[1969] Z

At the end of the alphabet is the letter “Z.” In our youth we could breathe a sigh of relief that we, in fact, did remember all 26 letters of the alphabet and that we weren’t doomed to a life of illiteracy; to be a statistic of the lower, lower class , who among other things cannot afford themselves the ability to read or write or to communicate successfully with the outside world. For too many of these people, the letter “Z” means nothing; mimicable in dirt but without tangibility, dramatic in construction but flaccid in interpretation.

But for those whose language is of a Latin or Greek descent, the letter “Z” – zee, zeta or zed – signifies rarity, hundreds or thousands of words instead of tens or hundreds of thousands. We perk up at the sight of it or hearing of it because it usually signifies an interesting or scientific term. In that way, it’s striking in its rarity. But when Costa-Gavras titled his iconic third film Z he wanted to strike the audience with its ubiquity. Masterfully maddening, meddling and caustically blunt, Z succeeds in pushing its message organically where many of its logical influences, contemporaries and where modern films fall comically flat. This film feels genuine.

The ingenuity most likely has to do with the immediacy of the subject matter and the political zing afforded to it; it helps that this story takes place before the deux ex machina era of cellular technology and the Internet. The story has to be logical and syllogistic becaiuse there is no quick out to a discrepancy in logic here. Title character Z (Yves Montand) plays a rather pensive leader of an anti-war faction, whose rallies upset the incumbent profit-focused regime. Fittingly, the military whose “democracy” takes extreme liberty with the word does everything it can to upset an impeding rally and speech by our main character – sudden venue change and lack of active protection – and in the midst of the rather obvious confusion that follows the speech (radicalized youths + “freedom” of speech and expression; what could go wrong), Z is struck on the head, and after several quick surgeries, dies. Continue reading