And yet Costa-Gravas had the presence of mind to turn the tepid story of thinly-veiled police corruption in 1963 Greece into Z, and somehow the world bought into it.
Nominated for five Oscars, Z would eventually win Best Foreign Film and Best Film Editing, which will forever baffle me, as Z is one of the least competently edited films I've ever seen. That said, 1969 is an awful year on the whole for movies -- only Midnight Cowboy and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are standouts, along with the un-Oscared Medium Cool (similar to and far better than Z), which also came out that year. Hell, Hello Dolly! got a nomination for Best Picture. Go figure.
The story, based on actual events, has Montand's left-wing Greek politico (though the film is in French and stars mostly French actors) assassinated by the aforementioned means, and despite what must be hundreds of eyewitnesses, the cops can't make a case. Jean-Louis Trintignant's judge investigates the case with barely enough effort to keep his eyes open (both the actor and the character), and thus the audience feels his sleepiness as well. In fact, it isn't until a nosy journalist pokes in that the truth comes out. And a horde of absolutely idiotic conspirators don't help the cover-up, either. Example (paraphrased) -- Crook: "Today's paper has an incriminating picture of me so I came to the hospital to yell at the witness!" Judge: "Today's paper wasn't delivered. Who told you to lie?" Crook: "Oooooooh no! I am caught!"
This level of "edge of your seat action" (as the newly-released DVD cover states) continues for two hours, as the Frenchies smoke, drink, and mumble their way through the whole affair. There's no "intrigue," no matter what the critics say. The acting is bad, the direction is dull, and the script remains at the level of an encyclopedia entry on Greece.
It's difficult to muster much enthusiasm for Z, no matter how acclaimed it is, especially considering that 1976 would bring the seminal political cover-up movie, All the President's Men. In that movie, Alan J. Pakula knew what he was doing in his handling of true-story material, and he didn't even have a murder to work with. Sheesh.
Production compaines: Valoria Films
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Screenwriter: Jorge Semprún
Starring: Yves Montand as Z, Irene Papas as Frau von Z, Jean-Louis Trintignant as Untersuchungsrichter, Jacques Perrin as Photojournalist, Charles Denner as Manuel, Bernard Fresson as Matt, François Périer as Public Prosecutor, Pierre Dux as General, Georges Géret as Nick, Magali Noël as Nicks Schwester, Marcel Bozzuffi as Vago, Renato Salvatori as Yago, Jean Bouise as Georges Pirou, Julien Guiomar as Colonel, Jean Dasté as Illya Coste
Also starring: Ahmed Rachedi