La commune (Paris, 1871) (2000)
Director: Peter Watkins.
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
"The Franco-Prussian war which began in July 1870 causes the fall of Napoleon III's Empire. A Government of National Defense, mostly made up of moderate Republicans, seizes power in an attempt to pursue the war. It ends in failure. The Government signs an armistice, against the will of the Parisians. The Germans challenge its legitimacy and demand a new one be elected to sign a peace treaty. The elections of February 1871 bring back to power a strong majority of monarchists. The Parisians express their discontent openly in what are called the "Red Clubs". From September 1870, District Committees shape their claims into a counter-power which throws Paris into a pre-revolutionary climate."
Gerard Watkins introduces himself to a cameraman and says he plays the role of a TV journalist. Besides dealing with the commune, the film examines the effect of the mass media in past and present society. Aurelia Petit introduces herself. She plays Blanche Capellier, journalist for the Commune TV. The character she plays is a naive optimist and Aurelia says it wasn't easy to play the part knowing what happened to the commune. She loves what she's doing so much that she doesn't question or denounce the power of the media.
The two actors then give a tour of the set.
It is March 17, 1871. The grandfather Thibaudier now speaks. He there in his family there are five people living in a small room in the the very poor 11th District of Paris. Some people halve to sleep out on the street.
Henri Dubrieux says he lives in the public courtyard. He is a public letter-writer. He says France has been humiliated by the Prussians. Last January 18, The Prussians proclaimed their Empire at Versailles. In France the newly elected National Assembly (representing the Provinces) passed a bunch of laws concerning people's rents, even though most people are broke. He schools little Marcel, his neighbor's son.
"The peace plan strips France of Alsace-Lorraine, imposes 5 billion francs compensation and, supreme humiliation, and allows the German army to enter Paris."
The baker and his wife now speak. The wife says that during the siege, the people had nothing to eat. Even if they get bread, the young children still starve because the bread is of such low quality.
"During the 6 month Prussian siege, the Parisians were cold and hungry. The mortality rate doubled. The jobless join the National Guard for 30 p. a day. For 30 p., in January 1871, one can buy a head of lettuce or a dog's brain."
The baker's wife says the people of the commune are suffering too much and have had enough.
"Nearly 300,000 strong, mostly opponents to the new Assembly, the National Guard is a Federation of elected delegates. Its aim: to defend the Republic against a Prussian invasion or a monarchist Restoration."
I'm stopping here, because this is a semi-documentary and I don't do documentaries or semi-documentaries.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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