Z (1969, FRA/ALG) C-126m. *** D: Constantin Costa-Gavras. Starring Yves Montand, Irene Papas, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jacques Perrin, Francois Perrier, Charles Denner, Julien Guiomar. Difficult political parable, set in a fictitious state which is shaken by riots and violence. Aspiring, controversial politician Montand falls prey to conspiracy of his political adversaries and it’s up to attorney Trintignant to make a judgement. Highly authentic, well-acted drama is not easy to watch but ultimately shocking. Excellent, Oscar-winning editing by Francoise Bonnot. Film also won the Best Foreign Film Academy Award. Based on the book by Vassili Vassilikos, who was responding to the political crisis in early 1960s Greece. Cowritten by director Costa-Gavras.

Zabriskie Point (1970, USA) C-110m. Scope ***½ D: Michelangelo Antonioni. Starring Mark Frechette, Daria Halprin, Paul Fix, G.D. Spradlin, Rod Taylor, Harrison Ford. Artistically outstanding cult film about the counter-culture and protesting students in the U.S.A., focusing on an afternoon in the life of Frechette and Halprin, who meet, make love and rebel. Antonioni’s striking direction makes this time capsule (originally a treatise on and criticism of the Western culture) a joy to watch. Memorable finale, brilliant cinematography by Alfio Cantini. Antonioni also edited the picture sans credit. Music by Pink Floyd. Produced by Carlo Ponti.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008, USA) C-101m. ** D: Kevin Smith. Starring Elizabeth Banks, Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson, Gerry Bednob, Jason Mewes, Jennifer Schwalbach, Brandon Routh, Justin Long, Tom Savini, Traci Lords, Tisha Campbell. Banks and Rogen have been friends since high school and are faced with a total lack of money. So they decide to make an adult film together. Will this change their platonic relationship? Pretty lame-brained comedy has some Smithian laughs to offer but proceedings aree ludicrous. Banks is wasted in many ways. Only for Smith (and Mewes) fans, others beware.

Zanna Bianca (1973, ITA/SPA/FRA) C-104m. ** D: Lucio Fulci. Starring Franco Nero, Virna Lisi, Fernando Rey, John Steiner, Missaele, Raimund Harmstorf, Carole André, Rik Battaglia, Harry Carey Jr., Maurice Poli. Labored attempt at bringing Jack London’s famous story White Fang to the big screen. Film follows a little boy’s friendship with a wolf-dog during the goldrush in turn-of-the-century Alaska. Talky, poorly scripted, not much of an adventure. Setting and cast are assets, though. For patient (and older) kids only. Score by Carlo Rustichelli. Followed by five(!) sequels until 1978, starting with RITORNO DI ZANNA BIANCA (1974). English title: WHITE FANG.

Zardoz (1974, GBR) C-105m. Scope **½ D: John Boorman. Starring Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, John Alderton, Sara Kestelman, Sally Anne Newton, Niall Buggy. In the late 23rd century a warrior (Connery) sets out to find the God of his tribe. He encounters a secret society of immortal intellectuals and upsets their life with his appearance. Ambitious social-fiction, written and produced by director Boorman, is hampered by uneven storyline and general lack of focus. Ultimately weird film has developed a cult reputation, however. Well-photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth (2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY).

Zarte Haut in Schwarzer Seide (1961, GER/FRA) 83m. ** D: Max Pécas. Starrig Elke Sommer, Ivan Desny, Helmut Schmid, Eddy Mitchell. Sommer plays a mannequin in Rome, who falls prey to the evil schemes of her boss Desny (and in love with reporter Schmid). Low-grade, harmless crime drama offers some good black-and-white camerawork (by André Germain). Based on a novel by Walter Ebert, jazzy music by Charles Aznavour. English titles: DANIELLA BY NIGHT and DANIELA, CRIMINAL STRIP-TEASE.

Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe, Die (1973, GER) C-82m. **½ D: Ulli Lommel. Starring Kurt Raab, Jeff Roden, Margit Carstensen, Brigitte Mira, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jürgen Prochnow. Rainer Werner Fassbinder produced this drama about real-life serial killer Fritz Haarmann, played very well by Kurt Raab. The homosexual, vampirish human ‘monster’ killed some thirty to fourty young men before he was executed in 1925. Film looks at his everyday life and his neighbors and friends, who never suspected anything for a long time. Stylistically faultless but very slowly paced and not as compelling as the 1995 film DER TOTMACHER, which is also about the mass murderer. Original version may also run 95m.

Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005, USA) C-102m. **½ D: Jon Favreau. Starring Jonah Bobo, Josh Hutcherson, Dax Shepard, Kristen Stewart, Tim Robbins, voice of Frank Oz. After JUMANJI (1995), another adaptation of the children’s books by Chris Van Allsburg. Two boys discover an old board game in the basement and start playing it. Suddenly they find themselves (and their house) in outer space, where aliens are awaiting them. Sci-fi adventure is basically one big orgy of destruction, though it also comments on the brothers’ rivalry. 10-year-olds will probably love this. Photographed by Guillermo Navarro.

Zatôichi (2003, JAP) C-116m. **½ D: Takeshi Kitano. Starring Beat Takeshi (Kitano), Tadanobu Asano, Michiyo Ookusu, Gadarukanaru Taka. Beat Takeshi pays homage to a beloved sword-wielding hero in Japanese (cinema) history with this uneven drama about a blind master of sword-fighting who travels through the country working as a masseur and dice gambler. Dramatically weak, but with enough (digital) blood-letting to keep you awake. Some people loved this; it won multiple awards, including four at the Venice Film Festival. Filmed before in 1962, 1963 and 1988, although the Zatoichi character appears in around 30 titles in total. Also known as ZATOICHI: THE BLIND SWORDSMAN.

Zazie dans le Métro (1960, FRA/ITA) C-98m. *** D: Louis Malle. Starring Cathérine Demongeot, Philippe Noiret, Vittorio Caprioli, Hubert Deschamps, Carla Marlier. Mad comedy about 12 year-old Zazie, who comes to Paris to visit her uncle, while her mother is meeting her new lover. The girl runs away and spends a wild day in the French capital. Outrageous, creative film by director Malle may be a little slight plotwise but keeps your attention thanks to an inventive direction, which breaks all conventions. Great fun, especially the finale.

Zeder (1983, ITA) C-99m. *** D: Pupi Avati. Starring Gabriele Lavia, Anne Canovas, Paola Tanziani, Cesare Barbetti, Bob Tonelli, Ferdinando Orlandi, Aldo Sassi. Supernatural mystery about writer Lavia, who gets a used typewriter from his wife Canovas. When he finds a secret message hidden inside, he is out to investigate and discovers that the previous owner, a priest, believed that if people were buried in special places (so-called K-Zones) they would return from the dead. Good mystery plot, some creepy, scary scenes, though Avati’s direction is second-rate and doesn’t make the most of the intriguing story. Still, an engrossing movie, not your run-of-the-mill zombie flick. Written by Maurizio Constanzo, Antonio and Pupi Avati. Photographed by Franco delli Colli, scored by Riz Ortolani. Shown is various cut versions, though film is not violent at all. Similarity to Stephen King’s novel Pet Sematary is obvious; the book was also published in 1983 (which rules out plagiarism). Also known as REVENGE OF THE DEAD, VOICES FROM THE BEYOND.

Zerkalo (1975, RUS) C/B&W-106m. **** D: Andrei Tarkovsky. Starring Margarita Terekhova, Ignat Daniltsev, Larisa Tarkovskaya, Alla Demidova. Anatoli Solonitsyn, Tamara Ogorodnikova, Yuri Nazarov, Nikolai Grinko, narrated by Arseni Tarkovsky. Hauntingly beautiful art film stands firmly in the center of filmmaker Tarkovsky’s oeuvre. He combines historical footage, recited poetry and brilliantly stark images to illustrate a dying man’s reminiscence of his childhood, the World War Two days and, most importantly, his mother. Not easily accessible but emotionally powerful. Overwhelming imagery complemented by Tarkovsky’s brilliant direction. Multiple viewing is indispensable. Banned in the Soviet Union for many years. This film, more than any other by the director, reflects his influence on the work of Lars von Trier. Shot in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. English title: THE MIRROR.

Zinker, Der (1963, GER/FRA) 89m. Scope ** D: Alfred Vohrer. Starring Heinz Drache, Günther Pfitzmann, Eddi Arent, Klaus Kinski. Considered to be one of the best Edgar Wallace adaptations, this thriller about a criminal who uses the venom of snakes as murder weapon is not bad but hardly exciting.

Zizanie, La (1977, FRA) C-97m. Scope *** D: Claude Zidi. Starring Louis de Funès, Annie Girardot. Businessman de Funès sells his latest invention to Japanese magnates and has to produce 3000 devices in just three months. His factory isn’t big enough, so he has the workers move into his house, which leads to chaos and trouble with wife Girardot. Poignant satire is no classic, given de Funès’ standard, but still very enjoyable. English title: THE SPAT.

Zodiac (2007, USA) C-158m. Scope *** D: David Fincher. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox, John Carroll Lynch, Chloe Sevigny, John Getz, Elias Koteas, Dermot Mulroney, Donal Logue, Philip Baker Hall, Adam Goldberg, James LeGros, Clea DuVall, Ione Skye. Meticulous recreation of the search for the Zodiac killer, who started killing in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960s and wrote taunting letters to newspapers and the police. The main characters in this drama: Policeman Ruffalo, reporter Downey Jr, and cartoon artist Gyllenhaal, whose obsession with the crimes lasted throughout the 1970s and beyond. Good performances, fine production design, this chronological examination lacks suspense at times, but it’s well written and never boring despite its length. Screenplay by James Vanderbilt. The Zodiac killer was subject of the first DIRTY HARRY movie, as well as another 1971 movie titled THE ZODIAC KILLER. Also filmed in 2005 and 2007.

Zombi Holocaust (1980, ITA) C-82m. D: Frank Martin (=Marino Girolami). Starring Ian McCulloch, Alexandra Cole (=delli Colli), Sherry Buchanan, Peter O’Neal, Donald O’Brien. Gruesome exploitation movie mixes elements of zombie and cannibal movies. A hospital staff is baffled to find someone is mutilating their corpses. When several incidents like this happen, clues lead to a tropical island, where a research team tries to locate a primitive tribe. It turns out a mad scientist has created gut-munching zombies. Stomach-churning effects are main attraction of this inept, poorly made movie. The unnerving score of the U.S. version contributes to an oppressive atmosphere. For extreme movie lovers only. Also known as ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST, LA REGINA DEI CANNIBALI, QUEEN OF THE CANNIBALS, ZOMBIE 3, ISLAND OF THE LAST ZOMBIES, DR. (DOCTOR) BUTCHER, M.D. (MEDICAL DEVIATE).

Zombi 3 (1988, ITA) C-89m. M D: Lucio Fulci. Starring Deran Sarafian, Alex McBride. Fulci returned to the zombie sub-genre one more time and delivered this incoherent mess of a movie. Bio-chemical gas is released, and virtually everyone who comes in touch with it becomes one of the living dead. The director has come a long way from his stylish horror pics of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Zoolander (2001, USA) C-89m. Scope D: Ben Stiller. Starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, Will Ferrell, Milla Jovovich, Jerry Stiller, David Duchovny, Jon Voight. Derek Zoolander (Stiller) is a super model that’s just lost out to newcomer Wilson in a model award show. Frustrated, he intends to leave the business, only to make a comeback when a top fashion designer asks him to work for his company. Little does Derek know that he is going to be brainwashed into killing the President of Malaysia (really!). Loud, numbing, outrageously stupid comedy with Stiller obviously rivalling Adam Sandler in who’s making the sillier pictures. This one is worse than Sandler’s LITTLE NICKY. Some stylish montage saves this from total disaster. Lots of celebrities appear as themselves: David Bowie, Christian Slater, Winona Ryder, Lenny Kravitz, Billy Zane, Claudia Schiffer, to name but a few.

Zwartboek (2006, NED/GER/BEL) C-145m. Scope *** D: Paul Verhoeven. Starring Carice Van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom Hoffman, Halina Reijn, Waldemar Kobus, Derek de Lint, Christian Berkel. In his first film since HOLLOW MAN (2000) and returning to his native The Netherlands, Paul Verhoeven proves he’s still as powerful in filmmaking as ever with this WW2 tale of a young Jewish woman, who lives through a dangerous time in 1944 Germany. She becomes Nazi general Koch’s lover to help the resistance movement, but then she discovers her affection for the man, who turns out less demonical and more human that his collaborators. Well-photographed, well-acted, well-paced, although it’s still a bit overlong. Cowritten by Verhoeven. English title: BLACK BOOK.

Zwei Girls vom Roten Stern (1966, GER/FRA/AUT) C-92m. **½ D: Sammy Drechsel. Starring Curd Jürgens, Lilli Palmer, Pascale Petit, Anthony Steel, Dieter Hildebrandt. Interesting Cold War satire about Jürgens, representative of the Americans and his Russian counterpart, who embark on a battle of wits, when U.S. scientists introduce new super-weapon that the Russians would like to have. No action, no big deal, but stars are fun to watch. English title: AN AFFAIR OF STATES.