Part of Spring 1996
‘The cinema, which is the newest and undoubtedly the most utilizable means of expression of our time, has marked time for nearly three quarters of a century… We should appropriate the first stammerings of this new language; and above all its most consummate and modern examples, those which have escaped artistic ideology even more than American ‘B’ movies: newsreels, previews, and above all, filmed ads… we should henceforth require that each situationist be as capable of making a film as of writing an article.'(Rene Vienet 1967)
In 1973, six years after he wrote the above, and five years after the popular revolt of May 1968, Vienet completed La dialectique peut-elle casser des briques? [Can Dialectics Break Bricks?], a run-of-the-mill- kung fu movie completely reconfigured by the addition of a dubbed French soundtrack. The visual elements of the film remain exactly as in the original, but the new dialogue transforms the story from one of kung fu heroics in Japanese-occupied China to an incitement to revolutionary action. The gang of local samurai become repressive bureaucrats, representatives of state capitalism; the local kung fu fighters are transformed into revolutionaries, putting into practice various strategies to overthrow the old order and establish a new society. Despite its political content, Can Dialectics Break Bricks? is far from a dry tract. On the contrary, it is consistently hilarious and surprising, and its ideas remain inspiring.
U.S. filmmaker Keith Sanborn has undertaken the project of translating Dialectics (on video) into English; his excellent translation retains all the fierce wit for which the situationists were known. Sanborn will be present to discuss the film.