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873 minutes · 1987

Peter Watkins's 14<4-hour study of the price of life in the nuclear age and what the threat of global annihilation means in terms of possibilities deferred and opportunities denied: economic, political, and social. I've only seen a 100-minute portion of this state-of-the-planet survey, but what's impressive even in that small segment is the deliberation that Watkins brings to the simple act of seeing. Compared to the pounding hysteria of Watkins's 1965 The War Game, this new antinuclear polemic seems like the work of a Buddhist contemplative, or at least of a filmmaker who's developed a healthy respect for the power of plainspoken images, of visual persistence and quiet duration, to make his didactic points: it's the opposite of the 60 Minutes documentary (well, obviously), with manipulations spelled out rather than hidden behind a screen of argumentative editing and subliminal assumption. Unfortunately, it's hard to say what it's all for: the convinced don't need more convincing, and Watkins's lucid simplifying (for the sake of popular access) isn't likely to make inroads with the rest. The problem with his partisanship, as formally thought out as it is, lies in this ghetto dilemma: what good's an audience consisting solely of your friends?

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