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Z

Screening on Film
Directed by Constantin Costa-Gavras.
With Yves Montand, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jacques Perrin.
France/Algeria, 1968, 35mm, color, 125 min.
French with English subtitles.
Print source: HFA

Winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1969, this swiftly-moving and effective political thriller, shot in Algeria by the Greek-born Costa-Gavras, plainly points its finger at the Colonels’ regime in Greece. Despite its topicality and its somewhat simplified treatment of complicated issues, the film’s message and passion still communicate to an audience—for although the specifics have altered, the generality of totalitarian regimes has not. Based on a novel by Vassili Vassilikos, the film is set in an unidentified Mediterranean country where support is growing for ’Z’ (Montand), the leader of the pacifist opposition party. After he is killed by a passing van, the nvestigating magistrate (Trintignant) is led to suspect murder when he uncovers a secret organization supported by the government and the police. The film’s tremendous popularity and critical recognition rocketed Costa-Gavras into world prominence and enabled him to continue making the kind of political thrillers that mark his specialty.

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Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive: U–Z