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Complete Cinematic Works: Scripts, Stills, Documents
Guy Debord (1931–1994) was the most influential member of the Situationist International, the avant-garde group that triggered the May 1968 revolt in France. His book The Society of the Spectacle is by some considered the most important theoretical book of the 20th century.
But while Debord's written work is some of the most notorious in the world of political and cultural radicalism, deemed "the cornerstone cliché of postmodernism," his films have until now remained tantalizingly inaccessible.
After being withdrawn from circulation for nearly two decades (by Debord himself, to call attention to the 1984 assassination of the producer of the films, Gerard Lebovici), all six films were featured in a special "Guy Debord Retrospective" at the 2001 Venice Film Festival and re-released in France in 2002.
The most famous of the films is Debord's cinematic adaptation of his own book, The Society of the Spectacle. As passages from the book are read in voiceover, the text is illuminated, via direct illustration or various types of ironic contrast, by clips from Russian and Hollywood features (Potemkin, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Johnny Guitar, etc.), TV commercials, soft-core porn, newsreels, and documentary footage.
Some of the other films evoke Debord's adventures in the bohemian underworld of Paris during the 1950s, and in others, Debord attacks the film medium itself, directly challenging the viewer by critiquing the traditional separation of spectacle and spectator.
Ken Knabb's translation of Debord's Complete Cinematic Works accompanies the long-awaited re-release of these films. The scripts are illustrated with 62 stills, and Debord's own annotations help elucidate the subtleties of these astonishing works, which are like nothing else in cinema history.
Published by AK Press in 2003