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CostaGavrasZ
"Il est vivant!"
—French phrase meaning "He lives!"

A 1969 French political thriller based on the assassination of Greek politician Gregoris Lambrakis.

In an unnamed country (hinted to be Greece), an outspoken politician (named only as "the Deputy") is struck down after a peace rally and hospitalized. When he dies, a public prosecutor is sent to look into his death and finds corruption, coverup, and much more.

Notable for being darkly humorous and satirical, but still having quite a chilling ending.


Tropes:

  • Arc Words: After the Deputy dies, this is what "Z" becomes, since it refers to a popular Greek slogan, "Zei", meaning "he lives."
  • Banned in China: In what should really be no surprise, the movie was banned in Greece until the junta was overthrown in 1974.
  • Black Shirt: Almost all the troublemakers at the demonstration turn out to be a member of CROC, an anti-Communist organization run by the chief of police.
  • Camp Gay : Vago.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: The "incident" was clearly a drunken accident. That club-shaped wound on his head was from him hitting it on the curb. Despite being in the middle of the street.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: See Downer Ending below.
  • Downer Ending: And how! After the prosecutor has arrested all the conspirators, the ending crawl says that the junta takes over, key witness die, the prosecutor is removed from the case, and the junta proceeds to ban nearly everything they don't like.
  • Foregone Conclusion: It's based on an actual military coup.
  • Hope Spot: The magistrate unravels the conspiracy, and the audience is treated to a montage of various military conspirators being charged with murder and sent to trial. Then the ending happens.
  • Insistent Terminology: The magistrate repeatedly corrects anyone who refers to the assassination as a murder, preferring to call it an "incident." When the magistrate switches to calling it murder, the indictments of military officers start rolling in.
  • Intrepid Reporter: One of them helps provide the evidence that drives the investigation. He even provides the ending narration until the part where he gets arrested
  • Long List: The ending crawl gives one for stuff the junta banned: : peace movements, strikes, labor unions, long hair on men, The Beatles, other modern and popular music ("la musique populaire"), Sophocles, Leo Tolstoy, Aeschylus, writing that Socrates was homosexual, Eugene Ionesco, Jean-Paul Sartre, Anton Chekhov, Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, the bar association, sociology, international encyclopedias, free press, new math, and the letter Z.
  • The Man Is Keeping Us Down
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The military junta in the film that eventually takes over the country.
  • No Name Given: Almost everybody in the film. The public prosecutor is billed just as "Public Prosecutor."
  • One-Letter Title
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: Subverted with the opening crawl.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Vago puts on a pair of glasses to avoid being recognized.
  • Red Scare: The police's default assumption is that any dissident, whistleblower, or Intrepid Reporter is secretly a Communist.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The movie is based on the 1963 assassination of left-wing politician Gregoris Lambrakis, which played a part in destabilising Greece and allowing the military coup of 1967. The main characters are very blatantly based on real persons: the Deputy is Lambrakis, the Magistrate is Christos Sartzetakis (who was twice arrested and tortured by the junta, and later served as President between 1985-1990), the General is arguably Georgios Papadopoulos, and so on.
    • The movie's composer, Mikis Theodorakis, was himself arrested, detained, sent into internal exile and interned in a concentration camp at Oropos before being released to exile in France at the intervention of Radical Party leader Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber.
  • Roman à Clef: As previously mentioned, the story is that of Gregoris Lambrakis.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: After all that trouble...things just get even worse.
  • Running Gag: The military officers all vainly try to exit via a locked back door to escape the journalists after getting formally charged one after the other.
  • Self-Serving Memory: The police are amazingly calm and competent during the demonstration and "accident," if the general's testimony is to be believed.
  • The Sixties
  • Soundtrack Dissonance : An upbeat rock instrumental plays after the Deputy’s critical condition is disclosed.
  • Tap on the Head : Happens repeatedly, with realistic results in terms of concussion. The truncheon blow to the Deputy’s head results in fatal brain damage.
  • Turn Off the Camera: The journalist who tries to interview the Doctor’s widow ostensibly agrees not to take pictures of her, but keeps taking unaimed snapshots.
  • Where Are They Now? Epilogue: See "Downer Ending," above.
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