Directed and produced by Greek director Costa Gavras, starring Yves Montand and Irene Papas, Z is a real masterpiece of a movie. While the film is set in an unspecified country (and filmed in Algeria) it is clear it refers to the 1963 murder of the Greek left-wing parliamentary deputy Grigoris Lambrakis. Costas Gavras tells this story with great mastery in a film adapted from the book by Greek writer Vasilis Vasilikos. Released in 1969, Z immediately became a kind of a cult hit among cinema lovers.
The music is by Mikis Theodorakis, and FM Records provides us here with the fifth cd of their recent six disc tribute to the composer. It's a very good package with digitally remastered sound and quality standards equal to that of the Serpico soundtrack (again by Mikis Theodorakis through FM Records). There are some rare photos from the movie (and one of the composer) along with interesting information about the film and the soundtrack, provided by the composer himself and Ninos Fenek Mikelidis.
Costas Gavras wanted Theodorakis to score this film from the very beginning, but it was impossible for him to have his scenario sent to the composer, as the latter was at that time in internal exile in Zatouna. So the director choose music from Theodorakis' other works A Hostage and Mauthausen, from which they compiled the Z soundtrack.
'Main Title' recalls a military parade performed by bouzouki, harpsichord, trombones and 'busy' percussion instruments which introduce the audience immediately to the politically charged atmosphere and mood of the movie. 'To yelasto pedi' offers the marvelous main theme by the bouzouki, guitar and the symphony orchestra. It's an outstanding piece which may take a little effort to appreciate initially, but soon grows compellingly; fortuitously given the theme is given may repetitions in asorted variations throughout the whole movie.
Tension rises with 'La course de Manuel', music used for a chase scene. This is very late 60's style music, with overdriven, reverb soaked electric guitar, electric bass, organ, strings, an intense beating of the snare drum and nice percussion work. ' To palicari echei kaimo' is a very different in mood, a song with vocals by well known Greek female singer Maria Farandouri; a very Greek-sounding song with bouzouki, drums and percussion that reminds us of another very well-known work by Mikis Theodorakis Zorba The Greek. It has a very uplifting mood that may really make you want to get up and dance!
'Café Rock' is a fast dance piece, pure 60's in style with drums, groovy bass, the overdrive guitar again and bells that is little odd and strange for our musical tastes today. 'Arrival of Helen' offers a slow and sad rendition of the beautiful main theme, with the bouzouki, strings and a lovely, melancholic melody by the violin at the end.
'Batucada' is an odd percussion piece, evocative of the African jungle. 'To Yelasto Pedi (Bouzouki version)' is a faster and more uplifting version of the main theme with bouzouki and marching snare drum in the background. 'To yelasto pedi' despite it's title, is a really dark and weird musical piece for cello, percussion instruments and keyboard sounds which induces a real sense of discomfort, while 'Pios den mila yia ti Labri ' is a fast militaristic piece with loud marching snare drum, bouzouki, harpsichord, guitar and trombones, similar in style to the 'Main Title'.
The 'Finale' is a sad and very beautiful piece for full symphony orchestra, guitar, bouzouki and harpsichord, built around almost unrecognizable renditions of melodies heard in the 'Main Title'. 'To palikari echi kaimo' is the same song we previously heard by Maria Farandouri, only this time the composer himself plays the piano and sings. The cd ends with 'Safti ti gitonia' which is another song, similar in style with piano and vocals by Mikis Theodorakis again.
Z may make for a very short album and is not for everyone's taste, but it is a really compelling and interesting collection with a fabulous main theme that perfectly matches the movie's powerful, intense and politically - charged atmosphere and mood.