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Andy Willis

European political thrillers of the 1970s. This is variously through the way they construct their narratives, engage with contemporary and historical political situations and use well-known performers as a way of attracting audiences. In these ways, it is possible to identify how they operate in a tradition of making commercially orientated political cinema. These films exist across the world in a wide

in States of danger and deceit
Creating a model for a ‘commercial’ political cinema
Andy Willis

labelled a political thriller, was Z , directed by Costa-Gavras and written by Jorge Semprún. Together, as well as apart, the pair would have an enormous impact on the development of the form of the European political thriller as the 1970s progressed. Key to their collaboration in this period was the work they undertook on three landmark films: Z (1969), The Confession

in States of danger and deceit
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Films screened as part of States of Danger and Deceit
Rachel Hayward
,
Ellen Smith
, and
Andy Willis

(1969), States of Danger and Deceit: European Political Thrillers in the 1970s offered audiences 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 Illustrious Corpses (1976), films that still influence the way in which politically engaged filmmakers approach their

in States of danger and deceit
The European political thriller in the 1970s

In the 1970s, the ideological turmoil that marked the late 1960s and led to events such as May ’68 gave way to a more strident politics that involved stark contrasts between left and right. During this period, those within the establishment and those without seemed willing to act with violence to force the changes they sought for society. In response to this political moment, a number of European filmmakers turned to the format of the thriller as they sought to explore conspiracies, authoritarian regimes and political violence. States of Danger and Deceit: The European Political Thriller in the 1970s places key films (Z (1969), The Mattei Affair (1972), State of Siege (1972), The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1975), Illustrious Corpses (1976)) and filmmakers (Costa-Gavras, Elio Petri, Francesco Rosi, Volker Schlöndorff) from across Europe into their historical political and social contexts before considering the ways they have impacted upon politically engaged filmmakers since.

The infrastructure of everyday life

The well-being of Europe’s citizens depends less on individual consumption and more on their social consumption of essential goods and services – from water and retail banking to schools and care homes – in what we call the foundational economy. Individual consumption depends on market income, while foundational consumption depends on social infrastructure and delivery systems of networks and branches, which are neither created nor renewed automatically, even as incomes increase. This historically created foundational economy has been wrecked in the last generation by privatisation, outsourcing, franchising and the widespread penetration of opportunistic and predatory business models. The distinctive, primary role of public policy should therefore be to secure the supply of basic services for all citizens (not a quantum of economic growth and jobs). Reconstructing the foundational has to start with a vision of citizenship that identifies foundational entitlements as the conditions for dignified human development, and likewise has to depend on treating the business enterprises central to the foundational economy as juridical persons with claims to entitlements but also with responsibilities and duties. If the aim is citizen well-being and flourishing for the many not the few, then European politics at regional, national and EU level needs to be refocused on foundational consumption and securing universal minimum access and quality. If/when government is unresponsive, the impetus for change has to come from engaging citizens locally and regionally in actions which break with the top down politics of ‘vote for us and we will do this for you’.

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Rachel Hayward
,
Ellen Smith
, and
Andy Willis

Figure 1 Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion (1970), courtesy of Park Circus/Criterion The States of Danger and Deceit: The European Political Thriller in the 1970s dossier is a key component of a project that took place at HOME in

in States of danger and deceit
Reflections on putting together States of Danger and Deceit: The European Political Thriller in the 1970s
Andy Willis

contemporary issues and spoke to audiences’ concerns. At the forefront of this shift were the Hollywood conspiracy thriller and the European political thriller. Issues of simple and straightforward definitions are always difficult when it comes to film genres, and this is perhaps more so when it comes to the thriller. This had led to those writing about particular trends or cycles within the broad thriller label

in States of danger and deceit
Andy Willis

. The fact that all of these elements can be found in examples of the European political thriller explains why this form in particular was not commonly embraced by filmmakers in these countries, perhaps often practising some level of self-censorship. In this section of the dossier, Eleftheria Rania Kosmidou explores an interesting example, the Greek film Days of ’36 ( Meres tou ’36 , 1972). During

in States of danger and deceit
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Terrorism on the doorstep
Andy Willis

received for a tale dealing with crime, morality and ethics’ ( 2016 : 193). Given this context, it is perhaps less surprising than one might at first think to find that one of the outliers of the European political thriller of the 1970s had its origin in West German television. Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street ( Tote Taube in der Beethovenstraße , 1972) was directed by American Samuel

in States of danger and deceit
Roy Stafford

Figure 17 Advertising poster for Man on the Roof (1976), courtesy of Svenska Film Institut If we were compiling a film season of ‘European political thrillers’ from the twenty-first century, we might immediately think

in States of danger and deceit