Wednesday 7 February 2024

State of Siege [1972]

 With State of Siege – the scintillating final chapter in his landmark trilogy, and presaged by Z and The Confession – Costa-Gavras resoundingly established himself as a transnational political filmmaker unafraid of cataloguing abuses of power across diverse geographic milieus. While the previous films were set in Greece and Czechoslovakia, respectively, he shifted his focus to Latin America here for a daring indictment of the US’ interventionism, wherein it used nefarious means to propel and strengthen brutally repressive right-wing leaders and military juntas, in their quest for ideological supremacy in that part of the world. Unsurprisingly, it riled American conservatives to no end. Incidentally, while it was based on Uruguay, he shot it in Allende’s Chile – a country that he’d cover 12 years later with Missing, his compelling inquiry into the CIA’s role in the coup d'état against Allende. It began on an electrifying note with Montevideo literally in a state of siege, audaciously orchestrated through a flurry of cuts and angles, and a bevy of actors, with Martial Law declared and a combing operation underway. The reason, as is soon revealed, is that the Tupamaros – a left-wing guerilla outfit which had challenged the country’s civic-military dictatorship – have kidnapped a U.S. government official (Yves Montand) who’s there to train the Uruguayan police in the use of torture and violence against dissidents. Co-written with Franco Solinas – best known for Salvatore Guiliano and The Battle of Algiers –, composed through a bravura use of flashbacks, and circling through a stunning array of characters – impassioned rebels, courageous journalists, draconian cops, zealous politicos, sanctimonious priests – the film interlaced anger, irony, urgency and politically engaged conversations into a brilliant work that was both thrilling and sobering.

Director: Costa-Gavras

Genre: Thriller/Political Thriller/Film a Clef

Language: French

Country: France

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