State of Siege (Costa-Gavras / France-Italy-West Germany, 1972):
(État de Sičge)

"Primero resistió la tierra..." ("Los Conquistadores," Neruda’s Canto General) Torture methods comprise the noxious contraband, exported to South American dictatorships by way of a police chief from Indiana ("just a technician"). The staccato first movement hopscotches between roadblocks and conspiracies to introduce a Montevideo quaked by upheaval, a deft little symphony of cars braking and taking off and people jumping in and out of them sketches the kidnapping of the American diplomat (Yves Montand) by Tupamaro urban guerillas. The main debate, set in a subterranean garage, is between the gringo agent with his back to a wall covered with newspapers and the hooded Uruguayan revolutionaries pelting him with evidence of his involvement in the systematic excruciation of dissenting voices. Aboveground, meanwhile, manhunts, press conferences and parliament combat sessions keep swirling, the camera alternating between high-angled panning views of crowds and unsavory close-ups of government jackals. In a nation where CIA-approved industrialists puppeteer the presidency and Keystone Kops rush through the university to stomp on anthem-playing speakers, sinister euphemisms become the lingua fraca: "Traffic and communications" stand for master classes on prisoner electrocution, the formation of death squads is a "political necessity." The rebel’s dilemma is ultimately between "a cruel and impotent act" and "a sign of weakness," the man with blood on his hands gets a hero’s funeral (cf. Shadow of a Doubt). Throughout this purposefully frustrating Yankee-Go-Home pamphlet, Costa-Gavras compounds elements from both Z and The Confession to undercut jazzy urgency with weary melancholia in the face of the multi-headed interventionist chimera. The tentacle that’s been severed promptly grows back, but so do the defiant eyes in the crowd. Chabrol has a warty riposte in Nada, though the real follow-ups might be the Pinochet coup the next year and the excuses made for "enhanced interrogation techniques" down the road. Screenplay by Franco Solinas. With Renato Salvatori, O.E. Hasse, Jacques Weber, Jean-Luc Bideau, Maurice Teynac, Yvette Etievant, Evangeline Peterson, Nemesio Antunes, Mario Montilles, and Andre Falcon.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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