La Commune (Paris 1871) (3pc) (Coll Sub B&W)
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Based on a thorough historical research into the Paris Commune of 1871 (the French revolutionary government established during the Franco-Prussian War), this film leads to an inevitable reflection about the present. "Best film of the year!" -Village Voice
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Peter Watkins took this concept and applied it to the events leading up to, during and culminating to the conclusion of the Paris Commune. Through the skillful use of mostly non-professional actors, cue cards giving the basic events of the Commune, and the faux on-the-scene reporting, you, the viewer, feel that “You are There.” Really.
The production notes for this DVD remark that this feature is in the form of a documentary.
This description does little justice to this marvelous feature. You may think, relying simply on this product description that a “docu-drama” with “nonprofessional actors,” that it would be boring or tedious, especially when it is over five hours long.
Wrong. Not true. This movie is an incredibly intense, entertaining, fast-paced, and an historically accurate account of the spontaneous rebellion which occurred in Paris, France, in 1871. Trust me, you will be glued to the screen for the length of the movie.
Director Peter Watkins takes you in the middle of the action by employing the features of modern news reporting with which we are all too familiar. There is a News Anchor, two reporters, and talking heads. There are also the participants of the events of the Paris Commune.
The two reporters, looking directly to the camera, begin the movie to introduce the viewer to what is about to happen. They are dressed in eighteenth century garb, microphones in hand, and cover the Paris Commune as any modern newsperson. That they are holding microphones looks completely natural and not inconsistent with common sense; it demonstrates the extent to which we are so completely conditioned by the media. The reporters interview the protesters, generals, military rank-and-file soldiers, politicians, ordinary citizens — anyone who had anything to do with the revolt. The action on the street frequently breaks to a dour-looking News Anchor giving the newest developments on the protests or of the on-going war with Germany, and conducting his own interviews on these developments with experts and politicians and other talking heads. Just like Fox News, only without the vitriol and with no commercials.
... But wait, there’s new developments on the streets of Paris. Let’s see what’s happening down there, Chet. ... Coverage will break to more interviews of participants on the streets of Paris, with beating drums and choruses of La Marseillaise in the background. Then, coverage will break with coverage of the general assemblies and other interviews on the street. The reporters will interview the average man on the street, the defecting members of the National Guard, the working women of Paris who spearheaded the revolt, and others. When the reporters are finished interviewing, the camera will occasionally pan to a group of people intently watching the full coverage of the events on a television.
La Commune appears to be shot with a combination of regular film and video tape. The stationary scenes of News Anchor are on film, but whenever action breaks to the streets, all coverage is from hand-held, video tape cameras.
Watkins’ use of nonprofessional actors was wise. It would have been a mistake to have, say, Gerard Depardieu or Marion Cotillard, among the cast. Instead, having the participants in the streets look just like you and me, ordinary people fed up with the present state, makes the film all more compelling.
Its easy to get wrapped up with all the action. Yes, this could have been how events unfolded on the streets of Paris in 1871, and possibly also Paris in 1968. La Commune, however, captures all the energy, the action, the swift movement of events, and that empowering feeling that change is possible, possessed of any popular movement, and certainly has the elements which were present in the Occupy Movement and protests, at least the ones in which this reviewer participated.
There was a reason why Rotten Tomatoes gave this movie a 100% rating.
What prevents this movie from being a 5 star film was the lack of a tighter version of the film. The behind-the-scenes looks at the making of film were of some interest, it took away from the deep dramatic aspects of the film. Still an entetaining picture none the less.
faux documentaries, PUNISHMENT PARK and CULLODEN need to pull in their expectations when approaching LA COMMUNE. A lot of time has passed since those earlier triumphs, and there is very little "riveting re-creations of dramatic events to be had"---everyone TALKS about dramatic events, have just participated in them, or are going to --but the recreations take place in a large warehouse-factory,and are nothing like the
exciting moments in the earlier films. And there is an awfully lot of talking and polemic--socialist mindset--that, well, educates. Many of the scenes reminds one of a college seminar with students dressed in costumes airing the issues of the times--and if that sounds exciting to you, this is your baby. For my part, I longed that some of the characters, desperaton and tragic consequences of that brief revolution would be up there on the screen (the rows of coffins famous in photographs, with poetic young intellectuals placed in them comes to mind)...but this is the least "visual" of Watkins films. And there is also lots of filler (no drama, no debate, just meandering around with the camera) which doesn't help move the ideas foward very fast. For excitement, try THE WAR GAME. For visual beauty go to EDVARD MUNCH. But if motley revolutionists expounding endlessly for a doomed cause with a few bursts of passion and exalted oratory are what you crave, get ready to be patient and by all means, embrace LA COMMUNE.
Critique. Add it to the private collection, as we all ask ' why can't US television subsidize this quality of filmmaking?
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