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  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
  • Audio commentary featuring film historian Peter Cowie
  • New interviews with Costa-Gavras and Coutard
  • Archival interviews with Costa-Gavras; producer-actor Jacques Perrin; actors Yves Montand, Irène Papas, and Jean-Louis Trintignant; and Vassilis Vassilikos, author of the book Z
  • Theatrical trailer


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Costa-Gavras
Starring: Yves Montand, Irene Papas, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jacques Perrin, Pierre Dux, Francois Perier, Charles Denner, Georges Geret
1969 | 127 Minutes | Licensor: Roissy Films

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #491
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: October 27, 2009
Review Date: October 12, 2009

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A pulse-pounding political thriller, Greek expatriate director Costa-Gavras's Z was one of the cinematic sensations of the late sixties, and remains among the most vital dispatches from that hallowed era of filmmaking. This Academy Award winner-loosely based on the 1963 assassination of Greek left-wing activist Gregoris Lambrakis-stars Yves Montand as a prominent politician and doctor whose public murder amid a violent demonstration is covered up by military and government officials; Jean-Louis Trintignant is the tenacious magistrate who's determined not to let them get away with it. Featuring kinetic, rhythmic editing, Raoul Coutard's expressive vérité photography, and Mikis Theodorakis's unforgettable, propulsive score, Z is a technically audacious and emotionally gripping masterpiece.

Forum members rate this film 8.8/10


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Criterion presents Costa-Gavras’ Z in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on this dual-layer disc. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Criterion originally released the film on laserdisc (with no special features) but unfortunately were unable to release the film on DVD, which instead was handled by Fox Lorber. Released as a “Masterworks Edition” with a few special features it presented an incredibly lousy transfer that looked like a poor PAL-NTSC conversion and made the film hard to watch. Thankfully Criterion was able to get the rights to the film again and have given it a stellar video transfer.

The colour scheme to the film is fairly bland and dirty so they don’t necessarily jump off screen but they look perfectly saturated and capture the look of the film. The transfer is crisp and clean, with very little in the way of artifacts, and the image looks strikingly sharp, grain even visible. Lines are clean and the image is smooth overall.

The print is also in far better shape than what was on the Fox Lorber edition. Damage is limited primarily to a few noticeable vertical lines on occasion, and there’s a short period midway through the film where squiggly marks are noticeable on the right side of the frame. Short of that there’s pretty much nothing wrong with the print. As a whole it’s sharp improvement over the previous DVD edition.


All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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The French mono track is also an improvement. It’s a little rough around the edges, coming off a tad harsh at times during segments of Mikis Theodorakis’ score, but as a whole it has some decent range, sounds very clear, and is clean of damage.



Criterion’s original laserdisc had nothing in the way of supplements but Fox Lorber’s edition contained a few supplements including a commentary by director Costa-Gavras. Unfortunately Criterion hasn’t carried any of them over, but have produced a few of their own.

Instead of a commentary by the director we actually get an audio commentary from film historian Peter Cowie. It’s a fairly decent track though not one of his best ones (nor his worst.) He of course brings up the novel on which the film is based and the actual incident both the film and novel are based on, the assassination of Gregoris Lambrakis, giving a decent history of the incident and the events that followed it. He also talks about the political tensions that were occurring in Greece before, during, and after the film’s production and release. He also enjoys breaking down the film’s quick editing and giving brief backgrounds for all of the performers that appear in the film, and even touches on Greek film history (despite Z technically not being one, which he does mention.) It’s a decent track, worth listening to, especially for some of the historical bits found within it.

Also included here is a new interview with director Costa-Gavras. Running shy of 20-minutes (and divided into 4 chapters) he talks a bit about recent Greek history and politics and then how he got into filmmaking with a strong desire to make political films. He recalls the production and some of the more difficult aspects of the shoot, specifically brawls that appear in the film, then goes over the score, and the film’s eventual release. It feels brief on the subjects he covers but it adds a little to what’s covered in the commentary.

A little better, yet shorter, is the 11-minute interview with cinematographer Raoul Coutard. He spends a lot of time comparing his experience with Costa-Gavras to his work with Godard, stating Gavras’ is certainly more meticulous and organized (and “doesn’t throw fits.”) He talks about the set up of the moving shots, gets into detail about the assassination sequence, and then makes comparisons with another film he did with Gavras, The Confession (with actual clips from the film.) Short but a little more fulfilling and insightful than the interview with the director.

Criterion then includes a section they call From the Archives, which presents a few interview segments filmed around the time of the novel’s release or the film’s release.

First is an interview with author Vassilis Vassilikos about his novel. Lasting less than 10-minutes he talks about the actual assassination of Gregoris Lambrakis, getting into detail about the actual incident and the evidence uncovered afterwards. He then talks about the two key characters of the novel, the Magistrate and the journalist (who was composed of three or four different people.) While it repeats information seen elsewhere on the disc it’s still worth watching for a more in-depth look at the novel.

Next are two pieces containing interviews with various members of the cast and crew. First is a 5-minute piece from 1969 with Costa-Gavras, Yves Montand, Irene Papas, Jacques Perrin, and Jean-Louis Trintignant. Gavras talks about his intentions with the film while the actors talk about their reasons for doing the film, Montand taking up most of the piece’s time. The next interview, running less than 4-minutes, collects interviews again with Gavras and Perrin, and then actor Pierre Dux, who lets on to a certain disgust he has with the character he plays. The section then closes with some notes on the clips under “About the Programs.” Again, some information is repeated but it’s good to get it from firsthand accounts.

The disc then closes with a long, spoiler heavy 3-minute trailer.

The set then includes a booklet with an essay by Armond White that doesn’t really add much to the release, not actually making for an interesting read.

I would have liked it if Criterion had ported over Costa-Gavras’ commentary from the Fox Lorber edition (which I actually haven’t listened to.) I was also surprised there wasn’t much on the actual Lambrakis assassination outside of the novel and the film, but I guess that would have been a little redundant. Not jam packed, but the supplements are solid enough overall.



I was a little surprised it didn’t get more in term of supplements, but Criterion’s edition of the fast-paced political thriller Z still manages to be a huge improvement over Fox Lorber’s DVD just in terms of the transfer. This release comes as a high recommendation, even to those that already own the previous DVD edition.

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