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Roddy has a camera implanted in his brain. He is then hired by a television producer to film a documentary of terminally ill Katherine...
For more about Death Watch and the Death Watch Blu-ray release, see Death Watch Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 18, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Romy Schneider, Harvey Keitel, Harry Dean Stanton, Max von Sydow, Thérčse Liotard
Director: Bertrand Tavernier
» See full cast & crew
Death Watch Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 18, 2012
Bertrand Tavernier's "La mort en direct" a.k.a "Death Watch" (1980) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Park Circus. The supplemental features on the disc include an original trailer for the film, video interview with director Bertrand Tavernier, behind the scenes photo gallery, and a standard collection of stills from the film. In English, without optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Harvey Keitel is Roddy, an ambitious man who has agreed to have a small camera implanted into his brain. He is then hired by the producer (Harry Dean Stanton, Paris, Texas, Escape from New York) of the reality show Death Watch and asked to befriend Katherine (Romy Schneider, The Swimming Pool, The Trial), a young and beautiful woman who is dying from an unknown disease. Katherine is unaware that everything Roddy sees is taped and opens up her soul to him - only to eventually realize that he isn't the man she thought he was.
The film is divided into two parts. The first focuses on Katherine's slow transformation. After she is told by her doctor that she has little time left to live, Katherine begins to see the world around her differently. She also thinks about the past, the people she loved and the dreams she had. Eventually, she is openly approached by the producer of Death Watch who asks her to sign an exclusive contract with the company he represents. At this point the producer and his men already know everything there is to know about Katherine. She is no longer an individual but an object with a price tag.
The second part chronicles Roddy's collapse after he comes to realize that under different circumstances he could have had a beautiful life with Katherine. Here the two spend plenty of time together discussing their triumphs and failures, their ideals and dreams. During a violent protest, Roddy is arrested and thrown in jail for a night. After he is released, he begins to reevaluate his involvement with Death Watch and ultimately the way he has lived his life.
The film, which is based on David Compton's novel "The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe, or The Unsleeping Eye", is slow and moody, at times also notably depressing. Most of the places Katherine and Roddy visit are industrial parks and ugly neighborhoods where life seems to have stopped. Eventually, they move from the city to the countryside, but the heavy silence there is even more disturbing. The few people they meet are also either angry about something or obsessed with Death Watch. It is here where Roddy first realizes that he is contributing to something enormously evil.
The film does feel a bit preachy at times but it is impossible not to agree with its observations about the power of media and morality. Considering how far reality shows have gone in recent years to either retain or expand their audience base, the predatory nature of the media market in the film actually feels quite normal. There is one specific sequence where the producer of Death Watch and Katherine meet and discuss the business side of their future partnership which is meant to be shocking but is probably a routine practice nowadays.
Death Watch was French director Bertrand Tavernier's (Coup de Torchon, A Sunday in the Country) first English language film, which he dedicated to the great Jacques Tourneur. The film was shot in and around Glasgow, Scotland. The industrial parks and many of the old buildings seen in it no longer exist.
Two years after Death Watch was completed, Schneider was found dead in her apartment in Paris.
Note: In 1980, Death Watch was nominated for the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. The film was also nominated for five Cesar Awards, including Best Cinematography (Pierre-William Glenn) and Best Screenplay, Original or Adaptation (Bertrand Tavernier and David Rayfiel).
Death Watch Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Bertrand Tavernier's Death Watch arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Park Circus.
The high-definition transfer appears to have been sourced from the same restoration that was used as a foundation for the U.S. release of the film by Shout Factory. There are traces of light noise corrections (which I assume are on the master that was prepared after the film's restoration), but depth and clarity are very pleasing. The traces could be spotted during select outdoor sequences (see screencapture #16) but never become overly distracting. Despite some minor fluctuations, color depth and stability are good. Edge-enhancement is not a serious issues of concern. The high-definition transfer is also free of banding and alising. There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. Large damage marks, debris, cuts, and stains are nowhere to be seen. All in all, though there is some room for improvement, this is a fine release that should please fans of Bertrand Tavernier's work. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Death Watch Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Park Circus have not provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
Excluding the occasional motifs where the strings come alive, dynamic movement is rather limited. But this isn't to imply that there are limitations with the lossless audio track, rather that the film's sound design is fairly modest. The dialog is crisp, stable, clean, and relatively easy to follow. There are no pops, cracks, audio dropouts, or distortions to report in this review.
Death Watch Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Death Watch Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Bertrand Tavernier's Death Watch is a very atmospheric and very intelligent film from the early '80s that asks some surprisingly relevant questions. Romy Schneider is fantastic in it. This Region-B release, which uses a brand new digital restoration of the film that was personally approved by director Bertrand Tavernier, also comes with a terrific exclusive interview with the French director. Do not miss it. RECOMMENDED.
Death Watch Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Death Watch Officially Announced - October 10, 2012
British distributors Park Circus have officially announced its upcoming Blu-ray release of director Bertrand Tavernier's La Mort En Direct a.k.a Death Watch (1980), starring Romy Schneider, Harvey Keitel and Harry Dean Stanton. Street date is November 5th.
• Park Circus Upcoming Releases - September 20, 2012
Independent British distributors Park Circus have detailed their upcoming Q4 releases. The distributors will release Bertrand Tavernier's Death Watch (1980), starring Romy Schneider and Harvey Keitel, on Blu-ray, and Dick Richards' Farewell, My Lovely (1975), starring ...
• Death Watch Blu-ray - March 6, 2012
Independent British distributors Park Circus will release on Blu-ray director Bertrand Tavernier's La mort en direct a.k.a Death Watch (1980), starring Romy Schneider, Harvey Keitel, Harry Dean Stanton, and Max von Sydow. The preliminary release date set by the ...
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