DEATH WATCH (LA MORT EN DIRECT) (director/writer: Bertrand Tavernier; screenwriters: David Rayfiel/based on the novel ”The Unsleeping Eye” by David Compton; cinematographer: Pierre-William Glenn; editors: Armand Psenny/Michael Ellis; music: Antoine Duhamel; cast: Romy Schneider (Katherine Mortenhoe), Harvey Keitel (Roddy), Harry Dean (Vincent Ferriman), Therese Liotard (Stanton Tracey), Max von Sydow (Gerald Mortenhoe); Runtime: 128; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Gabriel Boustani/Janine Rubeiz; Quartet Films; 1980-West Germany/France- in English)
“A promising but ultimately disappointing sci-fi futuristic drama.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier (“Beatrice”/”Sunday in the Country”/”Life and Nothing But“)directs his first English language film. It’s a promising but ultimately disappointing sci-fi futuristic drama whose premise is that death by illness has been removed from the public’s sight because of the advances of science and only through aging do people now pass on. Opportunistic TV network producer Vincent Ferriman (Harry Dean) hopes to capitalize on the public’s curiosity of a death by illness by having the network’s ace reporter Roddy (Harvey Keitel) have a miniature camera surgically implanted in his left eye to record everything he sees of the death watch (the show’s title) of a terminally ill patient (suffering from what we are told is boredom, as her illness is really only a hoax). Katherine Mortenhoe (Romy Schneider) is the terminally ill subject who has a useless existence working in a publishing-house turning out trashy romantic novels on her computer. The reality documentary TV show is seen by the filmmaker as a prime example of how the media manipulates the public and creates exploitative news stories of questionable taste, where “everything is of interest, but nothing matters.”Katherine agreed to sign the contract, but at the last minute has a change of mind and flees the city for the remote countryside with the reporter, posing as a helpful friend, in pursuit to get her death on TV with or without her permission. Needless to say problems arise when the reporter falls for the beauty and when he realizes his privacy is also being invaded when he can’t shut off the darn camera.
The future city where the melodrama is set is Glasgow. Max von Sydow has a cameo in the final acts as Katherine’s former husband, a philisophical musicologist who lives a solitary life at Land’s End in Cornwall.
Under the weak direction of Tavernier, the pic turns preachy and has little bite in going after the amoral rating conscious media.
It’s based on the novel ”The Unsleeping Eye” by David Compton and is written byDavid Rayfiel.
REVIEWED ON 12/30/2010 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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