Peter Watkins' Retirement
Needless to say, this is very distressing. Not sure if this is due to his age (69, to be precise) and if, while on his way out, he's just lobbing a hand grenade to his regular arch-nemeses ("Certainly Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris shouldn't be reviewing films," he once opined). Anyway, I don't get it. Is it because his six-hour meta-epic La Commune (Paris 1871) only impressed just about everyone who saw it? Was he also expecting two thumbs up from Ebert & Roeper? The numero uno spot on the box office charts? A complete re-imagining of what constitutes a blockbuster, a la what Mel did and is continuing to do? If anything, his cynical viewpoint -- once thought to be paranoid -- has largely turned out to be true; the media has more of a stranglehold on the masses than ever before. It almost wouldn't be out of place for the events of his 1967 Privilege -- wherein the world's most famous pop star is actually controlled by the government -- to take place now. (Wonder what he thinks about Nipplegate running ripshod over FCC regulations?) More so than anyone, he's proved his grasp of media tyrrany and his lack of fear in punting seemingly outlandish theories, not just about media control but about the way society breaks down as well. Though lately he was only making movies every six years -- if that -- his ballsy input will be missed. On a brighter note, almost no one has seen his films -- Culloden, The War Game, Punishment Park, Edvard Much, et al. Now that he's gone out in a ball of fire, now's the time to catch up. Watkins is no more; long live Watkins.