Monday, April 20, 2020

Costa-Gavras' Z

Seeing Costa-Gavras’ Z (1969) over 50 years after its release, one is impressed by how unutterably au courant the portrayal remains. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. The political situation of the movie in which, under the guise of free speech, a group of violent right-wing protestors are given license to unleash their murderous rage is uncannily close to what happened at Charlottesville.The lumpenproletariat proxies in Z are frightingly close to Trump's base. The undercurrent of government authorities giving tacit acceptance to outrageous acts further echoes the equanimity with which Trump treated proto-fascist and even Nazi demonstrators, chanting anti-semitic slogans. But while the movie is remarkably relevant it also represents the ancien regime in its style and characterizations. It is a universe of good and evil, with larger than life heart throbs like Yves Montand and Jean-Louis Trintignant representing respectively the ill-fated liberal leader and crusading prosecutor. Quick cuts and flashbacks account for the thriller-like movement of the action and didacticism—both of which diminish the believability that might have been conveyed in say the cinema verité type approach employed by Pontecorvo in The Battle of Algiers (1966). Though the machinations of the right wing junta which ruled Greece at the time, informed the story, the movie itself exudes a Hollywood feel. Z turns out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a stylistically conservative polished piece of commercial cinema in which a progressive message is contained.

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