Guy Debord (1931-1994) was the most influential figure in the Situationist International, the notorious subversive group that played a key role in provoking the May 1968 revolt in France.
“The Society of the Spectacle” (1973, 90 minutes) is Debord’s film adaptation of his own 1967 book of the same name. 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,” “Ten Days That Shook the World,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Shanghai Gesture,” “Johnny Guitar,” “Mr. Arkadin,” etc.), TV commercials, softcore porn, and news and documentary footage, including glimpses of Spain 1936, Hungary ’56, Watts ’65, France ’68, and other revolts of the past.
Inter-title quotes from Marx, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, Tocqueville, and Debord himself occasionally break the flow, challenging the viewers to question their own relation to the film — and to the society as a whole.
San Francisco filmmaker Konrad Steiner has produced a dubbed version of this film using Ken Knabb’s English translation as read by artist/scholar Dore Bowen. Konrad also located and reinserted the original English-language clips from the many quoted films (which in Debord’s film were mostly dubbed in French). This enables English-speaking viewers to pay full attention to the images instead of trying to follow subtitles, and thus better perceive the complex interplay between montage, image, and language through which Debord presents his theses.
This excellent dubbed version is now online at Vimeo.com/139772287
For more information on Debord’s films, see BopSecrets.org.