Archive for Z

This Benito is Neat-o

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2022 by dcairns

Following on, in a way, from THE GREAT DICTATOR, and from some work and viewing I’ve been doing on Damiano Damiani, I looked at IL DELITTO MATTEOTTI (THE MATTEOTTI ASSASSINATION), in which Mussolini appears as a character and Damiani appears as an actor. Damiani wasn’t really a trained actor, but made modest appearances in his own films — this is his only acting job for someone else, and it’s easy to see why he took it on — it’s a political thriller comparable to his own work. In his GIROLIMONI, MONSTER OF ROME (1972), Luciano Catenacci was a wild, Frankensteinian Mussolini. In this film, directed by Florestano Vancini the following year. Mario Adorf erases himself to the point of unrecognition, and is a very effective Benito — not exactly like the figure in the newsreels, but with no really distracting differences. It helps that we’re seeing him behind the scenes, and at an earlier historical period than WWII.

I’ve got George Pan Cosmatos’ MASSACRE IN ROME, I may as well watch that one too. Steiger!

Damiani isn’t the only director in MATTEOTTI — Vittorio De Sica is there too, and he IS a proper actor — he suppresses his usual twinkle and comes on with the fire and brimstone you might expect from his passionate neorealist stuff but which you rarely see in his performances.

It’s a very fine movie — Franco Nero is Matteotti, done in by the fascists, precipitating multiple legal and constitutional crises. It’s all highly reminiscent of recent historical events in the US and UK, with a lot of well-meaning functionaries struggling to preserve norms, but not having quite the radical will to stand up to such dishonest and vicious foes. Gramsci, the communist, does understand the stakes and the risks, but isn’t a natural partner for the more moderate forces which include Damiani as Giovanni Amendola and the marvelous Gastone Moschin as Filippo Turati.

The budget isn’t quite there, and the direction not quite nimble enough to cover the shortfall — Italy has done better than Britain at preserving streets that can pass muster in historical dramas, but there aren’t quite enough extras to fill them here. Still, it’s an exciting and smart piece of cinema — the historical background is filled in so craftily that one never feels overwhelmed by info-dump, or that the characters are telling one another things they already know. If you like Costa-Gavras’ Z, you’re almost sure to like this. Full of things you can hardly believe are true but that you know must be, because it’s not Hollywood.

Closing In

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2019 by dcairns

I hope to finish off all of Costa-Gavras’ work shortly, apart from I guess LA PETITE APOCALYPSE (1993) which seems to be totally unavailable, and ADULTS IN THE ROOM, the new one, which I don’t have any way of seeing right now. I should try and find the distributor actually, I might be able to write a more sympathetic review than Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. No guarantees are possible, of course.

MISSING holds up remarkably well — Fiona was bored by it as a teenager and cried this time, was terrified, moved in all the right ways. I had flashbacks, there were moments, like the white horse running down the street at night, which I suddenly recalled from 1984 or whenever I last saw it. And the sense of Jack Lemmon’s character being politically awakened, opening his eyes at last, and being shocked and hurt by what he sees.

HANNA K. is my least favourite so far. C-G followed MISSING with a look at the Israel-Palestine question through one woman’s complicated love life, and the lens doesn’t seem adequate to the problem. MISSING is more cinematically inventive and unusual than I remembered, but C-G’s own story doesn’t seem to excite him in the follow-up. And then we get three more rather uninspiring US movies.

It seems to me that Mr. Gavras’ best movies are adaptations: THE SLEEPING CAR MURDERS is Sebastien Japrisot, UN HOMME DE TROP is from a novel based fairly closely on fact (the role model for the Bruno Cremer didn’t like the movie), Z and L’AVEAU are based on factual books, I’ve still to catch up with STATE OF SIEGE but it’s factual, SECTION SPECIALE is distilled from a huge history, CLAIR DE FEMME is a novel, MISSING is from the last 65 pages of a fat true story, then we get four originals that aren’t as good as the rest, but in there is LA PETITE APOCALYPSE which sounds intriguing and is from a novel and is French. Since there’s (nearly) always a big topic, this one is about the fall of communism. But I’m not paying 40 Euros for an unsubtitled DVD from eBay.

AMEN. (the Vatican and the Nazis) is from a gigantic play and from history, LE COUPERET is from a Donald Westlake and is just brilliant (big topic: what the job market does to people), and I’ve still to watch EDEN IS WEST (on migration, an original) and LE CAPITAL (on global capitalism, from a novel).

The new one is from former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’s book. The title needs a THE in front of it. People underrate the importance of the definite article. But the lousy reviews don’t put me off at all, I am THERE for this. It’s got a dance number!

People talk about the issues in C-G’s work, and I get that, but they don’t talk about his genius with camera and editing, or about his use of humour, which to me is dazzling. Z is very, very funny, but the laughs are balanced on the edge of an abyss. LE COUPERET is hilarious about the decay of the moral sense. Costa-Gavras says his chief concern is human dignity which sounds very earnest, and it is, but his best stuff isn’t ploddingly worthy, it’s CUTTING.

Man Down

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on September 17, 2019 by dcairns

A short but dazzling and moving clip from Costa-Gavras’ seriously underrated second film, the wartime epic UN HOMME DE TROP, which will be the subject of Thursday’s edition of The Forgotten.

The movie, an action thriller, is in a way a kind of path not taken for Costa-Gavras. It underperformed and he followed it with Z, which diverts the thriller form into more obviously political directions, and this became the filmmaker’s metier, with the occasional odd diversion like the haunting CLAIR DE FEMME, which also deserves more attention.

This scene combines deliberately mismatched angles, stylised sound design and exponential zooms to create a feverish, haunting atmosphere.

I am honestly mystified why anyone would be interested in WHERE EAGLES DARE (Geoff Dyer has a whole book about it — what a loser!) when they could have this, which is MUCH more exciting and action-packed, but also includes sequences like the above.

Just kidding about Geoff Dyer,