Well said S.I.!

[from Internationale Situationniste no. 9,  August 1964]

“This dose of pretentious errors obliges us to make a re-examination of [Alain] Resnais… Despite the references he made to André Breton around the time of the release of Hiroshima [mon amour], Resnais has shown his stature by depending on [Alain] Robbe-Grillet… Robbe-Grillet, arrived much too late to destroy the novel, has destroyed Resnais… With the fall of Resnais into the most redundant and shabbiest of spectacles, one is forced to conclude… there is no longer a modern artist conceivable outside of us.”

Michèle Bernstein, Situationist International 7, April 1962[1]

“I totally like the first film entirely conceived and realized by Alain [Robbe-Grillet]. And it is perfectly vain to oppose it to [L’Année dernière à] Marienbad, or to suggest that L’Immortelle was a sort of by-product of Marienbad… Whatever may be said about L’Immortelle, it is a film and can only be a film. Robbe-Grillet will realize other films, and in particular with me.”

Alain Resnais, L’Express, 4 April 1962

“If you read Planète aloud, your breath will stink!”

Situationist International 7, April 1962

“He is the uncontested and incontestable leader of the New Wave… this boy, who has passed his 40th year but still looks like an eternal student, makes his films unobtrusively, by respecting the scenarios that he demands from writers he esteems… This Harry Dickson will live on the screen in adventures more delirious than Fantomas or Rocambole.[2] ‘But there will be no winking at the public,’ says the serious Resnais. He will surely make us penetrate into the domain of the dream and surrealism. Frédéric de Tovarniki [sic], journalist at the futuristic journal Planète, works on the scenario.[3] It is right that science-fiction will furnish the theme of Resnais’ next film, Je t’aime, je t’aime.[4] The author is Jacques Sternberg, science fiction novelist and journalist at the same journal Planète.”[5]

France-Soir, 23 January 1963


[1] The translation of this passage, a quote of Bernstein’s article Sunset Boulevard from I.S. no. 7, is a slightly amended version of the translation made by NOT BORED! In Bernstein’s article there is a reference to the earlier Situationist article Cinema After Alain Resnais, in which Resnais was more favourably treated by the S.I. It is in the movement from his 1959 collaboration with Marguerite Duras to his 1961 collaboration with Alain Robbe-Grillet that Bernstein tracks the collapse of Resnais’ insight into both art and the possibility of artistic creation in capitalist societies. Unlike Resnais, Robbe-Grillet had never been considered capable of anything more than the conventional simulation of earlier artistic avant-gardist production – for an earlier Situationist perspective on him see Guy Debord’s article from 1957: One More Try if you Want to be Situationists (the SI In and Against Decomposition.

[2] Harry Dickson was a fictional character, the ‘American Sherlock Holmes’ who appeared in a series of pulp adventures. Originating in Germany in 1907, Dickson is perhaps best known in his French iteration, appearing in over 170 stories between 1929 and 1938.

[3] In the 1960s Resnais and Towarnicki tried and failed to develop a film version of Harry Dickson. The scenario from this venture was published in 2007 by Éditions Capricci as Les aventures de Harry Dickson: Scénario de Frederic de Towarnicki pour un film (non réalisé) d’Alain Resnais.

[4] Je t’aime, je t’aime, written by Sternberg and Resnais, and directed by Resnais, was released in 1968.

[5] The journal Planète often incurred the criticism of the S.I. For instance there is the brief parody of Planète from I.S. no. 7 whose title is quoted in this article, i.e. ‘If you read Planète aloud, your breath will stink!’ (we will endeavor to publish a translation of this soon). Planète, a magazine that combined science fiction stories with articles on speculative ‘science’, is perhaps the progenitor of such English language magazines as Omni and Wired, and is indeed the forerunner of the ideological function of such magazines. In their article Ideologies, Classes, and the Domination of Nature from I.S. no. 8, the Situationists compared Planète’s function to that of the journal Arguments. Whereas Arguments, under the guise of being a journal of ‘eclectic’ and ‘critical’ Marxist theory, was criticized for producing ‘the futile questioning of pure speculation’ (and thus played an important role in the spectacle of criticism), Planète was criticized for haranguing ‘ordinary people with the message that henceforth everything must be changed — while at the same time taking for granted 99% of the life really lived in our era.’ Thus the similarity of function – both journals were mouthpieces of the ideology of ‘progressive’ change (a central tenant of bourgeois ideology in its ‘free market’ and ‘state capitalist’ variants), whilst operating within and by virtue of the parameters of the bourgeois market. Their function as commodities that offered non-threatening change was central to the Situationist critique of them. Thus it was this appearance of modernity that was effectively non-threatening vis-à-vis capitalist modernity that was most egregious in the eyes of the Situationists, whose alternative was encapsulated in their conception of a coherent revolutionary project. Such an appearance would soon be shifted into the spectacle of post-modernism; the babble of ultra-modern theoretical radicalism that apparently interrogated everything all the better to hide the unitary nature of capitalist exploitation and alienation.

First published in Internationale Situationniste no. 9,  August 1964, p. 23. Translated from the French by Anthony Hayes, June 2013.  Thanks to Miranda Lello for proofing. I will endeavor to make available a complete scan of the original article sometime in the not too distant future.

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2 Responses to Well said S.I.!

  1. Pingback: The packaging of “free-time” | notes from the sinister quarter

  2. Pingback: “Socialism or Planète” | notes from the sinister quarter

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