22.9.10

Too early, too late, or: no comment


Trop tôt, trop tard - Straub-Huillet, 1981, 16mm


Un film comme les autres - JLG, 1968, 16/35mm


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In my first proper conversation with Godard, I asked him what he thought of politics. In an excessive theatrical gesture of a kind he rarely uses, he mimed injecting a huge syringe into his arm. 'Some people take drugs, some people take politics...'

--Colin MacCabe, Godard (Bloomsbury, 2003), p.280.


Straub: In the world we live in, since human beings are limited and the world is what it is, you can't do three things at the same time, not even two. We're doomed. This is what Schoenberg meant, or close enough, when he told Eisler, 'Instead of getting involved in politics so much, you'd better concentrate on your work.' It's a provocative statement... but it's a fact, you can't simultaneously be involved in politics and make so-called aesthetic objects or works of art or films.

Huillet: You can let things mature, however. You were talking about circumstances earlier. When you're obsessed with massacres and peasant wars as we were and still are, when you finally make Trop tôt, trop tard, it's precisely because all of this resurfaces in a certain way once it's found the appropriate form. [...] When the film was completed in 1981, they told us peasant revolts were all but impossible. Now look what's happening. It's the opposite of a film that's following fads...

Straub: Even in good faith! At the moment I like A Movie Like the Others [Un film comme les autres, 1968] better than some films that were made by the group calling itself Dziga Vertov. Dear Jeannot would certainly not agree since he'd rather conceal this film, but at least it's my opinion. Here's a guy who tried to be humble at a very precise moment in time and just tried to monitor something without imposing his grid of interpretation. He was really within the moment and the fashion of the time, but he functioned without being grist for the mill.

--Jean-Marie Straub & Danièle Huillet in conversation with François Albera, 2001, Sickle and Hammer, Cannons, Cannons, Dynamite!, published in the 2004 Viennale & Filmmuseum Straub-Huillet retrospective catalogue, p.47.


Towards lunch, our stomachs rumbling, we talk about the occupation of Nanterre, the Sorbonne and the Theatre de l'Odeon; we talk of the occupation of the six main plants at Renault, and of the closure of the ports of Le Havre and Marseilles. We speak of the men and women of the streets, about 'an inaugural moment of speech' - about the welcome that each could bid the other with no other justification than that of being another person (Blanchot). We speak of De Gaulle's fumbling address on French television, and of panic in government circles, and of the carnivalesque redoubling of the power of authority in the disarray of the marchers (Blanchot again).

After lunch, in a temporary food coma, we speak of the banning of far left groups in France, and of the retaking of the Sorbonne and the infiltration of the police into schools and universities. We speak of the workers returning to work, and the triumph of the Gaullists, returned to government with a good majority at the General Election in June. We speak of the Czechoslovak Spring, crushed by the tanks of the Warsaw Pact. We speak about the collapse of the Cultural Revolution into terror, and the suppression of Guevara-inspired guerillas in Latin America.

The room seems to grow dark. We feel depressed, terribly depressed. But we invoke, as the afternoon wears on, the title of one of the collectively written tracts of the Students and Writers Action Committee, whose participants included Butor and Roubaud, Sarraute and Duras: Tomorrow it was May. How moving! How beautiful!

Tomorrow it was May: and so we speak, too, about the Hot Autumn in Italy in 1969, and the British miner's strikes of 1973-4, about Italian workerism and Autonomia. We invoke the ghosts of Fourier, Blanqui, Luxemberg; we speak of Guevara, Ho Chi Minh and Cabral, and then we drink with our fellow attendees through the night.

--Lars Iyer, Tomorrow it was May, 22/09/10.

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