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‘The world’s in a mess today’

Based on a book by Vassilis Vassilikos,Z was an attempt by Costa-Gavras to speak out against the dictatorial regime in Greece.

Written by Kevin Lobo | Published: October 18, 2013 3:06:30 am

Based on a book by Vassilis Vassilikos,Z was an attempt by Costa-Gavras to speak out against the dictatorial regime in Greece. The Greek-born,French director’s 1969 film won multiple awards,including an Oscar,and is considered a classic. Political outrage has since been a dominant theme in the 80-year-old filmmaker’s works spanning 40 years,including Stage of Siege,Missing and most recently,Capital. The director talks about his beginnings as a filmmaker and his thoughts on how “the world is a mess” today. Excerpts from an interview with him:

When you made Z,did you think you would become a political filmmaker?

Back then,we just wanted to do something about the dictatorship in Greece. No one believed the film would succeed. They said it didn’t have any of the elements that make a film successful — a lead character and a love story,among other things. My films are more about human beings — how every one exerts some amount of power over the other,whether it is in the political sphere or in our daily lives. It is the resistance that excites me. My films aren’t political just for the sake of it.

You worked under Nouvelle Vague French directors Rene Clair and Jacques Demy. How much of it did you incorporate in your filmmaking styles?

Under Jacques Demy,cinema was going through a change. At some point,the film world forgot what silent cinema stood for. Themes such as Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times still ring true today. Making real stories — that’s what the New Wave brought back. Rene Clair was a master technician. I couldn’t use most techniques as the technology changed. But most importantly,I saw how cinema evolved.

Your latest film Capital talks about the economic crisis. You’ve always had a leftist bent in your movies. What are your thoughts on the crisis?

The world is in one big mess right now. Democracy is getting worse and the banks are a good example of how bad things have become. I spoke with bank owners when I was making Capital. I was amazed at how intelligent they were. Not like militarists who are vulgar and uneducated. They speak so cleverly,seductively. Almost all of them said they needed regulations to keep banks in check. But when the government asked for regulations to be imposed recently,the same people cried that these rules will kill them. There is no way to fight them clearly,and the worst part is we need them.

You’ve had a hate-hate relationship with Hollywood,although you made a few films with American studios.

I watched Superman. People are punched and there is no blood. I can’t deal with that kind of cinema. When I got into Hollywood,I insisted that I’d get select talent from my crew from France. I also took final calls on lots of things,including casting. We would have discussions with these ‘executives’,but each of them had a different position on an issue,and everyone wanted to prove they are more brilliant than the other. Hollywood has given the world a lot,but has forgotten a lot too.

You made your last film when you were 79. Do you think you will ever retire?

Filmmaking is a passion for me. I would do it now even if I didn’t make any money off it. It isn’t a job. I come from a country where getting funds,public or state,is easier than in others. If my brain does not turn into soup,I hope I will continue to make films.

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