Guy Debord

Date: 25 October 2008 | Season: London Film Festival 2008 | Tags:

Saturday 25 October 2008, at 4pm
London BFI Southbank NFT3

‘The cinema, too, has to be destroyed.’ (Guy Debord)

An extremely rare opportunity to see new 35mm prints of films by French writer and theorist Guy Debord, best known for The Society of the Spectacle. Debord was a central figure of the Situationist International (SI), a nihilistic band of agitators whose harsh critiques of capitalist society, inspired by Marxism and Dada, were conveyed through publications, visual art and collective actions. Articulated primarily in the French language, Situationism was relatively ineffective in Britain and America in its time, and though numerous translations are now available, Debord’s radical films remain unseen. Far ahead of its time, his technique of ‘détournement’ assimilates still and moving image-scraps from features, newsreels, printed matter, advertisements and other detritus to satisfy the viewer’s ‘pathetic need’ for cinematic illusion. Propelled by a spoken, monotonous discourse, the images do not so much illustrate the text as underpin it, often maintaining a metaphorical relationship that may not at first be apparent. The two films showing here effectively bookend Debord’s involvement with the Situationists, whose politically subversive practice aspired to provoke a revolution of everyday life.

Guy Debord, Sur le passage de quelques personnes à travers une assez courte unité de temps, France, 1959, 18 min
In the dingy bars of St-Germain-des-Prés, Debord and his associates formed a bohemian underground for whom ‘oblivion was their ruling passion.’ This anti-documentary captures the SI close to its moment of inception, following their separation from the Lettristes two years prior.

Guy Debord, In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni, France, 1978, 105 min
‘I will make no concessions to the public in this film. I believe there are several good reasons for this decision, and I am going to state them.’ And state them he does. Debord’s final film is a denunciation of cinema and society at large, an unremitting diatribe against consumption. The SI is equated to a military operation (charge of the light brigade, no less) as its members are presented alongside images of the D-Day landings, Andreas Baader, Zorro, a comic strip Prince Valliant and quotes from Shakespeare, Ecclesiastes and Omar Khayyám. Debord takes no prisoners in this testament to his anarchistic vision.

Screening in the presence of Alice Debord.