In repertory at Film Forum through March 31.
Z is forty years old, but it could have been made yesterday, assuming the filmmakers could acquire financing for their bitingly leftist, disillusioned, yet gripping thriller. The direction—briskly paced and versatile, shifting between documentary-like realism and more subjective flashbacks and ramping up toward its climax with rhythmic drive—feels effortlessly contemporary. But even more than the aesthetics, the subject matter of Z resonates all too well with the present day.
Based on a novel that dramatizes the 1963 assassination of a Greek anti-war leader, the movie could have relied simply on paranoia and knee-jerk cynicism to fuel suspense, but it’s smarter and more thoughtful than that. We see, from the outset, who kills the Deputy—there’s no mystery there—so the tension comes from the way the film gradually pulls back to reveal the infinitely more interesting hows and whys and then whats. With blistering insights into the psychology of cover-ups, the manipulation of political foot soldiers, the dangers and limitations of ideology, and the moral compromises of political action on both left and right, Z easily transcends the 1960s. It’s not a museum piece; it’s timeless.