Customer Review

7 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 21st Century Blues...from 1969, 20 Mar 2010
This review is from: Punishment Park - Masters of Cinema series [DVD] (DVD)
It is said that the cost of freedom is eternal vigilance, start by watching this film.

Peter Watkins directs this pseudo-documentary with an earnestness of style and a lack of presumption that still refreshes even in 2010. In fact, his gritty and authentic attention to detail is especially pleasing in the here and now. The basic premise has since been copied so many times as to render it almost a cliche, but the toughness and honesty that the direction brings to the script (assuming there was one) allows for instant, disconcerting familiarity without hastening predictability. You know nobody is going to survive, but because of the urgent camera and solid acting by non-actors you really want them to. You identify with those that chose to commute their sentence.

The characters are beaten, insulted and dehumanized in almost every way, and the sanctimonious sermonizing of the moral majority sentencing them is sadly all too believable. We watch a world where members of various movements, (e.g socialist, black power, feminist, Chicano) are subjected to dubious 'hearings' and admonished for their (equally dubious) 'crimes' they are then offered either a) an unfeasibly long prison sentence or b) four days in Punishment Park. Unsurprisingly, each chooses the park. The scene in 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' where McMurphy states that Nurse Ratched enjoys "a rigged game" came to kind as soon as the scene was done and each actor shuffled out of the room towards a certain death sentence. Later films, such as 'Battle Royale' can also trace their origins back to this film, gravid with social commentary and shot with an uncomfortable frankness that makes the scenario feel compellingly real.

Here in the UK in 2010, with the advent of ID cards, lying politicians and the encroaching specter of far-right fascism embodied by certain fringe parties, the message of this film has never been more poignant, like 'Nineteen Eighty Four' or 'V for Vendetta' it is a veritable 'message in a bottle' warning us all what happens if we stop fighting. America, with the shadows of The Washington consensus, The Bush doctrine, an illegal invasion and the patriot act casting long over the white house, never seemed the more perfect setting.

The film has never been more believable or more powerful. Watch if you are looking for an amazing slice of social commentary, which, in the traditions of Shakespeare or Dostoevsky, remains as true today as when it was made.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 May 2010 17:55:13 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 15 Apr 2012 17:08:48 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Oct 2011 20:36:03 BDT
Cameron's 'blue rinse contingent', silly old cows.
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