Saturday, 21 February 2015

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 68: Mon Mar 9

The War Game (Watkins, 1965): BFI Southbank, NFT, 6.10pm
+ Culloden (1964) & Forgotten Faces (1961)

A triple bill of early work by Peter Watkins, one of cinema’s great provocateurs, that takes in the past, near-present and future as part of the BFI's Passport to Cinema season: Forgotten Faces recreates the Hungarian revolution on the streets of Canterbury; Culloden is an as-it-happens faux documentary about the Jacobean uprising; The War Game (banned for 20 years by the BBC) is a haunting film about the aftermath of nuclear war.

A comment on The War Game by Jonathan Rosenbaum:
Watkins's The War Game (1965), probably his best-known film—a terrifying 47-minute pseudodocumentary that imagines the immediate effects of a nuclear strike on Britain—won a well-deserved Oscar for best documentary, yet it was banned from worldwide TV broadcasting for 20 years by the BBC, which rationalized its suppression by calling it an artistic failure. That only encouraged supporters to be hyperbolic. Kenneth Tynan, probably the greatest theater critic of the second half of the 20th century, saw it at a private screening and wrote in the London Observer, "I suspect that it may be the most important film ever made. We are always being told that works of art cannot change the course of history. Given wide enough dissemination, I believe that this one might....The War Game is more than a diagnosis; it is a work of art. It precisely communicates one man's vision of disaster, and I cannot think that it is diminished as art because the vision happens to correspond with the facts. Like Michelangelo's 'Last Judgment,' it proposes itself as an authentic documentary image of the wrath to come—though Michelangelo, of course, was working from data less capable of verification." Watkins's gargantuan Web site (; he's now based in Lithuania, where his Lithuanian wife works as a freelance translator and editor) quotes portions of this review and several others, positive and negative, though it fails to cite Tynan by name—just as it fails to cite the names of most of the actors in his films.

You can find Rosenbaum's full feature on Peter Watkins here

Here (and above) is an extract from Culloden.

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