Peter Watkins makes provocative films that fiercely criticize those in power and their institutions. Using documentary techniques along with improvisation and handheld cameras he creates powerful films that somehow transcend the limitations of both drama and documentary to come up with something that adds more to the debate and prompts you to think about and question what you see. In La Commune (Paris, 1871) Watkins uses a cast of a couple hundred people who improvise and reenact within the framework of the events surrounding the Paris Commune in 1851. The anachronistic narrative conceit that frames the story is television news as we see reports broadcast during the events. But the film moves from clever to brilliant as the lines between improvisation and reality are blurred as the crew asks the actors if they would do this now. It becomes at times an amazing look inside French society that shows that maybe things haven’t changed that much. Both historically and technically it’s a remarkable achievement that was spurned by broadcasters and will probably have a much larger audience over time through the DVD release.
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