Howls for Sade, a feature-length film created in June 1952, contains no images whatsoever. The soundtrack is accompanied by a completely blank white screen during the spoken dialogues. These dialogues, which altogether total no more than twenty minutes, are broken up into short fragments amid passages of total silence totaling one hour (the final portion of the film consisting of an uninterrupted 24-minute period of silence). During the silences the screen, and thus the theater, remains totally dark.
The voices — all monotone — are Gil J Wolman (Voice 1), Guy Debord (Voice 2), Serge Berna (Voice 3), Barbara Rosenthal (Voice 4), Isidore Isou (Voice 5).
The film contains no other sound or accompaniment, with the exception of a solo lettrist improvisation by Wolman during the first white screen passage, immediately before the beginning of the dialogue. The first two statements comprise the only credits.
The content of this film should be considered in the context of the lettrist avant-garde of the period, both on the most general level, where it represents a negation and supersession of Isou’s conception of “discrepant cinema,” and on the anecdotal level, from the mode of using double first names (Jean-Isidore, Guy-Ernest, Albert-Jules, etc.) or the reference to Berna, the organizer of the Easter 1950 scandal at Notre Dame, to the dedication to Wolman, creator of the preceding lettrist film, the admirable Anticoncept. Other aspects should be considered in the light of positions since developed by the situationists, particularly the use of detourned passages. Among all the passages drawn from various external sources (newspapers, Joyce, the Civil Code, etc.) mixed into the dialogue of this film (with its equally indiscriminate use of different styles of writing), the present Scandinavian Institute for Comparative Vandalism edition has retained the use of quotation marks only for four of them, which are treated as conventional quotations since they would probably otherwise not be recognizable. The first three are by Isou (respectively, from his Esthétique du cinéma, from a letter to Debord, and from Précisions sur ma poésie et moi); the fourth is a line from a John Ford Western (Rio Grande).
The first showing of Howls for Sade — in Paris, June 30, 1952, at the Ciné-club d’Avant-Garde, then directed by A.-J. Cauliez, in the Musée de l’Homme building — was violently disrupted almost from the beginning by the audience and the film club managers. Several lettrists then dissociated themselves from such a crudely extremist film. The first complete showing took place October 13 of the same year at the Ciné-club du Quartier Latin in the Sociétés Savantes room, defended by a group of “left-lettrists” and a couple dozen additional supporters from Saint-Germain-des-Prés. A few months later the presence of these same people prevented the same film club from presenting a Sadistic Skeleton which had been announced and attributed to a certain “René-Guy Babord,” a joke which was seemingly intended to consist merely of turning out all the theater lights for a quarter of an hour. —bopsecrets.org
Guy Ernest Debord (December 28, 1931 – November 30, 1994) was a French Marxist theorist, writer, filmmaker, hypergraphist and founding member of the groups Lettrist International and Situationist International (SI). He was also briefly a member of Socialisme ou Barbarie.
Guy Debord was born in Paris. His father died early, and he was raised by his grandmother in a series of Mediterranean towns. He was a headstrong youth, and after graduating high school he dropped out of the University of Paris where he had been studying law. He became a revolutionary poet, writer and film-maker founding the Lettrist International schism with Gil J. Wolman. In the 1960s he led the Situationist International group, which influenced the Paris Uprising of 1968. Some consider his book Society of the Spectacle (1967) to be a catalyst for the uprising.
In the 1970s Debord disbanded the Situationist International, and resumed filmmaking with financial backing from the movie mogul and publisher… read more