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Charles, Dead or Alive (1969)

Charles mort ou vif (original title)
On the 100th anniversary of the founding of a watchmaking company in Geneva, Charles Dé the founder's 50-year-old grandson has had it: he speaks eccentrically to a reporter, recognizing his... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
François Simon ...
Charles Dé
Marcel Robert ...
Marie-Claire Dufour ...
André Schmidt ...
Pierre Dé, fils de Charles
Maya Simon ...
Marianne Dé, fille de Charles
Michéle Martel ...
Germaine Dé, la femme de Charles
Jo Excoffier ...
Reporter de TV
Walter Schochli ...
Le détective
Jean-Pierre Moriaud ...
Jean-Luc Bideau ...
Le premier infirmier / Ambulance Driver
Le second infirmier
Janine Christoffe ...
La femme de chambre
Pierre Verdan ...
Le patron de bistrot
Antoine Bordier ...
Le réceptionniste de l'hôtel
Liliane Bovard


On the 100th anniversary of the founding of a watchmaking company in Geneva, Charles Dé the founder's 50-year-old grandson has had it: he speaks eccentrically to a reporter, recognizing his grandfather as a craftsman and his son as a businessman, but is evasive about himself. He gives his family the slip and moves in with a young couple he meets by chance, doing the cooking, reading, drinking, and engaging in philosophical discussions with them. The young couple comes to love Charles. In secret, he stays in touch with a daughter, and the rest of the family hires a private investigator to find him, setting in motion a business take-over that threatens his Bohemian happiness. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Release Date:

15 January 1970 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Charles, Dead or Alive  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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User Reviews

"Hope is going away slowly" (Charles Dé)
16 April 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Although Alan Tanner will celebrate at the end of this year (2009) his 80st birthday, there is not a single one of his films available on DVD. For the New Yorker Film releases of his videos high prices are paid. Does Switzerland care so little about their very few internationally know film makers? First, Alan Tanner is and was practically unknown in German speaking Switzerland, where most of the Swiss movies are made. Second, besides a few recent movies by Fredi Murer, Xavier Koller, Markus Imhoof, also the German language Swiss movies are not available outside of Switzerland.

"Charles mort ou vif" is a typical Tanner-movie insofar as it describes uncompromisingly the inner road someone has to go almost with necessity to the bitter end after he or she had decided to break with society. This central topic in Alain Tanner's work is later treated splendidly in "Messidor" and "La Salamandre". In the present movie, 50 years old Charles Dé does not see any sense anymore in leading his watch factory. Similarly like Marie et Jeanne from "Messidor", he starts his new life-experiment by just vanishing. Like the two girls, he dislocates into a cheap hotel and spends his days by experiencing the emptiness of space and time - like Paul in "The White City". However, like all his Tanner-relatives, also Charles alias Carlo has to make the bitter experience that the emptiness gives birth to monsters. Finally, he meets a couple of dropouts or drifters (there is no real word in English) who live from occasional work that nourishes more or less. Together with his new friends, "Carlo" reads now Bakunin, paints, cooks and learns calender quotations by heart. Sometimes he has break-downs, and these he cures with schnapps in the next inn. When his new friend has a heavy accident, he incites his daughter to break into his company by night and open the safe. Besides regular contact with his daughter who is as Marxist as he is, "Carlo" has no contact with the rest of his family anymore. But Switzerland is a free state, and based on this freedom, his son succeeds in convincing a physician to classify Carlo's newly discovered political maxims and his new way of life as insane. So, one bright day, Carlo has to start his trip into the light, brutally forced by two madhouse-nurses who take him away in an ambulance.

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