In a recent profile in The New Yorker, the Austrian director Michael Haneke mentioned that he's used Costa-Gavras's Z, along with Air Force One, Battleship Potemkin, and Triumph of the Will, to show students how movies, tapping to a range of ideological beats, use sound and editing to drill home their arguments. I like the politics of Z more, he said, but the manner is all the same. Forty years after its release, Z, which was based on the novel by Vassilis Vassilikos, is still a mesmerizing political thriller that plunks spectators into a vortex of mass protests and systemic corruption. Inspired by the May 22, 1963, assassination of Gregoris Lambrakis, a Greek social democrat, the film (which was shot in Algeria) examines a botched attempt, organized by a junta and its minions, to suppress a political rally sponsored by anti-nationalist, anti-militarist sympathizers. With its zippy camerawork, bumping soundtrack, and comedic dress-down of the powers that be -- the blokes at the low end of the hierarchy belong to an organization named CROC (Christian Royalist Organization Against Communism), the film is activist in its approach to getting the audience on board with its program. Is this a bad thing? No, if one approaches the movie as a satire that is under no obligation to be evenhanded in its presentation of opposing viewpoints; yes, if one is looking for a detached, analytic film that's not as bullheaded as a pundit on the make.


April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.