(aka WE TURN IN THE NIGHT, CONSUMED BY FIRE)
dir. Guy Debord, 1978
France, 96 mins.
In French with English subtitles.
SATURDAY, MARCH 4 – 10 PM
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8 – 7:30 PM
MONDAY, MARCH 13 – 10 PM
SUNDAY, MARCH 19 – 7:30 PM
FRIDAY, MARCH 24 – 7:30 PM
“I will make no concessions to the public in this film… Since the cinema public needs more than anything to face these bitter truths, which concern it so intimately but which are so widely repressed, it cannot be denied that a film that for once renders it the harsh service of revealing that its problems are not so mysterious as it imagines, nor even perhaps so incurable if we ever manage to abolish classes and the state — it cannot be denied that such a film has at least that one virtue. It will have no other.” – Guy Debord
Everyone’s favorite Situationist returns to Spectacle for the first time with IN GIRUM IMUS NOCTE ET CONSUMIMUR IGNI, the notorious magnum opus of “anti-cinema” that closed out the filmmaking career of French philosopher and writer Guy Debord.
If THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE has been proven beyond-relevant in the interceding years (as is so often the case, relevant beyond the confines of its actual self as a piece of text), IN GIRUM IMUS NOCTE ET CONSUMIMUR IGNI is a “repudiation of legends”, a densely layered film essay that slavishly interrogates (and rationalizes) its author’s defiance. Here Debord is reflexively caustic, littering the film with subtweets of his then-contemporaries and the myths surrounding his own legend – taking particular umbrage at the notion that he was a theorist (as opposed to practitioner), and, albeit in veiled terms, the New Left’s inability to subvert the grand lines of mass exploitation outside major city struggles.
In an eerily measured voiceover narration, Debord takes shots at unions (‘“always ready to prolong the grievances of the proletariat for another thousand years in order to preserve their own role as its defender”), culture critics (“amazingly enough, despite all the obvious evidence to the contrary, there are still some cretins, among the specialized spectators hired to edify their fellow viewers, who claim that it is ‘dogmatic’ to state some truth in a film unless it is also proved by images”), establishment intellectuals (“they have wasted their time at college, bargain shopping for worn-out fragments of secondhand knowledge”), and the spectating audience itself – or rather, what Debord calls “the complete vacuity of mediatized society”.
IN GIRUM IMUS NOCTE ET CONSUMIMUR IGNI is thus a political coming-of-age tale in its own way. Many of its images were culled from the ostensibly benign bourgeois French and American movies Debord so hated; more than an enigmatic few would appear to have been shot by Debord himself, or collected over the years. The montagery is genteel by 2017 standards, but there is real power to Debord’s insistence – albeit despairing – that “avant-gardes only have one time”. The fleeting, clean-limned nature of this assemblage speaks for itself: while THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE diagnosed a half-awake system of power, Debord here holds both image and consumer equally culpable for the broader distraction – a still-terrifying idea today.
Special thanks to Ken Knabb, Konrad Steiner and NOT BORED!.
“Has the time come to challenge this unscathed interlocutor? I could do so, inasmuch as his nostalgia blinds Debord, in spite of himself, to the current context of what all his perseverance derives from. You can’t just have thirty years of history end on a shot of the high waters of the Venice lagoon and expect to get away with it….
But we also need to understand poetry’s protective function. Why was it in the resource of art that twice – first with the Surrealists after October 1917 and then with the Situationists in the early 1960s – new historical circumstances produced, in France, a true break, unprecedented intensity, tremendous repercussions with regard to an ossified political Marxism? Marxism should learn from such amazing cunning! We won’t miss the opportunity this time.
This Marxism – of which Debord, in terms of the ethics of the subject, would be the interlocutor and, in his own way, the equal – I could call a living Marxism.” – Alain Badiou, Le Perroquet, 1981