Thursday, July 19, 2012

Death Watch (1980)

Death Watch (1980) - Movie review plus screencaps

"La Mort En Direct"

I came into this film cold, knowing only that it was a sci-fi movie from the 1980s, starring Harvey Keitel and Harry Dean Stanton, and with the potentially gory title of "Death Watch."  I was anticipating something a little outrageous and trashy, but hopefully kind of awesome at the same time.  Maybe some robots or cyborgs, a few laser beams.  Instead, what I got was a long, talky, meditative look at life, death, and the coarsening of our culture at the beginning of the age of reality TV.

Groovy Cemetery

Not at a bad movie, just not at all what I expected, even though it started to drag quite a bit towards the end, with one long dialogue scene piling up on top of another.  There were a few moments towards the end where I had to resist the urge to fast forward.

Harry Dean Stanton Directs the Action

The film is set in the "not to distant future,"  one of those sci-fi movies where everything looks like the modern day, with just a few bits of technology here and there to indicate it's not.  While that may have worked fine when the film was released, it causes a weird dissonance when watching it today, as everything looks dated in a late '70s early '80s kind of way, and not at all futuristic.  I think sci-fi from the '50s and '60s, where everyone's decked out in colorful jumpsuits, or what not, actually hold up better in this respect; at least they look noticeably different from the present or the past.

Cemetery and Smokestacks

In the film, Harvey Keitel plays a photographer who has video cameras implanted in his eyes, so that everything he sees is recorded.  He is assigned to follow around a dying woman, played by Romy Schneider, for a reality TV show called "Death Watch."   The show chronicles the last days of a dying person's life in a future where death from natural causes is a novelty.
Harvey Keitel has TV Eyes

The issues raised about reality TV, and our increasing lack of privacy in the modern world seem a little cliched to my modern eyes, but I may be being too critical; since the film was released in 1980, I suppose the film was actually pretty prescient.

A Tender Passion

The cast was quite good, with Harvey Keitel, Harry Dean Stanton, Romy Schneider, and, towards the end of the film, Max von Sydow, all giving solid performances.  There was also some very nicely composed cinematography.  However, the slow, talky nature of the film, especially in the second half of the movie, lowered my enjoyment enough that I don't think I can actually recommend it.

Rating: 3 Robots (out of 5)

Harvey Keitel and Romy Schneider on the Beach

More screencaps after the jump...

Return of the Groovy Cemetery
More Groovy Cemetery
Son of Groovy Cemetery
The City
Television did not REALLY exist before... DEATH WATCH: THE ULTIMATE ADVENTURE
Harry Dean Stanton says Hello
Death Watch Billboard
They're Everywhere!
Romy Schneider Walks
100 Channels and Nothing is on Except for Harry Dean Stanton
Harriet, the Romance Fiction Writing Computer
The Masque of Red Death and The Man With the X-Ray Eyes!  God Bless America!
The Depot
Man and Spider-Man
Bath Tubs For Sale
Urban Blight
Poseidon Burials, Incorporated
Graffiti House
Harvey Keitel and Romy Schneider are Still Talking

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