Texts Relating to Guy Debord’s Films
Contre le cinéma (Institut Scandinave de Vandalisme Comparé, 1964). Illustrated scripts of the first three films, with an introduction by Asger Jorn. Long out of print.
Oeuvres cinématographiques complètes: 1952–1978 (Champ Libre, 1978; Gallimard, 1994). Illustrated scripts of all six films.
Ordures et décombres déballés à la sortie du film “In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni” par différentes sources autorisées (Champ Libre, 1982). Fourteen reviews of In girum reproduced in full without any comment. Later reprinted in the Gallimard “critical edition” of In girum.
In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni: Édition critique (Lebovici, 1990; Gallimard, 1999). Separate edition of the film’s voice-over text with annotations by Debord. The Gallimard edition adds some other documents by Debord plus the reviews previously published in Ordures et décombres (including two additional reviews).
Des contrats (Le Temps Qu’il Fait, 1995). Three of Debord’s film contracts with Gérard Lebovici.
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In girum was first translated by Lucy Forsyth (Pelagian, 1991). Translations of the other five films (by Ken Knabb, Richard Parry, Fredy Perlman, and Keith Sanborn) were published in Richard Parry (ed.), Society of the Spectacle and Other Films (Rebel, 1992). An alternative photocopy edition of the Society of the Spectacle script (Not Bored, 1996) used the Nicholson-Smith translation instead of the Perlman one. Keith Sanborn used his own translations in preparing subtitled versions of pirated videotapes of The Society of the Spectacle (1996) and Refutation of All the Judgments (2001). With due credit to all of these translators for their pioneering work, I believe that the above versions are superseded by the present edition.
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So far the only significant study in English is Thomas Levin’s “Dismantling the Spectacle: The Films of Guy Debord” (1987; originally included in the out-of-print Sussman collection, now reprinted in Thomas McDonough (ed.), Guy Debord and the Situationist International, MIT Press, 2002). Though limited by its “objective” academic viewpoint, which tends to emphasize the technical and aesthetic aspects over the revolutionary ones, Levin’s account is both accurate and comprehensive. The most substantial and reliable French study so far is Antoine Coppola’s little book Introduction au cinéma de Guy Debord et de l’avant-garde situationniste (Sulliver, 2003). Apart from those two studies and from brief discussions in a few of the books about Debord, I have not seen anything that seems to me to show much understanding of Debord’s films. As might be guessed from Refutation of All the Judgments, the reviews of the films have been almost totally worthless. Debord’s only response to the reviews of In girum was to brand them with an ignominious immortality by reprinting them all verbatim in a little book, Ordures et décombres (Garbage and Debris Vented Upon the Appearance of the Film “In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni” by Various Authorized Sources), without any commentary whatsoever, implying that their ignorance and mendacity were already sufficiently evident, particularly when their mutually contradictory judgments were juxtaposed.
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In addition to the documents included in the present volume, the following LI
and SI articles deal with film:
Les Lèvres Nues:
#7: “Grande fête de nuit” (Debord’s introduction to the script of Howls for Sade)
#18: “Un chien écrasé” (disparages lettrist Maurice Lemaître’s Le film est déjà commencé?)
#19: “Le grand âge du cinéma: Le 8e festival de Cannes sera mauvais”
#19: “Encore la jeunesse pourrie” (unfavorable review of Duvivier’s Mariane de ma jeunesse)
#21: “Le grand chemin qui mène à Rome” (unfavorable review of Fellini’s La Strada)
#21: “La Bible est le seul scénariste qui ne déçoive pas Cecil B. De Mille” (notes lettrist aspects of Norman McLaren’s Blinkity Blank)
#25: “Au vestiaire” (unfavorable review of Agnès Varda’s La Pointe courte)
#1: “Avec et contre le cinéma”
#3: “Le cinéma après Alain Resnais” (favorable review of Resnais’s Hiroshima mon amour)
#7: “Sunset Boulevard” (Michèle Bernstein’s unfavorable review of Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad)
#10: “Le rôle de Godard” (scathing denunciation)
#11: “Les situationnistes et les nouvelles formes d’action contre la politique et l’art” (René Viénet)
In the latter article (translated in the SI Anthology) Viénet discusses the use of détournement and other tactics in various media, including film, and proposes to make a film of The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy (Debord’s article on the 1965 Watts riot). This never happened, but Viénet did later make four or five other films, most notably and amusingly La dialectique peut-elle casser des briques? (1973), a 90-minute kung fu film with altered soundtrack. An English-subtitled video version, Can Dialectics Break Bricks?, was produced by Keith Sanborn in 1992. Viénet’s other films have had little circulation, and the ones I have seen have not seemed as interesting as Can Dialectics . . .
First part of the “Bibliography” in Guy Debord’s Complete Cinematic Works (AK Press, 2003, translated and edited by Ken Knabb), which includes the scripts of all six of Debord’s films along with illustrations, documents, and extensive annotations. For further information, see Guy Debords Films.
(The remainder of the Complete Cinematic Works “Bibliography” is not reproduced here because it presents substantially the same information on texts by or about Debord and the Situationist International that can be found in this site’s continually updated Situationist Bibliography.)