Situationist Provocations: Rare Works by Guy Debord and Rene Vienet

These two French films have long been unavailable, but they were recently released on video with new English subtitles. For The Girls of Kamare (1974, 87 min.), Rene Vienet added his own French subtitles (and possibly some hard-core footage) to a Japanese exploitation film set in a girls' reform school. A fascinating provocation, it never really jells, partly because the original was so poorly made but also because Vienet's subtitles verge on self-parody: a woman who takes over a classroom announces her need “to settle an old quarrel with the Bakuninist perverts,” and the inevitable riot at the reform school is identified as “the struggle against the commodity.” Guy Debord, author of the key Situationist book, The Society of the Spectacle (1967), made a film of that title six years later; in Refutation of All Judgments (1975, 20 min.) he answers those who panned the film, calling one critic a cretin and asserting that no one could have understood it without also understanding the nature of the class struggle in Portugal. Alongside the dense text appear images of food being served, women dancing, and politicians speaking, visualizing Debord's charge that the spectacles of Western culture are “the sun which never sets over the empire of modern passivity.”

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