In this war drama blurring the lines between documentary and fiction, the working class and the bourgeoisie of 19th century Paris are interviewed and covered on television, before and during a tragic workers' class revolt.
A war drama film who merger between documentary and reportage and fiction which turned over common sense, a unique where people in the 19th century was interviewed and covered on television, many of them are working class but the bourgeoisie had not escaped from camera's observation, each recorded their speech and gestures even the revolt that led to extreme and radical and heartbreaking for the working class. One of the most important French film at 21st century.Written by
Egi David Perdana
In December 2002 Peter Watkins started the editing of an abridged theatrical version. In a prologue he expresses his views on discovering that the production company, 13 Production, has financial links with the Lagardère Group (which sells Military Weapons through Matra), then he warns the audience about how much of the sequence shots and live debates from the original full-length movie have been lost in the process of reducing the running time by more than 2 hours to 3 hrs 1/2. See more »
I don't think this is Peter Watkins's "best" film, exactly. It lacks the discipline and precision of "Edward Munch." But this is the purest example of the potential of Watkins's practice. Few films I've ever seen have felt as alive as a collaboration between a director and a group of performers. The non-actors, denizens of a working-class neighborhood of Paris, lived together and collaborated with Watkins as a legit, studio-based commune during their re-enactment of the events of Paris, 1871. In the film's second half, the reenactment subtly starts to occasionally give way to conversations between the performers during the course of the production. The past starts to seem truly "re-enacted," as the "present" seems to become part of a work of historical story-telling. In the final scenes, the actors seem to go into a kind of trance of fury as they sing revolutionary songs while awaiting to defend the city from Versailles' soldiers. Many turn to the camera and say that they would pick up guns to fight for a new commune in the present. As a viewer, I believed them.
This film also goes farther in its critique of media than Watkins' earlier films. All of Watkins's films feature a contemporary documentary camera crew interviewing historical figures in a way that is quite confrontationally unnatural. In the previous films, the (seemingly) Watkins-led camera crews were portrayed as the allies of "the people." Here, the larger canvas allows for a more nuanced critique of even "people's media." Two media outlets vie for the hegemony of the viewer: Versailles News and Commune TV. Even Commune TV, the "ragtag, independent" news outlet is presented as always veering towards the most relatively conservative seats of power. The Commune reporters consistently defend the (I think rather inappropriately maligned) "professional" Commune leadership from the masses. (As much as I admire Watkins, he is undeniably an ultra-leftist.) I wonder, however, if this more complex take on the media is not tied to the more complex layerings of "realities" in this work that I discussed in my first paragraph. For, unlike, in the earlier films, here the "progressive" media outlet (Commune TV) is not the "highest" reality, and therefor is not directly attached to Watkins himself. It is only part of the historical fiction that Watkins implements to show his performers embrace the political heritage of the Commune. In the scenes where the performers discuss their experiences of the production with each other, Watkins name is only ever mentioned with reverence. The filmmaker deepens his critique of media, but not of his place within it as a "radical saint."
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