-Gavras and Jorge Semprun, the film is a political thriller set during a tense period of civil unrest as well as exploring a world that is in absolute chaos. Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Yves Montand, Irene Papas, and Jacques Perrin. Z is a provocative yet intriguing film from Costa-Garvas.

The film is a look into the assassination of a left-wing activist (Yves Montand) who is assassinated during a troubling period in Greece as many around him question about the murder. A government magistrate (Jean-Louis Trintignant) leads the investigation where he uncovers a lot of unsettling things including secret government extremist groups and other things as witnesses to the incident are being targeted as well. It’s all part of a world in which a government is trying to protect themselves from scandal that would ruin the reputation of this country yet a magistrate begins to learn that not only is he working for the bad guys but that the people he’s working for are committing atrocities that forces him to try and do the right thing.

The screenplay has a very unique structure that is traditional but is more about the element of suspense that occurs. The first is about this left-wing activist who arrives to find a place to hold a meeting and on that night of the meeting, he is attacked by mysterious men and eventually given a fatal hit in the head with a club as his personnel try to help him. The second act is about the government covering up while a photojournalist (Jacques Perrin) is trying to conduct his own investigation as he meets up with the activist’s wife (Irene Papas) who ravaged with grief and confusion over what happened. The third act relates to the magistrate’s investigation as well as his own discoveries with the help of the photojournalist about this secret group of right-wing extremists and the people they’re targeting.

It’s not just the structure and the dialogue that makes the screenplay interesting but also the characters as the activist is a man who wants to ensure a world that can be peaceful as he is a major threat to this right-wing, military-driven government. The activist is also a flawed man who is going through his own personal issues relating to his wife as once she arrives following the assassination, she is upset by what happened but also display mixed feelings over what happened. The magistrate is a man who lurks in the shadow for most of the film’s first two acts as he finally comes to his own in the third act as he talks to a few witnesses and doctors where he eventually comes to the conclusion that what happened was a murder as he starts to look towards the people he’s working for.

Costa-Gavras’ direction is very engaging for the way he captures a world of civil unrest in one of the most crucial periods in Greek history. Though it was shot in France and parts of Algeria while the language is spoken in French. The direction still has this element that an incident like this could happen anywhere in Europe where a lot of social changes are happening. There is an element of cinema verite in the way the direction is played out for the protest scenes as well as the assassination scene.

There is also some very entrancing compositions and stylistic shots for some of the film’s drama and suspenseful moments where Costa-Gavras aims for something that adds an air of mystery. The film also features some very intriguing ideas about the world at large as well as an epilogue that is really more in tune with how hard it is to change the world. Overall, Costa-Garvas creates a very intense yet chilling film about government conspiracy and one man’s attempt to do things right in a troubling world.

Cinematographer Raoul Coutard does amazing work with the film‘s photography from the sunny exteriors of the locations to more stylish lights for the scenes in night in its interior and exterior settings to create some dark moods for the film. Editor Francoise Bonnot does brilliant work with the editing as it‘s very stylized with jump-cuts and some flashback montages as it is truly a highlight of the film. Production designer Jacques D’Ovidio does excellent work with the set pieces such as the film‘s hospital operating room as well as the scenes in the hotel and halls where some of the protestors meet.

Costume designer Piet Bolscher does nice work with the costumes as it is a mixture of casual clothing along with military uniforms to present the military men. Sound editor Michele Boehm does terrific work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the protests and meetings as well as some eerie moments in some of the film‘s intimate moments. The film’s music by Mikis Theodorakis is fantastic for its mixture of intense Greek folk music with its string instruments to some bits of rock music as it helps create a chilling mood for the film as it’s another highlight of the film.

The film’s cast is superb as it features some notable small performances from Georges Geret as a witness got attacked, Magali Noel as that witness’ right-wing sister, Marcel Bozzuffi and Renato Salvatori as two assassins, Francois Perier as the public prosecutor, Clotilde Janno as a personnel of the activist, Charles Denner as the activist’s lawyer Manuel, and Pierre Dux as the general whom the magistrate suspects. Jacques Perrin is excellent as a determined photojournalist seeking to show the truth in any way or form as he hopes to do things right. Irene Papas is wonderful as the activist’s wife Helene who is trying to come to terms with her loss as well as all of her feelings towards her husband. Yves Montand is great in a small yet memorable performance as the activist trying to create peace in a period of civil unrest while eager to do things right for everyone including his family. Finally, there’s Jean-Louis Trintignant in an incredible performance as the magistrate as a man who starts off as an observer and then becoming someone trying to do what is right as he is aware of the consequences that he might face.

Z is a phenomenal film from Costa-Gavras that features brilliant performances from Jean-Louis Tringtignant and Yves Montand. The film is a masterfully-crafted thriller that explores the world of government cover-ups and conspiracies as well as a look into one of the most chaotic periods in the history of the world. In the end, Z is a remarkable film from Costa-Gavras.

Costa-Gavras Films: (The Sleeping Car Murders) - (Shock Troops) - The Confession (1970 film) - (State of Siege) - (Special Section) - (Womanlight) - Missing (1982 film) - (Hanna K.) - (Family Business (1986 film)) - (Betrayed) - (Music Box) - (The Little Apocalypse) - (Mad City) - (Amen.) - (Le Couperet) - (Eden is West) - (Le Capital)

© thevoid99 2013


Alex Withrow said...

Great review. I really need to see this movie again. It's one of my all time favorite political thrillers. Tringtignant is phenomenal, isn't he?

thevoid99 said...

Thank you. I need to get the DVD for this film along with the one for Missing. I love Trintignant. I discovered him when I saw The Conformist some years ago. I need to revisit that film as I still have my DVD copy of that film.