Friday, November 10, 2006

la commune

Over at, Doug Cummings has posted a detailed piece on Peter Watkins' LA COMMUNE (PARIS, 1871), made in 2000 but only recently released on dvd by First Run Features. Doug calls it "without a doubt one of the best and most important films of the decade. ... Not only be one of the towering achievements of cinema of the last few years, but also an electrifying examination of issues and conflicts that couldn't be more relevant today."

The aesthetic sounds fascinating: period costumes, props and set pieces are filmed inside a modern concrete building, with no attempt made to hide the artifice (I'm thinking DOGVILLE). Over the couse of the six-hour film, the actors (as themselves) regularly address the camera, commenting on the action of the story from a personal perspective.

Some details caught my eye;

The Commune implements a variety of reforms and precedents: it insists on a separation of Church and State, and a free secular education for all, particularly women, who at that time were trained in religious schools only to be housewives or homemakers. ("Jesus was an anarchist, the carpenter always on strike! You have made him the God of the bourgeoisie," one women shouts at a priest.)...

While the Church is seen as a potential tool of oppression, it provides genuine services and meals otherwise hard to come by....

As the film builds to its violent and tragic climax, its atmosphere of urgency is overwhelming. Ultimately, 20,000 to 30,000 Communards and others--men, women, and children--are executed, while many others are rounded up, arrested, and placed in exile. (Some readers may recall that the title character of Isak Dinesen's BABETTE'S FEAST was a Commune survivor whose husband and son were killed during its suppression.)...


PS It's just in at Videomatica
Here's their blurb...

COMMUNE (PARIS 1871), LA (Coming Nov 14/06) (2000)
Director : Peter Watkins
With some cameras and more than 200 little-known actors as his aids, the
ambitious director Peter Watkins set out to do his own re-creation of the
Paris Commune. The Commune was a period in French history marked by social
revolt, political chaos, and a monumental uprising by citizens against
capitalist leaders. Watkins adds a new twist to this "documentary" by
re-creating it through the lenses of TV stations that are covering the
events from different political sides. Sure it takes place in the 19th
century, but they had TV back then, right? --JA

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