Thursday, November 13, 2008

Can Dialectics Break Bricks?

Source: Brightcove (pt2, pt3, pt4; alternative: UbuWeb)

Can Dialectics Break Bricks? (1973) is a situationist-inspired film by French director René Viénet. It utilizes the concept of “détournement” -- the appropriation of an existing work of art which is “turned around” by introducing elements which run counter to the intentions of the original artist, which then becomes subversive. By combining the theories of surrealism with Marxism, the French social theorist Guy Debord envisioned this method of film-making which would serve to undermine the “commodity fetishism” inherent in modern life. While Debord experimented with video collage in his The Society of the Spectacle (1973), Viénet took an existing film (kung-fu movie The Crush, by Doo Kwang Gee) and redubbed the entire sequence, with characters mostly spouting Marxist doctrine. Like the surrealism before, the techniques of détournement proved better suited for generating comedy than transforming society (the classic representitive being Woody Allen's What's Up Tiger Lily? (1966)).


In the Library:
  • Lang, Berel, and Forrest Williams. 1972. Marxism and art; writings in aesthetics and criticism. New York: McKay. [link: WorldCat]
  • Macdonald, Bradley J. 2006. Performing Marx: contemporary negotiations of a living tradition. SUNY series in political theory. Albany: State University of New York Press. [link: NetLibrary]
  • Plant, Sadie. 2002. The most radical gesture the Situationist International in a postmodern age. London: Routledge. [link: NetLibrary]
  • Sadler, Simon. 1998. The situationist city. Cambridge Mass: MIT Press. [link: NetLibrary]

On the Web: