The Society of the Spectacle | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Film » Movie Critic's Choice

The Society of the Spectacle

by

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

comment

A work that often appears to be slapped together rather than composed, this provocative 1973 black-and-white experimental essay film by the late, legendary Guy Debord fascinates not only as a rebellious statement within a post-1968 French context but also as a work that may seem typically French intellectual in a contemporary American context. Adapted from his 1967 book of the same title, the film was recently subtitled by filmmaker Keith Sanborn and is being presented on half-inch video (though it was made in 35 millimeter). A theoretical post-Marxist film offering extended blocks of text (to be read or heard) about media and spectacle along with clips of movies ranging from silent Russian classics to Johnny Guitar and Rio Grande (both dubbed into French) to The Shanghai Gesture and Mr. Arkadin to softcore porn, it isn't put together to entertain or even to go down easily, but it rarely ceases to be stimulating. Debord, who went from being a lettrist (1952) to an early situationist (1959 to '61) to a post-situationist (1972 to '75), refused to let any of his films be shown anywhere for nearly a decade after his friend, publisher, and producer was assassinated and Debord was subsequently denounced in the French press as a terrorist--a self-imposed ban that he removed only a few months before his recent suicide. This film, apparently his longest, remains a priceless document. Kino-Eye Cinema at Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, Friday, October 11, 8:00, 384-5533.

--Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment