The MoFo Top 100 of the 60s: Countdown

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Setsuko Hara is my co-pilot
All these people saying they couldn't stand Z only make me wanna watch it even more!
so when will we be free perpetual virgins without memory and who don't speak in search of her who on the sidewalks alternating at each train on the trains the bistros on the road the crowd of all the capitals of Europe and of the towns at dawn behind a girl alone in the waiting room i throw a rock into the pond the stories spiral out upside-down towards the sex i will recapitulate love in the real order of the circles my little girl

"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."

Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
Wow! Some of my list is showing up even though I'd written them off. Z was my #12. Last Year at Marienbad is certainly not a personal fave, but since I did start a thread about director Resnais and have seen most of his films, I am somewhat fascinated by it.
Z (Costa-Gavras, 1969)
Fantastic political mystery-thriller which may seem even better today than it was 40 years ago. Greek expatriate Costa-Gavras directs a story which actually happened near his hometown in a film based on the "novel" by Vasilis Vasilikos which tells of an actual murder of a leftist politician and the cover-up by the military to make it look like an automobile accident. During the opening credits, a disclaimer appears on screen which reads as follows: "Any resemblance to real events, to persons living or dead, is not accidental. It is DELIBERATE." Yves Montand is dynamic as the politician (simply known as "the Deputy") who appeals to the younger generation, but after a rally where he speaks about nuclear pacifism, he exits his hall and finds a surreal situation where the police are present but seem to be doing nothing to control a mob of anti-Communists who are threatening violence. Well, violence ensues and the Deputy is struck by a car but also by what appears to be a stick to the head from someone in the car. This blow ostensibly leaves him brain dead, but a photographic journalist witness (Producer Jacques Perrin) has visual evidence that some of the statements concerning the "accident" which the military are telling are untrue.

The Deputy eventually dies in the hospital, in the presence of his wife (Irene Papas), and a young magistrate (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is assigned to investigate further and get to the bottom of what really happened. There are plenty of lower-end thugs who did the dirty work, such as Yago (Renato Salvatori) who drove the three-wheeled "Kamikaze" which was used during the incident and his ex-con friend Vago (Marcel Bozzuffi) who actually did the striking of the Deputy's head. (These are not spoilers - this all takes place in the first part of the film and it's pretty clear who did what at the time. What makes the film a tense mystery is finding out if the photojournalist and the Magistrate are able to unravel the conspiracy before such overwhelming odds and powerful rivals.) In fact, the scene directly following the attack, where a man chases the Kamikaze, hops onto the flatbed and fights it out with Vago while the car races through the city with Mikos Theodrorakis' percussive musical score as propulsive backbeat is one of the film's highlights. On the other side is stubborn, injured witness Nick (Georges Geret) who remains adamant in telling the truth of what he saw and what happened to him, no matter what happens to him and his family.

There are also plenty of strong supporting characters on both sides of the question. The political supporters of the Deputy have to confront several problems before the rally even begins because their permits were pulled in an attempt to silence the Deputy. These characters certainly come across as passionate and sympathetic. On the other hand, most of the Military Police characters come across as wily and duplicitous, but since we know this is based on a true story, and we know whose side Costa-Gavras and his co-scripter Jorge Semprun are on (they'll say the side of justice), it's OK to see the lines drawn quite strikingly between the two sides. Although the film is very tense and contains bursts of violent movement and more subtle camera movement, it also contains plenty of dialogue. Most of this dialogue is quite satirical and used not only as a way for characters to communicate but also for them to slip up and make mistakes which the honest Magistrate is very capable of deducing throughout the movie.

Although the name of the European country is never specified in the film, we all know that it's meant to be Greece. However, at the time that the film was made, Greece was impossible to use as a shooting location, so most of the filming was done in Algeria. Many of the people involved in the film could not live freely in Greece (the composer was actually imprisoned at the time and had to have his musical score smuggled out to Costa-Gavras). I don't want to give away what the repercussions of the investigation led to or what the title actually means because that's all covered in the latter part of the film and just adds to its overall power. But I will say that Z won Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Editing and that it was also nominated for Best Film, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Midnight Cowboy actually won those last three awards.
I watched Last Year at Marienbad for the first time in three decades, so I have my own "new" way of interpreting it. It certainly does fit into Resnais' themes of time and rememberance, but I actually bought into looking at it as a horror film/ghost story/nightmare after only a few seconds of the funereal organ score by Francis Seyrig (the lead actress's brother). I decided that was an appropriate reaction, especially when all the tracking shots down the hallways at the beginning reminded me of The Shining which came out 19 years later. Besides that, the "hotel" reminds me of both the Overlook (or Hearst Castle) and its maze. Also, the narration by the persistent "suitor" sounded like something which someone who knows he has no chance with a certain woman would say. Add in that "theatre performance" near the beginning and the ending and several other ambiguities, and you've got three-fourths of David Lynch's filmography from the last 14 years.

Now, this is not to denigrate what Resnais accomplished here. It's just that I know several filmwatchers, including several of the sophisticated variety, who write this film off as just too "into itself" to care about or try to decipher in the usual ways. It feels right to me to look at the film as a ghost story since nobody in the film seems to be living, no matter how much the narrator wants one to live. If it's not a ghost story, then perhaps it's someone's descent into mental illness. I have a very close friend who talks a lot like the narrator in this film. He repeats himself over and over, and no matter how often he's contradicted, he tries to correct people who understand the situation even better than he does. Then, when things don't seem to be going "his way", he changes the "facts" and "details" with new info which he had somehow forgotten for 25 years. I'm not saying that this friend is truly insane, but if he were forced to undergo some kind of standard test, I fear that he would not pass it because he is in denial to just so many things that I'm not sure that he can turn himself off when necessary. He really reminded me of the narrator here; someone who has been jilted and will not take no for an answer (whether about love, family, career, etc.)

Some of the surrealistic flourishes seem to work better when you think of them as either being interpreted by "people" who are in denial about their state of either life or sanity. For example, it would make sense inside the narrator's head that the woman wanted him so we do get a scene (repeatedly) where she seems to be welcoming him. It's also strange that is the scene where he actually denies forcing himself on her. On the other hand, the only times I recall those two individuals touching was when they were dancing (a la a "Dance Macabre") and when he cornered her and she put her hand to his mouth so as to tell him not to speak (I'm sure there were more but you see? memory). But the other man, the Gamester, he touches her head while she's on her bed and seems far more comfortable with her in an intimate situation.

I don't really want to rehash all the old "interpretations" now, but maybe after I rewatch it, I can think about those. However, I feel that I'm more likely to latch onto my own horror flick interpretation. Resnais had already made Night and Fog and Hiroshima mon amour which were both horrific. There is no hint of romance or passion in Night and Fog while Hiroshima is mostly passion. Last Year at Marienbad is certainly 99% devoid of passion, so even if you don't want to interpret it as a horror film, a ghost story or even a vampire film (there are some interesting visuals involving the sun and the night at the same time and a neat strip of overdeveloped film during a long track down a hallway), it may be a film which you find difficult to warm up to. However, I can understand why it's become a lionized iconic puzzle just as much as I can see why many people would think it was boringly unwatchable. It is rather short though and looking at how influential I now see it to be in my own certain quirky ways, I can see how some people could also fluctuate back and forth between the two "extreme" positions.
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. - John Wooden
My IMDb page

Wow! Some of my list is showing up even though I'd written them off. Z was my #12. Last Year at Marienbad is certainly not a personal fave, but since I did start a thread about director Resnais and have seem most of his films, I am somewhat fascinated by the film. .
I thought you might have given up on Z. When you made your "criterion effect" post I checked my spreadsheet and saw that six of your favourites were soon going to show up consecutively, I knew you'd be happy

Oldboy 2: Youngman
Finally, another from my list. Had Last Year at Marienbad at #21. Fascinating, dream-like film.

Z is an excellent film - easily the best political thriller I've seen. It was number 24 on my list. Costas-Gavras is one of many directors I'm currently trying to explore more.

Last Year at Marienbad is very good. It makes me think of something Swan said recently about disliking the phrase "style over substance" because why can't style actually be substance? I feel a bit like that in terms of LYaM - I don't know what Resnais was trying to say and don't really care. It's all about the style and that alone gives it more substance than most other films. Yesterday I watched Chabrol's Bad Girls which wasn't really similar except that it was another film where style was the goal - not just something secondary to the story.

Anyway, didn't vote for it but it is a fascinating, beautiful film.

My list:

1. Late Autumn
2. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
8. The Human Condition III
10. An Autumn Afternoon
13. In the Heat of the Night
17. Red Desert
22. Viridiana
24. Z
25. Fail-Safe

Seen 47 of 58

Z was my #12. I watched it specifically for the countdown and loved ever minute of it. It's such a cool conspiracy movie.

And that's my seventh film to show up. I expect 23 of my films to make the countdown. My list is pretty mainstream.

10. The Virgin Spring
12. Z
15. The Battle of Algiers
16. Lolita
17. Breathless
18. A Fistful of Dollars
22. Goldfinger
25. Death Rides a Horse (one pointer)

That's not bad, I didn't have any of mine movies show from #80 La Jetee to #59 Breathless

I have a feeling one more of mine will show tommorow
Yeah, there's no body mutilation in it

Z is an excellent film that almost made my list. Last Year at Marienbad was my #2, an absolute masterpiece. That's now the third film from my list to make it on here, after Seconds and My Night at Maud's.

The thing isolated becomes incomprehensible
Last Year at Marienband was in my watchlist, I'll try to see it one of these days!

Z is an amazing movie, one of those that grew up inside me after I finished watching it. It was my #15.

the samoan lawyer's Avatar
Unregistered User
2 excellent films. Z was great but i just couldn't find room for it on my list. Marienbad was my number 23 pick. After I watched it for the first time I bought it on DVD straight after.
Too weird to live, and too rare to die.

Hey, two of mine actually appear back-to-back on the countdown: Bonnie & Clyde and Costa-Gavras' Z. I had Z in my top ten, at number nine. The thinly-veiled expose of an infamous 1960s political assassination in Greece through a filter of a mystery to be solved mostly by the unflappable Jean-Louis Trintignant as the investigator who is going to follow the trail of evidence, innuendo, and conspiracy all the way to the top, if necessary.

And just like that, I have five of mine revealed:

5. Army of Shadows (#58)
9. Z (#44)
17. Bonnie & Clyde (#45)
19. The Battle of Algiers (#69)
21. A Hard Day's Night (#53)
"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra