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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

The Anatomy of a Political Assassination


Plot Overview

Three orbs of light command the opening screen, followed by closeups of sundry medals, then comes a boring lecture about the use of copper sulfate, CuSO4·5H2O, as a fungicide. The lecturer likens the mildew in plants to “ideological mildew” meaning the dangerous influences of socialism, communism, and anarchy. A mock disclaimer appears stating that any similarity in this film to actual events or persons living or dead is not coincidental, it is deliberate. The lecturer finds his stride about sun­spots beginning to multiply and ends with an exhortation to fight all the diseases (“combat tout les maladies.”)

Meanwhile, a liberal group has had their permit revoked for the meeting hall they'd scheduled to use. The authorities were worried it didn't have an emergency exit—but other groups could use it. The group's pleading (“Je vous en pris”) was to no avail, so they settled for a smaller hall that could seat only 200 (“squeeze them in”), though in a city of 500,000 they expected a large turnout.

They have their meeting (“Tonight, the enemy's holding a meeting in our city”) at which their promising candidate The Deputy (Yves Montand) holds forth against nuclear pro­lifer­ation: no more nukes (“Plus jamais ca.”) When he leaves, though, he meets an unfortunate "accident" (“Finish him off.”) The authorities appoint a politically malle­able examining magistrate, le juge d'instruction, (Jean-Louis Trin­tig­nant) to quell suspicions of foul play, because “They know how to make martyrs”, but the more he investigates, the more it stinks.

You know, I don't grow grapes, but I do have decorative bushes that need occasional care. This year some jays built a nest in one, and I was careful not to bother the bird sitting on it. One day she was gone, and we figured it didn't work out for her for some reason. Then the other day I noticed a big fat raccoon climb that bush to snoop around. The more I watched it, the more I suspected I knew what happened to those eggs, and if I could speak the language of beasts, I'd tell that coon, “Vous êtes officielle­ment inculpé pour homicide [oisillon­icide] volontaire avec prémédi­tation!” but I don't think it would do any good.


We've got to figure the “top brass” are not going to want to take the fall for the murder, so “it was all settled” to let some­one else shoulder all the blame, as the wise Solomon once said, (Eccl. 8:14) “There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity.” This thread makes for classic film noir.

The Wisdom of Sirach offers further insight into the wicked shenan­igans. Even though his book did not get included in the canonical Bible, as a wisdom book of the Apocrypha, it's accept­able for edification. (Sirach 27:10) “As the lion lieth in wait for the prey; so sin for them that work iniquity.” Just as that coon scoped out the eggs, so does sin seek out the corrupt.

(Sirach 27:11) “The discourse of a godly man is always with wisdom; but a fool changeth as the moon.” The upright individuals who came forth as witnesses spoke with wisdom. The culprits changed their tunes when­ever inconsistencies were pointed out (“Yester­day it was all settled.”)

(Sirach 27:12) “If thou be among the indiscreet, observe the time; but be continually among men of under­standing.” The guy who was vulner­able owing to some indiscretion (“They'd been drinking at the China­man's bar”) does well to look at how things are going and to surround him­self with sympathetic ears.

(Sirach 27:13) “The discourse of fools is irksome, and their sport is the wan­ton­ness of sin.” We don't like listening to the rantings of the mad officials (“Je suis le général de gendarmerie”), much less abiding the games they play (“They say a hungry bear won't dance.”)

(Sirach 27:14) “The talk of him that sweareth much maketh the hair stand upright; and their brawls make one stop his ears.” The ranting of officials put on the spot is quite an earful.

(Sirach 27:15) “The strife of the proud is blood­shedding, and their revilings are grievous to the ear.” The proud general gets on a high horse and reams those who are incon­veniently in his way (“Dreyfus was guilty!”)

In the days of monarchies, a prince would kill the other sons of the king to secure his own power. Now that we've got democracy it's ideas that must be killed, and those that hold them if they're enough of a threat. Many a story of a coup would resonate with this one, so I'll just offer this one example from 2nd Samuel: (2 Sam. 13:28–29) “Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, Mark ye now when Amnon's heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, Smite Amnon; then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? be courageous, and be valiant. And the servants of Absalom did unto Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king's sons arose, and every man gat him up upon his mule, and fled.” In the movie “Z” The Christian Royalist Organization against Communists (CROC) is an auxiliary of the police, used for crowd control and other (nefarious) purposes to do their bidding. Ain't democracy grand!

Production Values

“Z” (1969) was based on the 1963 murder of opposition party deputy leader Grigoris Lambrakis a social democrat and pacifist, which event led to the military over­throw of democracy in Greece—Greece the cradle of democracy. It was shot on location in Algeria, a country that knew the score from bitter experience, other counties having shied away from the controversy. Algeria also supplied some new talent such as it was.

The title "Z" was a play on the Greek letter Z that means: he is alive, some­thing akin to saying, zed means dead, I suppose. It was directed by Costa-Gavras (nom de plume of Kon­stan­tinos Gavras). Its screen­play was written by Jorge Semprún, Costa-Gavras, and Ben Barzman following the famous book by Vassilis Vassilikos. It was delivered in French—one crucial line is in English. Good acting was done by Yves Montand, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jacques Perrin (one of the film's producers playing a swift photo­journalist), Irène Papas (the sole Greek who does an out­standing shocked widow), Charles Denner, Bernard Fresson, Renato Salvatori, Julien Giuomar, and Marcel Bozzuffi.

The movie is a good 127 min. long. It starts slow with a plot that seems fractured and hard to follow, but it picks up speed and does make sense eventually, in a nonsensical kind of way. Mikis Theodorakis the film's composer did an out­standing job on the score, but his having been deported, the orchestration was done by Bernard Gérard. Françoise Bonnot's editing used all kinds of tricks keeping us on our toes trying to discern what is what. The dialogue after a slow beginning becomes rapid fire, and a boring lecture eventually becomes consumer information over­load in its application. They couldn't afford stunt­men, so all the fights are real.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

J. Edgar Hoover felt there was no reason ever for anybody to see this movie. I personally liked it, but this has got to be the worst date movie ever made. The French spoken doesn't bring out the sublime beauty of the language, and different degrees of fluency will result in different experiences for you and your date. The sarcastic humor may result in different inter­pre­tations and appreci­ations. The mockery of the political spectrum in toto can easily offend some people. The tempo is hard to pick up on, but works once one gets it, and a couple might not succeed equally. The few women in the movie are all upset about some­thing, albeit different things. Worst of all, this movie is message-laden having a lot of under­currents that your date may pick up on and not like although it went completely by you. My advice is to find some other movie for date night. Alpha­betic­ally, I'd give this one a ‘Z’ for couple's entertainment.

On the good side I found its subtle sick humor if not delightful, then at least better than frightful. This is the kind of movie that if you enjoy it—and you might—you may not want to let on to your (conserv­ative) friends. It was technic­ally well done and broke new ground.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed.

Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age.

Special effects: Well done special effects.

Video Occasion: Good for politically savvy Groups.

Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Apocryphal scripture taken from The Septuagint with Apoc­rypha: Greek and English. U.S.A.: Hendrick­son Pub. Originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., London, 1851. Print, WEB.