CULTURE

Costa-Gavras’s new film to be shown in tribute

The new film «Amen» by Paris-based Greek film director Constantin Costa-Gavras is the impetus behind a special nine-film tribute to the artist held by the Thessaloniki Film Festival organizers at Athens’s Astron Filmcenter from tonight through December 5 and at Thessaloniki’s Olympion cinema from December 6 to 12. One of the country’s most respected directors to have made a career abroad, Costa-Gavras’s films are marked by deep social insight in combination with astute political commentary. Costa-Gavras studied film at Paris’s IDHEC and began his work in film alongside Jean Renoir and Jacques Demy. His directorial debut came in 1965 with the film noir «The Sleeping Car Murders,» featuring Yves Montand, Jean-Louis Trintignant and the young Jacques Perrin, an actor who later became linked with the 1969 political thriller «Z.» Based on the book by Vassilis Vassilikos, «Z» was shot in Algeria and produced in 1969. The film chronicled the murder of Grigoris Lambrakis and the ensuing cover-up by the armed forces just before the colonels’ coup in Greece. It won Costa-Gavras the Best Foreign Film and Best Editing Oscars, and became a landmark work for political filmmakers in the 1970s. Costa-Gavras, however, does not consider himself a political filmmaker and his next film, 1970’s «Confession,» though political as well, showed a diversity of approach. Again starring Montand and backed by Simone Signoret, «The Confession» is the screen version of a book by Arthur London which condemned Stalinist trials and totalitarianism in Soviet countries through the story of a Czechoslovakian politician subject to torture by his own country’s police. Montand starred yet again in the last of what is known as Costa-Gavras’s «political trilogy,» 1973’s «State of Siege,» in which the Greek director examined the consequences of the USA’s covert operations in Latin America. The success of Costa-Gavras’s films is seen to lie in the fact that they do not focus entirely on political condemnation, but highlight the human drama of people who fall victim to inadequate political systems. His next film, made when Costa-Gavras was well established in Hollywood, was the non-political 1979 romance «Clair de Femme,» which gave actor Jean Reno his first high-profile role, playing alongside Montand, Romy Schneider, Roberto Benigni and Heinz Bennett. In 1986, Costa-Gavras tried his hand at comedy with «Family Business,» in which French rocker Johnny Hallyday starred as a professional safe-cracker eager to revitalize the family business after he and his partner (Guy Marchand) are released from a five-year term in prison. Another comedy/satire, «The Little Apocalypse,» is included in the tribute. Filmed in 1993, this is one of Costa-Gavras’s least successful films. His next film, 1997’s «Mad City,» again revealed the filmmaker’s inquisitive eye with a film about the media. Starring John Travolta and Dustin Hoffmann, «Mad City» tells the story of an overly ambitious journalist who witnesses a man’s emotional breakdown and manipulates a desperate small-scale hostage crisis in order to get a scoop. The highlight of the tribute in Athens and Thessaloniki, however, is the premiere showing of Costa-Gavras’s latest, «Amen.» Starring Ulrich Tukur, this controversial historical drama is about a Nazi officer in World War II who sees the systematic extermination of Jews in death camps and, with the aid of a priest (Mathieu Kassovitz), vainly tries to convince Pope Pius XII to speak out against it. Costa-Gavras will be present at the Olympion cinema on December 6 for the screening of «Amen.»