Guy Debord’s Films

Guy Debord made six films between 1952 and 1978. Following the still-unsolved assassination of the films’ producer in 1984, all of them were withdrawn from circulation for nearly twenty years.

In 2001 Debord’s widow Alice (Becker-Ho) Debord began the process of rereleasing them with a complete retrospective at the Venice Film Festival, and asked Ken Knabb to make a new English translation of Debord’s complete film scripts, both for publication and for subtitling the films. He agreed and worked on the project for the next year and a half. The book, entitled Complete Cinematic Works, was published in 2003 by AK Press. The book is temporarily out of print. It will probably be republished in 2024.

In October 2005 there was a three-week showing of all the films (a complete retrospective each day) in Paris, followed by similar retrospectives in several other French cities. Meanwhile a 3-DVD set of all six films plus the video documentary Guy Debord, son art et son temps (all in the original French) was released in November 2005. This boxed set, entitled Guy Debord—L’Intégral or Guy Debord contre le cinéma, includes a 138-page booklet of texts and illustrations and is available from Gaumont. Used copies may also be available at various Internet sites. (Note, however, that these Gaumont DVDs are coded for Zone 2 (Europe) and will not play on Zone 1 (North American) machines. There are ways of getting around this coding, but they may involve downloading a special software program or getting an “all-region” DVD player. Be sure that you know how to deal with this problem before ordering the Gaumont DVDs.)

The first “official” American screening of a Debord film with the authorized subtitling took place October 3, 2008, at the New York Film Festival (In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni). A complete retrospective of all six of Debord’s films with the authorized subtitling first took place March 1, 2009, at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (New York). It had been hoped that these and other similarly successful showings that followed would generate interest from some major American film distributor (who would in the process have assured professional-quality subtitling and/or dubbing, as well as more widespread publicity and distribution), but this did not happen. Presumably such distributors felt that there was little money to be made from theater showings, and that DVD sales would be undercut by the already widespread copying and bootlegging of the films.

However that may be, at present there are still no definitive English versions of Debord’s films. Instead, there has been an assortment of unofficial versions (in addition to a giddy array of takeoffs or supposed “updates” of The Society of the Spectacle). The French originals and various translated versions can be found at Ubu.com, at Situationistfilm, and on YouTube, and there are have also been some bootleg DVDs. I particularly recommend the two dubbed versions produced by Konrad Steiner and read by Dore Bowen, which can be viewed or downloaded at The Society of the Spectacle and In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni.


Contents of Guy Debord’s Complete Cinematic Works:


Howls for Sade (1952)
On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Unity of Time (1959)
Critique of Separation (1961)
The Society of the Spectacle (1973)
Refutation of All the Judgments, Pro or Con, Thus Far Rendered on the Film The Society of the Spectacle (1975)
In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (1978)

A User’s Guide to Détournement
Technical Notes on the First Three Films
Letter about On the Passage...
For a Revolutionary Judgment of Art
On The Society of the Spectacle (reply to a critic of the book)
Cinema and Revolution
On The Society of the Spectacle (announcement of the film)
The Use of Stolen Films
The Themes of In girum imus nocte...
Instructions to the In girum Sound Engineer

NOTES [not online]
INDEX [not online]

Errata and Additional Notes

*The scripts published in Complete Cinematic Works include the voice-over soundtracks plus detailed descriptions of each image, 62 illustrations, and numerous annotations. The above online excerpts reproduce the voice-over soundtracks only.

Copyright. Unlike most of the other material that Ken Knabb has published or put online at this website, the Debord film scripts are copyrighted (as are the films themselves). The translations in Complete Cinematic Works are copyright 2003 by Ken Knabb. Neither Knabb nor AK Press will enforce this copyright against personal or noncommercial use. Commercial reproduction of any significant portion of those translations, however, is prohibited without prior written permission from Ken Knabb. For further information, please contact knabb@bopsecrets.org.

Of related interest at this website:

The Role of Godard (SI)
New Forms of Action Against Politics and Art (Viénet)
On René Viénet’s Film Can Dialectics Break Bricks? (Knabb)
On Guy Debord’s Film The Society of the Spectacle (Knabb)
Radical Film (Knabb)
Designing Pacifist Films (Paul Goodman)
Situationist Bibliography