The left-wing leader assassinated in Costa-Gavras’s 1969 thriller célèbre Z dies not from a sharp-shooter’s bullet, but from a whack to the head, and the difference plays up the essential street-thuggery of the uniformed right-wingers in power. By far the most electric sequence in the film, the drive-by killing happens in a public square, tensely (and, for the times, topically) ringed by protesters and police; the assailants leave behind a Hitchcockian parallel story to be told later. Based on the real-life murder of a Greek MP (lefty star Yves Montand), Z is given over to the cagey perseverance of the investigating judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant, who, in suits, somehow always looked like a runty hitman). After some Petulia-esque noodling over the Grieving Widow, the inquiry weathers incursions from a mosquito-like photographer and cheery fast-talking heavies trying to whomp witnesses. The military junta that ensued in Greece gave the film a sense of urgency approved by Cannes and Oscar alike. (NR) NICOLAS RAPOLD

July 31-Aug. 6, 2009

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