States of Danger and Deceit Season: European Political Thrillers in the 1970s | Season
A season of nail-biting thrillers that expose the political tensions that reverberated across Europe in the 1970s. A decade when the social turmoil that marked the late 1960s gave way to a more strident politics that involved stark and sometimes violent contrasts between left and right. A decade that was scarred by the emergence of uncompromisingly radical groups such as the Red Army Faction and the Red Brigades.
In response to this charged moment, a number of filmmakers across Europe turned to the format of the thriller. Stylish and enduringly popular with audiences, they saw it as the perfect vehicle through which to explore conspiracies, authoritarian regimes, and political violence. The season, part of the BFI’s major nationwide season of thrillers – Who Can You Trust? – will also tour selected cinemas including the BFI Southbank, Bristol Watershed and Glasgow Film Theatre.
Beginning with Costa-Gavras’ legendary Z (1969), States of Danger and Deceit: European Political Thrillers in the 1970s offers the chance to discover or revisit some of the decade’s key works including: Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970), The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1975) and The Day of the Jackal (1973).
The Mattei Affair (U) (Il caso Mattei) Sun 5 Nov, 18:15
Dir Francesco Rosi | IT 1972 | 116′ | Cast: Gian Maria Volontè, Luigi Squarzina, Peter Baldwin
A key title in the development of Francesco Rosi’s style of investigative thriller, The Mattei Affair focuses on the death of Enrico Mattei, an influential businessman who made enemies in the mafia. His story is interspersed with Rosi’s investigation into the disappearance of his friend, journalist Mauro De Mauro, who was undertaking research for the film. Again driven by a thoughtful performance from Gian Maria Volontè, The Mattei Affair is one of Rosi’s finest works.
Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (18) Wed 8 Nov, 19:30
Dir Elio Petri/IT 1970 | 115’/Italian | Cast: Gian Maria Volontè, Florinda Bolkan, Gianni Santuccio
In Elio Petri’s visually stunning and beautifully composed film, a corrupt police official decides to show how untouchable he is by creating a murder scene where the evidence can only lead investigators to him. Starring the iconic left-wing actor Gian Maria Volontè who provides a mesmerising performance, this is a sly and slick condemnation of the state and the police from one of Italy’s major political filmmakers of the 1960s and 1970s.
Dir John Mackenzie/GB 1980 | 115′ Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Paul Freeman
In this landmark British thriller, gangster Harold Shand, memorably played with great relish by Bob Hoskins, dreams of developing London’s rundown dockland and becoming a legitimate businessman. He also wants a partnership with the American Mafia. However, his plans are put in jeopardy when a number of his associates are attacked. Increasingly paranoid, Harold sets out to discover who is behind them and slowly realises the answer is much more political than he ever imagined.
Dir Fred Zinnemann/GB FR 1973 | 143′ | Edward Fox, Terence Alexander, Michel Auclair
A UK-France co-production, Fred Zinnemann’s legendary film explores the attempts of a right-wing paramilitary group to assassinate French President General De Gaulle following the independence of Algeria. Boasting a career-defining performance from Edward Fox and replete with many political twists and turns, The Day of the Jackal is one of the best thrillers of the 1970s. Gripping throughout despite its lengthy running time.
Dir Lucio Fulci/IT 1972/102 mins/Italian wEng ST Florinda Bolkan, Barbara Bouchet, Tomas Milian A great example of the ways in which a popular form, here the giallo style of violent thriller, can be used to critique society’s institutions. Set in rural Italy, Lucio Fulci’s film focuses on a series of brutal murders where the killer seems to target young boys on the verge of adulthood. As the media flocks to the village where the victims lived, suspicion falls on those residents who due to their lifestyles are considered outsiders. Rumour has it that Fulci was subsequently blacklisted due to his critical representation of Italy’s powerful social institutions.
State of Siege (15) (État de siège) Sun 19 Nov, 13:00 Tue 21 Nov, 20:30
Dir Costa-Gavras/FR IT 1972/120 mins/French wEng ST Yves Montand, Renato Salvatori, O. E. Hasse Written by Franco Solinas (The Battle of Algiers), State of Siege is perhaps the greatest political thriller of the 1970s. Costa-Gavras once again calls on Yves Montand to lead this story of an American, supposedly only working as an agricultural advisor regarding international development, who is kidnapped by guerrillas in Uruguay. The taut story is told against the backdrop of repressive politics, death squads and American involvement in Latin America. .
Days of ’36 (12) (Meres tou ’36) Mon 20 Nov, 20:30
Dir Theodoros Angelopoulos/GR 1972 | 104′ | Cast: Vangelis Kazan, Kostas Pavlou, Thanos Grammenos
During the 1970s Angelopoulos made films that were formally challenging and highly stylised. On occasion these used the narrative conventions of the political thriller to a very different effect to slick films that make up the majority of this season. In Days of ’36 an imprisoned murderer takes a government official hostage in prison sparking a political crisis. Full of Angelopoulos’ trademark symmetrical compositions, this reads like a thriller but through the director’s use of film form resists the normal pleasures of the genre.
Special Section (PG) (Section spéciale) Wed 22 Nov, 18:15
Dir Costa-Gavras/FR IT West Germany 1975 | 118′ | Cast: Louis Seigner, Roland Bertin, Michael Lonsdale
With Special Section director Costa-Gavras turned his attention to events in France during World War II. When a German officer is killed the Nazi occupying forces demand a quick response threatening to kill 100 civilians. To appease them a special court is created, presided over by a group of ambitious and subservient judges, with the aim of convicting a group of six men coldly used as scapegoats. Another of his engaging political films, Costa-Gavras was awarded Best Director at the 1975 Cannes film festival for Special Section.
Killer Cop (CTBA) (La Polizia Ha Le Mani Legate) Thu 23 Nov, 18.20
Dir Luciano Ercoli/IT 1975/97′ | Cast: Claudio Cassinelli, Arthur Kennedy, Franco Fabrizi
In this Milan-set low budget gem, director Luciano Ercoli creates a political thriller full of 1970s Italian style. After a terrorist bomb explodes in a busy hotel the official investigation gets caught up in politics and bureaucracy. As the bombers go on the run, the only hope of catching them lies with Cassnellli’s determined narcotics cop, who accidently got caught in the mayhem. This highly effective Poliziotteschi shows how the radical politics of the decade bled into genre filmmaking in Italy.
The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (15) + Q&A with Angela Winkler | Sun 26 Nov, 15:30
Dirs Volker Schlöndorff, Margarethe von Trotta/Ger 1975 | 106′ | Cast: Angela Winkler, Mario Adorf, Dieter Laser
A key political film of the New German Cinema, Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta co-directed and adapted The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum from the controversial novel by Heinrich Böll. Set in a climate of fear and paranoia, Angela Winkler plays the young woman of the title whose life is slowly destroyed by the media following her meeting a young man who is suspected by the authorities of being a political activist. Event/Angela Winkler is present for a post-screening Q&A.
Illustrious Corpses (PG) (Cadaveri eccellenti) Tue 28 Nov, 18:15
Dir Francesco Rosi/IT FR 1976/120′ | Cast: Lino Ventura, Tino Carraro, Marcel Bozzuffi
In an Italy rife with mistrust and paranoia judges are being murdered. Lino Ventura’s quietly effective detective is appointed to investigate who is responsible and soon begins to unearth an array of corruption and duplicity within the corridors of power. Highly atmospheric, this is perhaps the archetypal political film of the 1970s and displays to great effect Rosi’s brilliant visual style. Screening from a 35mm print
Man on the Roof (15) (Mannen på taket) | Wed 29 Nov, 19:45
Dir Bo Widerberg/SE 1976/110′ | Cast: Carl-Gustaf Lindstedt, Sven Wollter, Thomas Hellberg
Adapted from the Martin Beck novel The Abominable Man by legendary left-leaning Swedish crime writers Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. Man on the Roof is a great example of a 1970s Nordic Noir film. Here Beck, played by Carl-Gustaf Lindstedt, and his team investigate a brutal murder in a hospital, encountering stories of police brutality as they progress, which in turn leads to a thrilling climax on the rooftops of Stockholm. A great opportunity to see the roots of the current wave of Scandinavian crime dramas. Event/ This screening will be introduced by Roy Stafford, Freelance Film Educator
The Flight (CTBA) (Die Flucht) Sun 3 Dec, 16:00
Dir Roland Graf/East Germany 1977/94′ | Cast: Armin Mueller-Stahl, Jenny Gröllmann, Erika Pelikowsky
One of the final films made in East Germany featuring the great actor Armin Mueller-Stahl – he would later memorably link up with Costa-Gavras in the US for Music Box (1989). In The Flight he plays a doctor who when he dutifully follows procedure and applies to travel outside the GDR to attend a conference is refused permission. Dismayed by the state bureaucracy, he becomes involved with an underground network who promise they can get him out of the country. Given it was made in the East all does not go to plan. Event/ The Flight will be introduced by artist Declan Clarke and will be followed by a post-screening discussion with Clarke and season curator Andy Willis Declan Clarke has presented solo exhibitions at Tromsø Kunstforening, Norway and The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin.
Dir Robert Aldrich/Ger| US 1977/144′ | Cast: Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Roscoe Lee Browne
A West German-US co-production shot mainly at the Bavaria film studios, this neglected work is one of Robert Aldrich’s best films. It is driven by a wonderful performance from Burt Lancaster who plays a renegade US general disillusioned by his country’s involvement in Vietnam and aware of a top secret document that acknowledged the war could not be won. To try and make the powers that be reveal the document to the public he hijacks a nuclear silo and threatens to launch a series of bombs. Utilising split screens to great effect, this is a taut political thriller of the highest order.
Knife in the Head (15) (Messer im Kopf) Sat 9 Dec, 18:20
Dir Reinhard Hauff | Ger| 1978/108′ | Cast: Bruno Ganz, Angela Winkler, Hans Christian Blech Shot in the head whilst seemingly innocently visiting his wife at a youth centre and left paralysed, Hoffman (Bruno Ganz) finds himself caught in-between the police and terrorists as he tries to piece together his memories of the event rather than accepting the various versions told by others who wish to exploit his injury for their own ends. Driven by a superlative performance by Ganz, Hauff’s film reflects the paranoia and political tension within West Germany as the 1970s drew to a close. Screening from a 16mm print. Includes One Hour Intro/ Bruno Ganz: Screen Chameleon Sat 9 Dec, 17:00 | focusing on the work of the Swiss-German actor who, at the age of 75, can look back on a long and varied career both in theatre and cinema. He has not shied away from difficult and controversial work, which makes him very interesting to explore. The talk will be accompanied by film clips illustrating the versatility of this charismatic actor. Led by Maggie Hoffgen, Freelance Film Educator.
Dir Volker Schlöndorff/West Germany FR 1981/108′ | Cast: Bruno Ganz, Hanna Schygulla, Jean Carmet
In Circle of Deceit Schlöndorff deftly mixes the personal and the political to great effect in a film that stars two of the biggest names of the New German Cinema, Bruno Ganz and Hanna Schygulla. Shot on location, the film drips authenticity in its creation of a dizzyingly complex world within which Ganz plays an experienced ‘seen-it-all’ journalist who has to face up to a series of moral questions when he arrives in Beirut to report on a political situation that is lurching into war.
Event/ This screening will be followed by an informal post-screening discussion.
Operation Ogre (CTBA) (Ogro) Tue 12 Dec, 18:15
Dir Gillo Pontecorvo/ES IT 1979 | 115′ | Cast: Gian Maria Volontè, Ángela Molina, Saverio Marconi
From the director of Battle of Algiers and starring Gian Maria Volontè alongside Eusebio Poncela, José Sacristán and Ángela Molina. This story of the assassination by ETA of Colonel Carrero Blanco, Spanish dictator Franco’s right hand man, comes with heavyweight credentials. Less well known than Pontecorvo’s 1960s classic, this is a taut thriller that offers a complex set of positions in relation to what some called an act of terror and others political resistance.
HOME’s STATE OF DANGER AND DECEIT is in full swing across various independent exhibition venues NATIONWIDE including HOME Manchester | BFI Southbank | until 31 JANUARY 2017 |