Howls for Sade

(film soundtrack)


Voice 1: Howls for Sade, a film by Guy-Ernest Debord.

Voice 2: Howls for Sade is dedicated to Gil J Wolman.

Voice 3: Article 115. If a person has ceased to appear at his place of residence and nothing has been heard concerning him for four years, interested parties may petition the civil court to officially recognize the absence of said person.

Voice 1: Love is valid only in a prerevolutionary period.

Voice 2: Those girls don’t all love you, you liar! Arts begin, grow, and disappear because dissatisfied people break through the world of official expressions and go beyond its festivals of poverty.

Voice 4: Tell me, did you sleep with Françoise?

Voice 1: What a springtime! Crib sheet for the history of film: 1902: A Trip to the Moon. 1920: The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. 1924: Entr’acte. 1926: Potemkin. 1928: An Andalusian Dog. 1931: City Lights. Birth of Guy-Ernest Debord. 1951: Treatise on Slime and Eternity. 1952: The Anticoncept. Howls for Sade.

Voice 5: “Just as the projection was about to begin, Guy-Ernest Debord was supposed to step onto the stage and make a few introductory remarks. Had he done so, he would simply have said: ‘There is no film. Cinema is dead. No more films are possible. If you wish, we can move on to a discussion.’ ”

Voice 3: Article 516. Property is either real or personal.

Voice 2: In order never to be alone again.

Voice 1: She is ugliness and beauty — like everything we love today.

Voice 2: The arts of the future can be nothing less than disruptions of situations.

Voice 3: In the cafés of Saint-Germain-des-Prés!

Voice 1: You know, I like you a lot.

Voice 3: A sizable commando of some thirty lettrists, all wearing the filthy uniform that is their only really original trademark, showed up at Cannes determined to provoke a scandal that would draw attention to themselves.

Voice 1: Happiness is a new idea in Europe.

Voice 5: “I know people only by their actions. In other respects they are indistinguishable from each other. In the final analysis, we are differentiated only by our works.”

Voice 1: And their revolts became conformisms.

Voice 3: Article 488. The age of adulthood is 21 years; a person of that age is capable of all acts of civil life.

Voice 4: She constantly reappeared in his memory, in a flash like sodium fireworks on contact with water.

Voice 1: He was well aware that nothing of his exploits would remain in a town that revolves with the Earth, as the Earth revolves within a galaxy that is only an insignificant part of a tiny island endlessly receding from us.

Voice 2: Totally dark, eyes closed to the enormity of the disaster.

Voice 1: A science of situations needs to be created, which will incorporate elements from psychology, statistics, urbanism, and ethics. These elements must be focused on a totally new goal: the conscious creation of situations.

Voice 1: Lines from a 1950 newspaper: “Popular Young Radio Actress Throws Herself Into the Isère. Grenoble. Twelve-and-a-half-year-old Madeleine Reineri, who under the stage name ‘Pirouette’ starred in the Alpes-Grenoble radio program Happy Thursdays, threw herself into the Isère River Friday afternoon after having placed her schoolbag on the bank.”

Voice 2: Little sister, we’re not a pretty sight. The river and the misery continue. We are powerless.

Voice 4: But no one talks about Sade in this film.

Voice 1: The cold of interstellar space, thousands of degrees below freezing point or the absolute zero of Fahrenheit, Centigrade or Réaumur: the incipient intimations of proximate dawn. The rapid passage of Jacques Vaché through the wartime sky, his overwhelming sense of urgency, the catastrophic haste that led him to destroy himself; the whipcracking spirit of Arthur Cravan, who vanished in the Gulf of Mexico around that same time . . .

Voice 3: Article 1793. When an architect or contractor contracts with a landowner to construct a building in accordance with an agreed plan and for a specified payment, he cannot demand any increase in that payment on any grounds, whether because of an increase in the work force or materials or because of any changes or additions made to the plan, unless such changes, additions or increases have been authorized in writing and the new payment has been agreed to by the landowner.

Voice 2: The perfection of suicide lies in its ambiguity.

Voice 2: What is a one and only love?

Voice 3: I will answer only in the presence of my attorney.

Voice 1: Order reigns but does not govern.

Voice 2: The first marvel is to come before her without knowing how to talk to her. The imprisoned hands move no faster than race horses filmed in slow motion as they touch her mouth and breasts; in all innocence the ropes become water and we roll together toward dawn.

Voice 4: I don’t think we’ll ever see each other again.

Voice 2: The lights of the winter streets will end near a kiss.

Voice 4: Paris was real fun because of the transportation strike.

Voice 2: Jack the Ripper was never caught.

Voice 4: Telephones, they’re funny.

Voice 2: What a love-challenge, as Madame de Ségur said.

Voice 4: I’ll tell you some real scary stories from my part of the country, but they have to be told at night.

Voice 2: My dear Ivich, unfortunately there are fewer Chinatowns than you think. You are fifteen years old. One of these days people will stop wearing such gaudy colors.

Voice 4: I already knew you.

Voice 2: Continental drift carries you farther away each day. The virgin forest is less virgin than you.

Voice 4: Guy, one more minute and it’ll be tomorrow.

Voice 2: Gun Crazy. You remember. That’s how it was. No one was good enough for us. Nevertheless . . . The hailstones on the banners of glass. We won’t forget this cursed planet.

Voice 2: They’ll be famous someday, you’ll see! I will never accept the scandalous and scarcely credible fact that there is such a thing as a police force. Several cathedrals have been erected in memory of Serge Berna. Love is valid only in a prerevolutionary period. I made this film while there was still time to talk about it. Jean-Isidore, in order to get out of that ephemeral crowd. On Place Gabriel-Pomerand when we’ve grown old. In the future all these little jokers will be studied in the high schools and colleges.

Voice 2: There are still many people who aren’t moved to laugh or to scream by the word “morality.”

Voice 3: Article 489. An adult who is usually in a state of imbecility or dementia or who has frequent fits of rage must be kept in protective custody even if he has intervals of lucidity.

Voice 2: So close, so gently, I lose myself in the hollow archipelagos of language. I bear down on you, you’re as open as a cry, it’s so easy. A hot stream. A sea of oil. A forest fire.

Voice 1: That sounds like the movies.

Voice 3: The Paris police are equipped with 30,000 billy clubs.

Voice 2: “Poetic worlds close in on themselves and are forgotten.” In a corner of the night sailors are making war; ships in bottles are for you who loved them. You lie back in the sand as in the more loving hands that the rain and wind and thunder slip under your dress every evening. Life is wonderful in Cannes in the summer. Rape, which is forbidden, becomes banal in our memories. “When we were on the Shenandoah.” Yes. Of course.

Voice 1: And the silting up of those faces, which once bore flashes of desire like ink splattered on a wall, which were like shooting stars. Gin, rum, brandy — down the hatch like the Grand Armada. So much for the funeral oration. But all those people were so commonplace.

Voice 1: We had a narrow escape.

Voice 2: The most beautiful is still to come. Death would be a steak tartare; wet hair on the scalding beach of our silence.

Voice 1: But he’s a Jew!

Voice 2: We were ready to blow up all the bridges, but the bridges let us down.

Voice 1: Twelve-and-a-half-year-old Madeleine Reineri, who under the stage name “Pirouette” starred in the Alpes-Grenoble radio program Happy Thursdays, threw herself into the Isère River.

Voice 2: Mademoiselle Reineri of the Europe Quarter, you still have your wonderstruck face and that body, the best of promised lands. Like neon lights, the dialogues repeat their definitive truths.

Voice 1: I love you.

Voice 4: It must be terrible to die.

Voice 1: See you later.

Voice 4: You drink far too much.

Voice 1: What are childhood loves?

Voice 4: I don’t understand you.

Voice 1: I knew it. And there was a time when I regretted it very much.

Voice 4: Would you like an orange?

Voice 1: The beautiful breakups of volcanic islands.

Voice 4: In the past.

Voice 1: I have nothing more to say to you.

Voice 2: Once again, after all the untimely answers and the aging of youth, night falls from on high.

Voice 2: Like lost children we live our unfinished adventures.


New translation by Ken Knabb of the soundtrack of Guy Debord’s first film, Hurlements en faveur de Sade (1952).

The complete scripts of all of Debord’s films, with illustrations, detailed descriptions of the images, and extensive annotations, are included in Debord’s Complete Cinematic Works (AK Press, 2003). For further information, see Guy Debord’s Films.

Translation copyright 2003 by Ken Knabb. (This copyright will not be enforced against personal or noncommercial use.)