Monday, August 20, 2007

Z - The Movie

According to the comments of a former Blockbuster employee who loved the cinema, it was frustrating waiting on people who only wanted the latest release, and were completely uninterested in anything made before 1995.

I wonder if its because they don't think movies more than a decade old have any relevance. It's a shame, because many times they do -- sometimes uncomfortably so.

I recently watched "Z" by Greek director Constantin Costa-Gavras. Although not high on the Blockbuster check-out list, this isn't an obscure film -- it won two Oscars in 1969 as well as taking prizes at Cannes, BAFTA and the Golden Globes.

The story is based on actual events in Greece. Tensions run high as the military and the conservative government face criticism from the left about allowing the US to place nuclear weapons in Greece. The government's solution is tighter security and increased vigilance -- and more.

Yves Montand plays a JFK-like leftist deputy (that's an elected representative -- not law enforcement officer) who is the rallying point for those pushing for greater freedom in Greece.

The actual story involves the political murder of the deputy and the government's efforts to cover up the crime, which reaches to the highest levels. As the examining magistrate digs deeper, he's under increasing pressure to accept the official version of events and move on.

It's a great film that raises many questions to think about long after it's over. Expertly edited, it moves along at a rapid pace, and its realistic camera work recalls the faux-documentary style of "Law and Order," giving the film an immediacy that draws the viewer into the story.

And then there's the deputy's speech. The party's forced to hold a rally in a too-small hall by the police, forcing many of the attendees to cluster around outside listening to loudspeakers. Those outside will be set upon by right-wing gangs while the police run a blind eye, with the goal of starting a riot which the government can use as an excuse to crack down on the left.

Having a good idea what's about to happen, (and being attacked on the way into the hall) the deputy addresses the crowd.
They hit me. Why? Why do our ideas provoke such violence? Why don’t they like peace? Why don’t they attack other organizations? The answer is simple. The others are nationalists used by the government....

We lack hospitals and doctors, but half the budget goes for military expenditures. A cannon is fired and a teacher’s monthly salary goes up in smoke! That’s why they can’t bear us or our meetings and use hired thugs to jeer and attack us.

Around the world, too many soldiers are ready to fire on anything moving towards progress. We live in a weak and corrupt society where it’s every man for himself. Every imagination is suspect yet it’s needed to solve the world’s problems.

They want to prevent us from reaching the obvious political conclusions based on the simple truths but we will speak out. We serve the people and the people need the truth. The truth is the start of powerful, united action.
There's a lot in there that seems just as true today as it did 37 years ago.

And the ending? The murder of the deputy galvanizes the people. Faced with the prospects of an overwhelming defeat in the upcoming election, the government declares martial law and suspends elections until the "crises" is over.

Nope, nothing here for today's audiences....

- Ralph

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