white wash death watch
Death Watch (1980) is a film by Bertrand Tavernier, filmed in Glasgow and the west coast of Scotland. The film uses the decrepit, pre-gentrified state of my home city to signal a future in decline, two years before Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner would ‘invent’ the post-modern cityscape. In Death Watch, Katherine Mortenhoe (Romy Schneider) is diagnosed with an incurable disease, with days to live. A TV network wants to record her last days as a reality show. She takes their money and travels into the country, seeking to escape the gaze of the camera. She is accompanied by Roddy (Harvey Keitel) who, unbeknownst to Katherine, is part of the TV crew, with cameras behind his eyes.
Romy Schneider was a child actor born in Vienna, and held German and French citizenship. She was engaged to actor Alain Delon and made many critically lauded films in France in the 1960s. In 1981 her only son died in an accident aged 14 and she began to drink to excess. She was found dead at her desk in her Parisian apartment in May 1982, aged 43.
White Wash Death Watch removes everything but shots of Glasgow, Scotland and Romy Schneider from Death Watch, reducing the film’s original duration from 117 minutes to less than ten. A snowy scene mimics and obscures the tenements, towers and gravestones of Glasgow as we watch Katherine/Romy attempt to escape the city and the camera lens for the imagined seclusion of the coast and the sea. White Wash Death Watch is an homage to a woman and a city.
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