I know this forum is getting swamped with information. So I’ll sing the praises of Peter Watkins whose films are finally getting the treatment they deserve on DVD.
The War Game is one of the few films I’ve seen that has truely invaded my sleep!
I should also throw in accolades for Culloden, Privelege, Punishment Park, Edvard Munch, and La Commune 1871.
His film ‘Evening Land’ will probably get a DVD release in 2009. Perhaps ‘The Journey’ as well.
punishment park and edvard munch are both available through the wonderful masters of cinema dvd label here in the uk. both are great films, its just a shame that the war game is unavailable here.
How wonderful! Folks who know Watkins! Punishment Park was dazzling: he foresaw much of what was going to happen in the media—television, particularly—some 30 years before it happened.
I got a professor who loves Watkins, but I haven’t seen any of his films yet. I’ve been reading a lot about him lately in film magazines, so maybe people are starting to re-evaluate him. What’s the first film to start with as a primer on Watkins, and why?
Well Mr. W I can’t lay claim to expertise—I haven’t seen them all. But Punishment Park is stunning, and will resonate most certainly with anyone who thought Survivor was the nadir of television. Watkins saw it happening 30 years ago. I mean, strictly speaking the movie is apparently a take on the Chicago 7 trial, but it has so much to say about political machinations and propaganda; about government duplicity; and about media duplicity. He’s very bold. In La Commune, for instance, set in 1871, he has reporters walking around, microphones in hand, talking about the commune; talking to the communards. The commune rebellion is televised, in 1871. Just stunning stuff.
i would recommend punishment park too bobby. theres a really nice european edition of the film available on dvd too-
edvard munch is perhaps his masterpiece, but punishment park is much more accessible.
Punishment Park is great. But the film he’s most well known for is The War Game which was banned in the UK for many years. However, it should be pointed out, the film is really disturbing.
Project X has been putting many Peter Watkins’ films onto dvd for region 1 and depending on their finding a distributor (the now defunct new yorker) “The Journey” will be released in a 9 dvd pack as soon as possible. As to Bobby Wise’s question, I think each of his films deals with the same themes so one might just was well start from any of his movies. But I notice Gladiators is under-represented here, and it’s a fine film with a sly satiric bent.
Privilige blew my mind when I was 14. I did not know movies could be so intelligent AND cool. Film that made me go into film school.
Watkins would certainly make my Top 10 Greatest Filmmakers list, maybe even top 5.
As Adam says above, although all of his movies are fantastic, Edvard Munch is an absolute masterpiece of art. While Watkins used his false documentary style to wonderful effect in the majority of his work, at times it can be a bit over-bearing. For example, I love Commune, but I feel he may of gone slightly overboard with how much of a blatantly false and constructed version of history he was documenting. But with Munch he treats himself and his crew as much more of a fly-on-the-wall, catching the moments in Edvard’s life as they’re happening, while also going into interview mode when needed.
One of the most sublime moments in the history of cinema comes when Watkin’s cameras are recording a scene with Edvard and his family, very much in the manner of a traditional narrative film, almost making you forget that you’re supposed to be watching a “documentary.” And then Edvard, who has shut himself off from the other people in the room, briefly raises his eyes and stares into the lens of the camera with a look of absolute sadness and exasperation, almost begging Watkin’s to take him out of the situation, or to go film something else.
It’s a heart-breaking moment, but it makes me want to jump up and cheer for the glory of cinema.
I’ve only seen Punishment Park. I’d love to see The War Game, I should definitely get around to that, but I have to admit I didn’t LIKE Punishment Park.
Now, the thing is, there’s a difference between liking a movie and appreciating it. There’s many movies I don’t “like” but I appreciate or admire greatly. There’s a lot of movies that are purposefully uncomfortable to watch, and I “like” them. Punishment Park is in a very weird place for me. On one hand, it’s a very powerful film that I can at least understand its effectiveness. On the other hand, it’s so full of hatred, fear, and distress, that I honestly feel that it is in itself a hateful film. There’s a difference between criticizing something and downright calling for its blood, and Watkins gave me the impression in Punishment Park that if HE was in power, he’d send the conservatives into their own Punishment Park as well. It really unsettled me.
So I really want to watch other things he’s made so that I can have a much broader and clearer understanding of who Watkins is as a person, because the only portrait I have in him in my head from a single film is of a scared, angry person who was as dangerous as a cornered rat with rabies. But obviously he’s managed to make a lot of films on a wide variety of topics, so I can’t really assume that that portrait is correct.
I just finished watching La Commune and it is a stunning achievement. Punishment Park is excellent and I would put Edvard Munch in the top 3 biopics ever made list. I will be picking up the Freethinker soon. He is an essential filmmaker.
I’ve just recently been fortunate enough to own the Cinema of Peter Watkins box set. So far I have seen all the films included in the set except for Edvard Munch (I’m saving what seems to be the best for last). So far every film I see from his just gets better and better and his style seems to progressive and become more subtle.
I wasn’t to keen on the approach and execution with Colluden but it seemed to work better in The War Games, which is a film still extremely relative today although the issue is not as out in the open as it was back then. Definitely deserves to be watched by more people.
Then I watched the Gladiators, which was really surprising. It had the Watkins feel in the beginning of the film and later became more subtle. The film “experience” felt like no other film I have seen before. The way it played out was very affecting and the last moments are amazing.
I watched Punishment Park last night… it seems to sum up Watkins political ideas from his previous films and really elevates the film with the all to real arguments between the radicals (some that I disagreed with [the violent ones] but others that seemed to share the same idea of peace that I had/ have) and the government officials. Incredible performances from every single person in the film! The film reaches such a though provoking level that makes one really wonder about the purpose of Government.
So far from what I have seen from Peter Watkins I can say that he is his own cinema like Cassavetes and Godard. No one makes films like Watkins without paling in comparison.
“Cinema of Peter Watkins box set”
170 dollars. For five films. Ouch!
The greatest Political filmmkaer of all-time.
La Commune (de Paris 1971) is his masterpiece.
Privilege and Punishment Park are also great.
Visiting this site is expensive. Reading this thread today, knowing next-to-nothing about Peter Watkins, led me to Amazon. Seeing that six of his films are available (only one left of “La Commune” and two of “Edvard Munch” after my visit), I also bought “Freethinker”, “Gladiators”, “Privilege” and “Punishment Park”.
I’m going to have to get a second job and then I won’t have time to watch these films.
thats why i dont buy blindly (in bulk at that). not only do i not have the money, but its hard enough for me to catch up with watching the films i get for free!
Thought you guys were talking about the cinematographer of Catch 22, David Watkin. Doh!
La Commune 7+ hrs and Culloden are his masterpieces if you have the patience and an attention to detail they require.
Fransisco J. Torres wrote: “Cinema of Peter Watkins box set”
170 dollars. For five films. Ouch!"
I got mine for only 40 dollars when the Virgin Mega store was closing down in Hollywood.
when did the virgin megastore close down in hollywood? you mean the one on sunset and crescent heights?
The one on Hollywood and Vine
Or is it highland? Well the first subway stop from North Hollywood station
Edvard Munch is one of the best biopics i’ve ever seen. If you hate biopics it avoids every cliche and find new ways of examining it’s troubled subject that are surprising and somewhat unsettling. It is also quite beautiful, using a hazy kind of color cinematography perfectly suited to the time period.
I’ve been interested in Watkins work from what I’ve read about it, esp. since his work seems to be spread out over several countries in terms of production and narrative focus.
Is La Commune (Paris, 1871) on region 1?
Yes, and it’s phenomenal. I will be watching Watkin’s The Freethinker next. La Commune, Edvard Munch and Punishment Park were all amazing films.
Mike: Who is The Freethinker about? I believe I remember someone mentioning it on here, it’s about a scientist, right?
La Commune (Paris, 1871) – Just watched this. I’m not a Marxist. Normally, I wouldn’t offer such a qualifier in commenting on a film, but this one demands it! I haven’t seen any Watkins films between this and [i]Edvard Munch[/i], so it was a bit tragic to see that Watkins had completely lost interest in certain formal qualities of cinema. Rossellini also claimed to have lost interest in cinema when he began his own didactic telefilms, but he was a liar. Watkins is telling the truth.
That doesn’t mean that Watkins doesn’t use his considerable talent to tame what should have been a completely disastrous exercise: namely, gathering 200 individuals of wildly varying acting talent and scholarly skill, and have them research their own parts and write 6-hours worth of dialogue/diatribes. The curious effect of this is that my empathy for any particular character had nothing to do with politics or narrative, but was almost solely dependent on the personal qualities of the performer. This can’t be possibly be what Watkins intended?
On one hand, the film convinced me that the Commune martyrs were heroes. On the other hand, if I ever had a doubt by the workability of a proletariat revolution, I certainly don’t now. This film dissects with almost-scientific precision the impossibility of a decentralized government.
A mass of contradictions, which is what makes it fascinating.
The factory in which “La Commune” was shot originally housed Georges Melies’ film studio.