Tavernier's 'Death Watch' is a fascinating film that predates/predicts reality TV in a future where disease has been mostly cured causing death to be the new taboo. The 'tech' side of the film may be dated now but the story holds up surprisingly well. Casting is offbeat and that works to the film's advantage as well.
"Everything's of interest, but nothing matters." So Katherine tells the unscrupulous Vincent, wonderfully portrayed by Schneider and Stanton, respectively. To see this film now when personal autonomy, dignity and privacy are being steadily eroded was a major mindfuck, esp. when the film's future is basically now yet the aesthetic is clearly turn-of-decade bygone.
This is certainly a more convincing portrait of a future British dystopia than A Clockwork Orange. The best moments are directly derivative of Hitchcock, in particular a great unbroken tracking shot of the search for Katherine when she abandons her husband and goes on the run. Unfortunately, after that bit of excitement the film runs aground in a swamp of boring "humanism". Mean old Alfred never would have done that.
It's hard to say for sure if the film ever really finds its footing, but that doesn't mean that the pieces it presents aren't still great on their own. The concept brings a lot to the table. Romy Schneider, whom I was unfamiliar with, was great. I will always love any chance I get to see something with the combined talents of Keitel, Stanton, and Sydow as well.
MUBI was not lying when it presented the film as something that would be happy to go outside of its genre. It went so far outside, I am unsure if you can label it as any genre, while other films like this them become experimental or contemplative, this film stayed disappointingly formulaic, never breaking out of a perceived shell. The real loss was the cast, the talent in the film never were given a chance to shine.
A savage cautionary tale about the media, fake news, loss of privacy and the power of sensationalism, Death Watch is certainly still alive today in its strong themes. Unfortunately, this cerebral sci-fi film is also stiffly pedantic in its dialogue, a bit too proud of its constant tracking shots and rushes the ending. Nevertheless, it's an ambitious story that allows its moodiness to seep into your pores.
Among the many powerful moments in this film, I was particularly taken by scenes beginning in the tavern when Roddy watches his video of Katherine, turns in disgust, runs toward the shack, stops short, screams, and tosses his "flashlight" away. It was seamless, with the underscoring -- did I hear chords from Mozart's Requiem? -- by Duhamel building to the climax. Romy Schneider was luminous, as always.
Now I know where the story of The Truman Show came about - Death Watch! I really loved this film a lot, although I thought it was quite long. The actor's were relatable and excellent at their craft. I wouldn't be able to watch it twice, but I am glad I watched it once.
This made me think about the idea we hear a lot of in the 21st century: that many good/great films of the past would not be made today. Mr. Tavernier's Death Watch is strange and eerie in a beautiful and visceral way. May the times of making films like this return in our lifetime.
They had no way of imagining the future of computers. In this one they had an A.I. tape recorder. The idea of putting something in him that could blind him is ridiculous. They couldn't imagine a tiny video recorder that you could put on a pair of glasses? Even the spy shows were more imaginative with the use of pendants. I know you're supposed to ignore that stuff, but the emotional content was so contrived.
Excellent, haunting sci-fi film beautifully photographed, with alternating scenes of splendor and squalor. The dialog was a bit hard to follow at times and sometimes a bit overwritten and unnatural. In spite of that, it was not difficult to follow the story.
It is too bad that this screenplay was not fretted over sufficiently so's to have been able to maximize its potentials. Especially in the late going. Lazes over the finish line. But this is indelible stuff. Burned into my grey matter. Electrically imprinted. I'll be summoning it in dreams. It is, above all else, a masterfully directed movie. Full stop. If the writing falters, the world it establishes is ineffaceable.