Today’s movie of the day is the 1969 Algerian-French classic Z, based on the 1966 Vassilis Vassilikos novel of the same name. Directed by Costa-Gavras, Z is a fictionalized account of the 1963 assassination of the Greek Democratic politician Grigoris Lambrakis.
Following a rally, a left-wing politician, Z, is attacked and killed, in what appears to be a tragic traffic accident. However, the magistrate assigned to the case begins to suspect it was actually an assassination, gathering evidence as he interviews those involved. But getting justice is anything but straightforward.
It’s a dark and moody film, with a powerful anti-fascist message. Z gives a pessimistic view on Greek politics, widely viewed as Costa-Gavras’s expression of his rage at the junta that ruled Greece at the time.
Z was a huge critical hit, with celebrated film critic Roger Ebert naming it his film of the year. It remains revered – Oliver Stone credits it with inspiring his film-making and it was listed as one of the top 10 films of all time in the 2012 Sight and Sound poll. It was also a commercial hit – with $17.3 million at the US box office, it was one of the year’s top five most successful foreign-language films.
Z won two Oscars, for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Film Editing, as well as being the second foreign language film to ever be nominated for the Best Picture award.