Saturday, January 31, 2009

Z



I saw Costa-Gavras' Z for the second time in Greece in 1976 in the local cinema in the Cretan village of Sitia, where my late mother had relations, in the original French with Greek sub-titles, and as I speak French "comme une vache espagnole" and good Greek, I was ok.

Z is based on the true story of the assassination of the socialist Greek politician Gregoris Lambrakis in the early 60's by a conspiracy between the army and right-wing elements. A military junta ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974, and collapsed after a student uprising in Athens was brutally crushed by the army and the Makarios coup in Cyprus failed. The climax in Z occurs when Jean-Louis Trintignant, as the Magistrate investigating the assassination, personally issues warrants for the indictment of a cohort of generals, who are each shown entering his office and then leaving totally flummoxed and each trying to leave by the wrong door, all to the stirring music of Greek patriot and composer Mikes Theodorakis, who had been imprisoned and tortured by the generals, and was in exile in France when Z was made.

The reaction in the cinema to this scene was spontaneous on-your-feet cheering with a wave emotion so electric it sent shivers down my spine. This was truly cinema for the people!