Z at Film Forum


The left-wing leader assassinated in Costa-Gavras’s 1969 thriller célèbre dies not from a sharp-shooter’s bullet but from a whack to the head, and the difference plays up the essential street-thuggery of the uniformed right-wingers in power. By far the most electric sequence in the film, the drive-by killing happens in a public square, tensely (and, for the times, topically) ringed by protesters and police, after a speech in a nearby hall; the assailant’s truck speeds us away (DP Raoul Coutard’s idea?) and leaves behind a Hitchcockian parallel story to be told later. Recapitulating Vassili Vassilikos’s novel about the real-life murder of Greek MP Gregoris Lambrakis (lefty star Yves Montand), Z is given over to the cagey perseverance of the investigating judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant, who, in suits, somehow always looked like a runty hitman). After some Petulia-esque noodling over the Grieving Widow, the inquiry weathers incursions from a mosquito-like photographer and cheery fast-talking heavies trying to whomp witnesses. The film’s state of play is still less exciting than its famous ancestor (Battle of Algiers) and offspring (The French Connection), but the military junta that ensued in Greece gave the film (shot in Algeria) a sense of urgency approved by Cannes and Oscar alike.