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Death By Design/The Life and Times of Life and Times (1996)

Pierre Golstein , Polly Matzinger , Peter Friedman (II) , Jean-François Brunet  |  NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Pierre Golstein, Polly Matzinger, Martin Raff, Rita Levi-Montalcini, Robert Horvitz
  • Directors: Peter Friedman (II), Jean-François Brunet
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • DVD Release Date: June 21, 2005
  • Run Time: 130 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0008FXT78
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,844 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Death By Design/The Life and Times of Life and Times" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Winner of 10 international Awards, DEATH BY DESIGN is a guided tour into the invisible world of cells, told through a collage of metaphors and interviews with cellular biologists. State-of-the-art microcinematography is playfully intercut with parallel images from life at the human scale: a hundred lighted violins, imploding skyscrapers, Busby Berkeley musicals, Harold Lloyd antics and more. Using the same imaginative interplay of classic films, animation and research,THE LIFE AND TIMES OF LIFE AND TIMES tells the complex story of how we age and also shows how scientists hope to alter the genes that determine how long we live.

Death by Design, a witty, fast-paced documentary by Peter Friedman (working with French researcher Jean-Francois Brunet), concerns an unlikely but fascinating subject: programmed cell death. Taking us deep into the mysteries of cellular biology, Friedman reveals the arcane reasons why some cells suddenly and automatically kill themselves, apparently triggered by signals from surrounding cells. Friedman employs some impressive, microscopic cinematography, but he knows most people are not inclined to look at the building blocks of life even for an hour. So he makes clever, allegorical use of other bits of film--clips of cars driving on the freeway, animation, Busby Berkley musical numbers, Harold Lloyd--to underscore the major points. Wonderfully entertaining and enlightening, Death by Design makes the invisible a thing of kinetic beauty.

The Life and Times of Life and Times is an edgy yet witty treatise on an enduring scientific and philosophical mystery: Why do we age? For that matter, why does anything in the material world change over time, and what does time mean in a biological sense? Several garrulous scientists seem happy to expound on one or another aspect of these questions in this stimulating documentary by Jean-François Brunet and Peter Friedman ("Death By Design: Where Parallel Worlds Meet"). Among other things, the film's talking heads remind us we know little about aging, and that evolution could have eradicated aging in human beings by now except for the fact that nature regards older, post-fertility people as, well, unworthy of preserving. But don't despair: Other species face the same dilemma, except scientists have learned to lengthen the life span of, say, fruit flies by delaying their reproductive period. (Hmm…) If there is such a thing as a fountain of youth, it all comes down to genetics, The Life and Times tells us in its casually enigmatic way. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Consciousness-shifting! April 13, 2002
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
I saw this on World Link TV one night when nothing else was on. I was completely captivated, enchanted, blown away. Words cannot describe this film or the way it shifted/stretched my consciousness. I felt like a child being playfully tossed into the air of a greater understanding of (and trust in) how the entire intelligent universe unfolds itself. A complete joy! I've got to find this on DVD....
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As thought provoking as Koyaanisqatsi, only with words. November 20, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
This documentary will test your understanding of corporeal existence in the way major psychotropics used to in the sixties, only without the hangover. It is a misleading title, though once you watch it you'll get it. The "death by design" is also referred to as "programmed cell death" and it is a detailed explanation and deconstruction of cellular resurrection and rebirth on orders of billions of times per second; what makes us "us." It is how cells communicate with each other and survive for the good of the whole. Move. Divide. Stay where you are. Become something else. Kill. Commit suicide. Die. It will astound you and give you a perspective of life that damn near reaches divine inspiration. Just get passed the graduate film school opening credit sequence and sit back with jaw dropped. You won't regret it and you will demand that your friends watch it, too. Especially if you're in the right head.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Survivor" at the cellular level August 25, 2000
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
I remember vividly seeing this film on TV. I was in Europe on business, jet-lagged, unable to sleep at 2AM. So I flipped on the TV and this came on. The title and opening few minutes made me almost change the channel, but I'm sure glad I stayed with it, because it just engrosses you. Seeing this film and learning about aptosis ("programmed cell death") have been very important/helpful to me, in hindsight.
I recall a quote in a book, something like "zen is what happens after you've spent enough time thinking about death", or words to that effect.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Death By Design the Life and Times of Life and Times January 20, 2009
"Death By Design the Life and Times of Life and Times" is an astounding look at life as we know it - at the tiniest cellular level.

This is one of the very best films I've seen, and proves to be an essential step to consciousness and enlightenment. The information in "Death by Design" is wonderfully enhanced with useful graphical representations. The filmmakers went above and beyond to make complex, esoteric terms easier to understand by use of imagery and apperception. Viewers will see microscopic elements, pictorial theories, and discussions with a variety of experts in the USA, Europe, and abroad.

It makes sense that, "to live is to die." Such programming exists in human life, animal kingdom, and even in the subatomic world of particles. This explains how or why death occurs and also examines dis-eases, such as cancer; how cells live, communicate, mate, divide, consume each other, disappear, and ultimately die by instructed suicide.

This is a must-see film, especially recommended for those in the sciences, RSE students, and others whom enjoyed, "What the Bleep." Viewers will learn that death is an implemented design that is part of the same "design of life" [and everyday times] as the title references.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars life by design March 22, 2007
Format:VHS Tape
directed by Jean-Francois Brunet & Peter Friedman
approx 70 minutes

This movie is on the unusual subject of the way cells die. Other processes such as cell communication and division are also covered but the main issue here is the idea that cells are sent a signal to die and "commit suicide". Several experts speak on the subject and hypothesize that maybe the reason it hasn't been discussed is due to mankind's inherent fear of death. My favorite interview subject in the movie is Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini, one of the first to study the cell death process. Her sister, Paola Rita Levi-Montalcini was a painter whose work used themes of life and death and some of it is shown here.

The movie is made in an interesting way, juxtaposing stock footage and shots from microscopes. One part I liked in particular was the grainy clip of the dancers from an old musical edited with gray science shots of cell division. The soundtrack switches between classical and neo-classical for effect.

Although there are few subjects in the world less emotional than cellular biology, the way this movie is put together adds a bit of lyricism to the "design".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes on the sacred cow of Western culture: Death December 15, 2012
This convincingly articulated and supremely entertaining documentary confirmed something I have long suspected: that death is not something to be dreaded to the point of pretending it doesn't exist. Rather, it is an essential element in sustaining life. How so? Because life, over time, will fade away if trapped in a continuum. It is only when it is replaced by new life that the possibility of moving forward to overcome the challenge of time -- evolution -- exists. We are talking about a time scale that is incomprehensible to us humans -- billions of years to progress from a single-called organism to a multi-called version. (We humans are composed of some of 10,000,000,000,000 cells.) And yet in the context of the concepts we are presented with, most movingly near the end by a pair of 90-something Italian twins, each a genius in her field, it all FINALLY begins to make sense. Our mortality is not a defeat or a slipping into some chaotic void, but rather a continuation of the miracle of our existence.
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