Anarchy #006

An issue of Anarchy from August 1961, focussing on the cinema, art and entertainment.


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A Future for Cinema?

When Shirley Clarke made her screen version of The Connection in
New York a few months ago, she financed the production by methods
familiar in (he theatre but almost untested in the cinema. A couple of
hundred small investors took shares in the enterprise; they were given no
Huarantee that they would ever see their money again, and there was no
advance commitment to a distributor. John Cassavetes' Shadows was only
lompleted after money had been raised through a broadcast appeal.
Lionel Rotfosin went into the business of running a cinema to ensure that
On Ilia Howcry and Come Back, Africa got a showing in New York. In
brume, sttme young directors have been able to finance their films out of
legacies, money lent or given by parents or friends.

Nothing like this has yet happened in England — nor does it seem very
likely to happen. The hazards dogging the steps of young film-makers are
too well known to need elaboration: costs of production, difficulty of
ttettinx a distribution guarantee, and so on. But these are largely the
problems of an industry geared to the production of commercial pictures;
and people who are prepared to approach the cinema in a different way—
who have, that is, a passionate and desperate concern — have found overseas
that it is possible not to fight an industrial system from within, but as
nearly as possible to disregard it.

— Sight & Sound, Summer 1961.

Tm: film as mass-entertainment has perished. Its place has been
taken by television, which has captured the middle -brows with BBC
and the low-brows with ITV. That leaves only the high-brows, and
they're no mass-market. Cinemas are being pulled down, or converted
into bowling-alleys, warehouses or bingo-dives all over the country.
I wen the Empire, Leicester Square is coming down to make way for an
office block with an economically-sized cinema in the basement. Six
thousand people petitioned the House of Commons on July 10th
against the closing of the only cinema in Welwyn. Their time would
have been better employed in starting their own film society. The
Slate Cinema. Leytonstone has turned itself into a club and film society
which sells shares to members. With four paid employees, the rest
of the work is done by volunteers.

Speaking under the double-breasted eagle in Grosvenor Square,
Dwight Macdonald recently pronounced the funeral oration for Holly-
wood, and even if this was a little premature, it is true that the low-cost
non- Hollywood film instead of being a Cinderella, is becoming a welcome
product, if only because it helps to keep down cinema overheads. More
and more of the surviving small cinemas are turning over to 'classics',
showing old films, foreign films, off-beat films, becoming in fact what
are called in America (with a suitable sneer) 'art houses'. This, as well
as the proliferation of film societies, and the existence of the National
Film Theatre fortifies the makers of films which would never find an
audience in the old days of the mammoth super-cinema, and emboldens
managements who find it is not necessary to insult the public's intelligence
to get them into the cinema. Like a man under sentence of death,
the cinema is becoming bolder in its behaviour and thought.

The Rank Organisation with its near monopoly of large-scale
distribution, is slow to grasp the changed situation, the big production
companies still dream of colossal epics, like the ill-fated Cleopatra, but
it is still true that the amateur or near-amateur low-budget film (Come
Back Africa, The Savage Eye, The Day) has a far greater chance today
of getting distributed and covering its costs, than it did ten years ago.

In the United States the average weekly cinema attendance fell from
85 millions in 1946 to less than 45 millions in 1958, but the number of
'art houses' rose from about a dozen after the war to about 450 in 1959.
In France, the 'new wave' films, according to Jacques Siclier, "were
really designed for the art houses, where the price of seats is lower than
in the circuit cinemas and where audiences are looking for something
more than entertainment".

Ten years ago you may remember, Bernard Miles had to fight a
battle with the Rank Organisation through the Film Selection Committee
to get a showing for his film Chance of a Lifetime (about a factory taken
over by its workers), which had been refused exhibition since it was
"bad box office". It wasn't a remarkable film but it was a good
deal better than The Angry Silence, and would have had more success

Someone described the present trend in the newspaper industry as
"Gresham's Law in reverse" — the good driving out the bad, for a
change: the small-circulation 'quality' newspapers and weeklies gaining
in circulation, while all but a few of the mass-circulation ones dwindle
and disappear. This is happening in the film press too; the fan magazines
have gone out of business, but serious magazines devoted to the
cinema grow in number : Sight and Sound, Definition, Films and Filming,
Film, Motion, they all have something to say, and they are all serious
about it. Perhaps the same thing is going to happen in the industry
itself. If it does, it will be thanks to that small minority of film makers
and film goers who have already taken the cinema seriously.

This issue of Anarchy is about some of them. It is not an essay
in film criticism. It is an attempt to describe the background and ideas
of three great directors, Vigo, Bunuel and Flaherty, all of whom are
likely to have a particular interest to readers of this journal by virtue
of the quality of the assumptions on which they acted. All three, you
will notice, throughout their working lives have suffered from the censorship,
both of governments and of distributors. If it were not for
the film society movement in different countries and for the minority
cinemas and 'art houses', most of us would never have seen their films.

We have too, articles by the makers of two recent non-professional
films, about their aims and the difficulties they encountered in realising
them. These difficulties are so immense, and the prospect of financial
recompense so slender, that such films can only be conceived as works
of love. The rigor mortis of professionalism has not touched them.

The Anarchism of Jean Vigo

Films, when they leave the hands of those who make them, begin
a lil'e of their own. The life of most is extensive (on the cinema circuits)
but short, and their influence is shallow. The life of a few is intensive
(in the specialised cinemas and film societies) but long, and their
influence is deep, and can be seen as successive new generations get an
opportunity to make films. Jean Vigo's Zero de Conduite and
L'Atalanfe, the first banned by the French government after its first
showing in 1933, the second mutilated when it appeared in 1934,
started a new life after the war, and have left traces in every new move-
ment in the post-war cinema. We saw it in the Italian 'neo-realist'
school (liicycte Thieves), in 'free cinema' (Together), in the 'Polish
school' {The Last Day of Summer), and in the French 'new wave' (Les
Quatrc ( cuts Coups).

The revival of Vigo's films together in the same programme at the
National Film Theatre last month, provided an opportunity to look
at (hem in a new light, that of the origins and personal life of the man
who made them. For when we saw them at the Academy Cinema in
the autumn of 1946 it was still said regretfully that "extremely little
is known of his life", but a few years ago the results of the patient
research of a Brazilian critic P. E. Sales Gomes were published,* and
apart from satisfying our curiosity about Vigo, they add considerably
to our understanding of the films, which require from the audience
something more than a passive receptiveness.

♦Jean Vigo by P. E. Sales Gomes (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1957).

We have to begin, not with Vigo, but with his father. Miguel
Almereyda (Eugene Bonaventure de Vigo) was born in the French
Pyrenees in 1883. His father died of tuberculosis at the age of 20, and
he was brought up by his grandparents until he rejoined his mother
and stepfather (Gabriel Aubes, a photographer), whom he knew as
'aunt' and 'uncle', at the age of fifteen. Soon after, he left alone for
Paris and was unemployed and hungny before finding work as a photo-
grapher's assistant. He frequented anarchist circles and found a close
friend in Fernand Despres, and his name was added to the files of
Police Commissioner Fouquet of the Troisieme Brigade. After being
imprisoned for two months for the alleged theft of twenty francs, he
adopted the name Almereyda (an anagram of 'y a (de) la merde"), and
following the discovery of an unexploded 'bomb', a little box of photo-
graphic magnesium, in a public urinal, he was again arrested. The
official chemist declared on 26th June, 1901 that the explosive in the
box was an unknown formula of devastating power, and Almereyda
was sentenced to a year's imprisonment in the Juvenile Prison of La
Petite Rocquette. The greater part of this sentence was served in
silence, semi-darkness and isolation. Almereyda, (writes Sales Gomes)

was never to forget the warders who would pretend to go away so as to
surprise the kids trying to talk to each other, and then hit them with their
enormous bunches of keys which they used as knuckledusters. One of them,
named Comua, would move noiselessly past the open spy-holes in the cell
doors, and bash the youngsters' faces as they appeared.

His imprisonment did not go unnoticed. Laurent Tailhade wrote
an article about him, and Fernand Despres sought the aid of a young
anarchist painter Frances Jourdain, who in turn went to Severine,
widow of the Communard Jules Valles, and together they launched a
campaign for his release but were only successful a month before the
end of the sentence. A few months later Almereyda's name reappeared
in Le Libertaire, at the foot of an anti-militarist manifesto, beside those
of Sebastien Faure, Pierre Monatte, and others. In the spring of 1903
he met a couple, Phillipe Auguste, a sculptor and Emily Clero. Emily,,
who had several children who died in infancy, fell in love with
Almereyda and left Phillipe for him. In June 1904, the Dutch anar-
chist Domela Niewenhuis organised an international anti-militarist
congress at Amsterdam at which Almereyda was one of the French
delegation, and out of this congress came the Association Internationale
Antimilitariste, the French section of which organised a congress at
Sainte-Etienne in the following year.

In the middle of the preparations for it, Jean Vigo was born, on
April 25th, 1905 : the son, wrote Jourdain, "of undernourished parents,
in a dirty little attic full of half-starved cats" (which were a mania of
Almereyda's). They nicknamed the child Nono, after the hero of a
children's story by Jean Grave, and he was carried around as a babv
from meeting to meeting. After the congress, Almereyda and Gustave
Hcrve were tried and imprisoned at Clairvaux for calling on conscripts
to revolt, and when liberated by an amnesty in July 1906, they founded,
with Eugene Merle, the weekly La Guerre Sociale, with socialist, anar-
chist and trade-unionist editors. The paper's constant appeals to
soldiers led to a stream of arrests, and Almereyda was sentenced in
April \ { H)H to two years' imprisonment for his praise of the mutiny at
Narhonne. a further year for an article attacking the Moroccan expedi-
tion, and a few weeks more for his insults to Clemenceau.

Miguel Almereyda remained in prison until August 1909. In spite of his
ill health he immediately threw himself into the campaign in support of
I'lamisco Teiier, the teacher who had been condemned to death in Barcelona,
I or several days La Guerre Sociale became a daily and Almereyda played
a prominent part in the demonstrations which culminated in a cortege of
S00.000 people, led by Jean Jaures.

Nono, meanwhile, was sent to Montpellier, (where Gabriel Aubes
had opened a photographer's shop), and was given a respite from the
hectic life which was ruining his parents' health. Almereyda was im-
prisoned again during the railway strike of 1910, and in the following
year he had his head cut open by a policeman's sabre. Although his
paper had been started with the aim of uniting the left wing in France,
there was a rift, first with the revolutionary syndicalists and then with
the anarchists. Sales Gomes remarks that "as is usual in France, it
slid from the social left to the political left". The rupture between La
Guerre Sociale and most of the anarchists was complete by October
I'M 2. and in December Almereyda joined the Socialist Party, and in
March l c M3, he and Merle left La Guerre Sociale to start a new paper
Le llomwt Rouge, which became a daily a year later.

War broke out. Jaures was assassinated. The socialists, the syndi-
calists and the anarchists were all divided. Among the syndicalists,
Pierre Monatte resigned from the central committee of the CGT in
protest against the allegiance of the leaders to the "Union Sacree" of
national unity, but Gustave Herve, hitherto the most militant of the
ant i- militarists, went to the opposite extreme of bellicose chauvinism,.
Among the anarchists, Jean Grave of the Temps Nouveaux, supported
the war, Sebastien Faure of the Libertaire, opposed it. Le Bonnet
Rouge adopted an equivocal position of "republican defence", and,
according to Sales Gomes, received a secret subsidy from Malvy, the
Minister of the Interior, as well as from a mysterious individual who
made frequent visits to Switzerland to bring back reports on German
a I fairs for the Surete— and was later executed as a German spy. Confi-
dential documents were passed to the Bonnet Rouge for use in press
campaigns for the military policy favoured by Malvy's faction in the
government. Almereyda's style of life became more opulent. His
enemies began to speak of his cars, houses, and mistresses. His anar-
chist friends no longer visited him. Emily and Nono were installed
in a villa at Saint-Cloud, where the boy was sent to school, but he saw
little of his parents. Almereyda's health became worse and he had
frequently to resort to morphine. His articles became short and few,
but the tone of the Bonnet Rouge became more and more pacifist, in
the sense of supporting the various interests, left and right, which sought
a negotiated peace. It published the appeals of Romain Rolland, and
Wilson's demand that the combatants should make known their peace
terms as a prelude to negotiations were received with enthusiasm, as
was the March revolution in Russia. Meanwhile, at the front,

from the end of April to the end of June 1917, the situation became
revolutionary. Officers were shot, red flags raised, the soldiers sang the
Internationale. It was learned at the front that Indo-Chinese soldiers had
been ordered to fire on striking women workers in Paris, and mutineers were
about to march on Paris . . . These facts did not become generally known
until much later.

(They are still not generally known, and according to a book to be
published next year, The French Army Mutinies, 1917, by John Williams,
which describes the events and the massacre of the mutineers by Petain,
there is a "strict official censorship on the whole subject which is still in
force" — 44 years later).

Almereyda was arrested at Saint-Cloud on August 6th. On the
13th August he demanded to see a lawyer on the following day. But
in the morning he was found strangled in his cell. The autopsy showed
that he was already dying of peritonitis. An official statement said
that he died of a haemorrhage, a second statement a week later said he
committed suicide. Examining the extensive literature of the case,
Sales Gomes concludes that there is little doubt that he was murdered
by a common-law prisoner. But on whose orders? Jean Vigo was
always convinced that his father's death was on the orders of Clemenceau
in the course of his campaign against Caillaux and Malvy. The usual
hypothesis was that it was instigated by Caillaux and Malvy because of
the damaging secrets held by the victim. Sales Gomes suggests that a
simpler explanation was the long-standing hatred between Almereyda
and the police, who had been unable to settle their score with him while
he was protected by Malvy, but who now had him, sick and defenceless
in their hands.

In the posthumous execration of Almereyda as a traitor, only one
voice was raised in his defence, that of Gustave Herve. Called as a
witness in the Malvy case, Herve, now a bombastic nationalist, never-
theless denied the accusations levelled at his former comrade.

Jean Vigo was twelve years old. The young pacifist writer Jean
de Saint-Prix (who himself had not long to live) saw him in a cafe,
"pale, sickly and taciturn" and wrote to a friend, "We write articles
about 'Jean Vigo' and the atrocious death of his father, without really
thinking of this poor unhappy child. A lack of imagination". Fernand
Despres took the boy to the house of Gabriel Aubes at Montpellier,
where he began to keep a diary, writing at the time of the Malvy trial,
"J'cd lu la deposition de man Tonton Herve sur mon pauvre petit pere,
elle m'a fait plaisir", and he wrote to thank Gustave Herve. Prudence

made it impossible for M. Aubes to send him to school at Montpellier,
l he lycee at Ninics refused to accept him, so he was sent under the name
of Jean Salles to the lycee at Millau, lodging at the week-end with the
innkeeper, and working in the holidays in the photographer's shop,
though Gabriel Aubes told him that there was more future in the job
of cinema projectionist. In 1922 he went to live with his mother
in Paris, attending the lycee at Chartres under his real name.

Vigo set about gathering information about his father "seeking not
only to demonstrate that Almereyda had not been a traitor, but that
he had never ceased to be a revolutionary", but he only sought out the
friends of his father from the anarchist period before 1911. When
ho read Albert Monniot's book about his father he was not disconcerted,
for since the account given there of Almereyda's life from the period
of Ic I Hurt aire to that of La Guerre Sociale was pure fantasy, he con-
c hided that the rest of the story was also. Vigo became estranged from
his mother because of her refusal to participate in this cult of his
lather's memory.

He left Chartres in 1925 for the Sorbonne, where he read ethics,
sociology and psychology. Depressed and in poor health, and worried
about the question of military service which he was determined to avoid,
he read in the published correspondence of the young philosopher who
had observed his misery in 1917, the letter about himself, and felt that
he, his father and Jean de Saint-Prix were brothers in misfortune. He
made the acquaintance of the Saint-Prix family, confiding in them his
interest in the cinema, and his reflections on a remark of the film
director Jean Epstein that "This photography in depth reveals the angel
that, exists in man, like the butterfly in the chrysalis".

At a sanatorium in Switzerland, where he was sent (thanks to the
same Fernand Despres and Francis Jourdain who had come to the aid
of his lather) he met another patient Elisabeth Lozinska, the daughter
of a Polish manufacturer, who became his wife, Lydou. They settled
a I Nice, where Vigo had been promised a job as assistant cameraman
in the FrancolFilm studios, and they moved into a house called Les
Deux Frires, furnished by an anarchist veteran of the penal settlement
of Devil's Island, Eugene Dieudonne. The job did not last, but Vigo
continued to hang around the studios, until Lydou's father lent them
some money and bought them a cine camera. Vigo planned a documen-
tary film about Nice, which he made with the cameraman Boris Kaufman
who came to live with them at Les Deux Freres. The film they made
A I'ropos de Nice was first shown in Paris in May 1930. The method
of the film, much of which was made with the camera concealed, was
to contrast the life of the rich visitors at the casino with that of the
poor inhabitants of the old city, the well-nourished limbs of the holiday-
makers playing on the beach with the stunted and crippled limbs of the
slum children, the carnival with the cemetery ("a bitter comment",
Dudley Shaw Ashton remarks, "on the unpopularity of funerals in
money-making holiday resorts"). Speaking in Paris on the theme Vers
un Cinema Social, Vigo declared that

In this film, by interpreting the significant facts of the life of a town,
we are spectators of the trial of this particular world. Indeed, by displaying
the atmosphere of Nice and the kind of lives lived down there — and, alas,
elsewhere — the film . . . (illustrates) the last gasps of a society whose neglect
of its responsibilities makes you sick, and drives you towards revolutionary

He started a film society in Nice, Les Amis du Cinema, and in the
following year became a member of the committee of the Federation
Franchise des Cine-Clubs. He was commissioned by Gaumont to make
a short documentary, for a sports series, on a champion swimmer, Jean
Taris: it was made in a swimming-bath with port-holes in the sides,
and the principle interest of the film is in the under- water shots made
through these. After this, Vigo and his friend the Belgian director
Henri Storck sought in vain for work at the studios, and he had to sell
his camera to pay for Lydou's confinement. Their daughter was born
in June 1931, and in the following winter he was asked to submit a
script for another sports film, on the tennis champion Cochet. Sales
Gomes describes the scenario which Vigo and Charles Goldblatt pre-
pared, in which crowds of children invade the tennis court with a variety
of improvised ball games, ending with a satire on the adulation of
sporting heroes.

The subject became simply a point of departure to which Vigo attached
a theme which was close to his heart: respect for a child and its freedom.
He liked sport but suspected all discipline imposed from outside and saw
group gymnastics simply as military training. In his eyes sport consisted
in a harmonious development from children's play, (as in the scenario where
Cochet shows the children how to strike the ball with more economy of
effort and skill), and must be self-selected by the child in complete freedom.
The script was accepted by Gaumont, but at the last minute was
turned down again.

Then in the summer of 1932 he met a businessman and horse-breeder
Jacques-Louis Nounez who was an admirer of Chaplin and Rene Clair,
and wanted to produce middle-length comic and fictionalised document-
ary films. Vigo prepared at his request, a script about the Camargue
which was abandoned, but the next choice was the film which Vigo
wanted to make about school children, which became Zero de Conduite
"nought for conduct." The film was made, working against time
over the Christmas holiday in a Gaumont studio hired for a fortnight
and the exterior shots were done at the school at Saint-Cloud which
Vigo had attended. As to the 'story' of the film, let us borrow the
summary from Roger Manvell's book:

This film has a theme rather than a story. The theme is the revolt of a
number of boys against the repression of narrow discipline and evil living
conditions in a sordid little French boarding-school. It is realistic in so far
as these conditions (the dormitory, the classrooms, the asphalt playground
with its sheds and lavatories, and leafless trees) are faithfully observed. But
it is non-realistic (or, more surely surrealistic) in its presentation of human
relations. The masters are seen from the distorted viewpoint of the boys
themselves; the Junior Master is a 'sport', so he develops into an acrobat
who stands on his head in the classroom, imitates Charlie Chaplin and,
when he takes the boys out for an airing, leads them in the pursuit of a
girl down the street.

The Vice-Principal is tall, darkly dressed, and elaborately sinister in his
broad-brimmed hat. He sneaks round the school, purloining and prying.
Me minces round the Principal, who is represented as a dwarf with a big
black beard and a bowler hat. He is a dwarf because they fear him and his
final authority over them. An interview with one boy culminates in a
ferocious scream and melodramatic lighting, for the Principal possesses, or
seems to possess, the magical powers of a witch-doctor.

The plan for the revolt passes through various phases or episodes,
culminating first of all in the major revolt at night in the dormitory and
I hen later in the shambles on Speech Day, which is a celebration attended
by local officials dressed either like ambassadors or firemen. The dormitory
revolt has the beauty of a pagan ritual touched with imagery which the boys
have learned from the Catholic Church. It begins with a pillow fight, then
passes into a processional phase shot in slow motion as the boys move in
formation, their nightshirts looking like vestments and the feathers from
(heir torn pillows pouring over them in ritual blessing. And it ends finally
in the morning, when the ineffectual dormitory master is strapped to his
bed, which is tilted on end so that he leans forward in sleep like the effigy
of a saint put over an altar . . . The revolt in the playground on Speech Day
closes the film with a riot of schoolboy anarchy.

Vigo used only three professional actors. The boys were mostly
children from the 19th arrondissement, an intimate 'East End' district
of Paiis, and other parts were played by painters and poets of his
acquaintance. The Prefect of Police was played by Gonzague-Frick,
an anarchist poet, friend and executor of Laurent Tailhade the defender
in !*><>! of the young Almereyda. The fireman was played by Raphael
Diligent, cartoonist of La Guerre Sociale, Henri Storck played the priest*
the assistant directors were Albert Riera and Pierre Merle (son of
Almeivyda's colleague). The music was written by Maurice Jaubert.

Sales (iomes relates the episodes in the film to the incidents of
Vino's schooldays at Millau and Chartres. The boy's names are those
of his own school friends, their individual sorrows and persecutions
wore those of the son of Almereyda. But there are also reminders of

the life of Vigo's father and the experience of the Children's Prison of
La Petite Rocquette, which Almereyda had described in Le Libertctire
and in L'Assiette au Beurre. And when the persecuted boy Tabard
turns and bursts out "Monsieur le professeur, je vous dis merde!" he
echoes a famous challenge addressed to the government which Almereyda
had published in La Guerre Sociale, headed in large type, Je Vous Dis

Some critics have emphasised the allegorical character of the film,
noting the significance of the pulling down of the national flag and the
hoisting by Tabard of the skull and crossbones. Andre Bazin observed
that "for Vigo the school is nothing less than society itself," and George
Barbarow wrote :

The Conspiracy about hidden marbles is transformed into the whole
routine of revolt. The dormitory aisle becomes a public square, the Procla-
mation is read to the assembling mob, the mob turns into a riot and battle
with the police (the pillow fight).

Others have seen it as a film about childhood entirely bereft of the
usual sentimentalities, but at the same time full of a lyrical tenderness.
Sales Gomes notes the completely different tone of the critics of 1933,
when after a few showings the film was banned from public performance
in France, and those of 1945 when the ban was lifted. The key
adjectives in 1933 were words like hateful, violent, destructive, perverse,
obscene, scatological. In 1945 and the succeeding years the phrases
used were 'intense poetic force', 'delicious poetic satire', 'incredible
richness of invention'. You would not think they were talking about
the same film.

While Zero de Conduit e was still in the course of production,
Nounez and Vigo were discussing what to make next. Vigo thought
of a film to be called Le Metro, about a man who worked in a room
overlooked by the overhead railway, who spent his Sundays travelling
by train so as to see his room from the outside. He wrote the shooting
script of a film to be adapted from a circus story by Georges de La
Fouchardiere, an old anarchist and pacifist novelist. But the project
which he most cherished, and for which preliminary arrangements were
made was the film about the penal colony, based on the life of Eugene
Dieudonne, the anarchist who had been sentenced to death before the
war and whose sentence had been commuted to one of life imprisonment.
(After twelve years he had been released thanks to the efforts of Albert
Londres). Meanwhile Zero de Conduite had appeared and had been
banned. Nounez had lost the money invested in it and there was no
more question of the Devil's Island film. Indeed a journalist, interview-
ing the secretary of the film control commission asked whether / am a
Fugitive from a Chain Gang (Mervyn Leroy's film which had just
appeared) would have been permitted had it been made in France, and
received the answer "Probably not. The representative of the Minister
of Justice would have been opposed to its presentation." The next

proposal was a scenario about an international congress of tramps, but
this idea "would have given too much encouragement to Vigo's non-
conformism. and this no doubt was the reason why it was discarded".
The final choice was an original scenario by Jean Guinee, with the title
Vigo kept the bare bones of this story — a typical French film script
of the period, about the skipper of a motor barge on the Seine and his
village bride, who is attracted by the bright lights of the city, where her
unimaginative husband will not stay long enough for her to see the
shops and impetuously embarks without her until, after grief and loneli-
ness they are re-united. But he added immensely to this slight and
sentimental story with two splendidly realised characters — Pere Jules
the mate, played by Michel Simon, who comes to life in quite a different
way from the platitudinous homely philosopher of the original script:
and the peddler, played by Gilles Margaritis, who, as magician, trick-
rye list, one-man-band and tumbler, attracts the bride with the promise
of the glitter and wonder of the world of the city. The film is full of
strange and beautiful episodes, right from the opening shots when Jean
and Juliette, the newly-married couple, walk from the village, along
holds and unmade roads to the place where the barge is moored, with
the relations following two-by-two at a disapproving distance. Or the
scene where Pere Jules and the ship's boy are in the cabin and Pere
Jules is trying to operate the gramophone he has assembled from bits
and pieces. He puts his finger-nail on the record idly and it appears
In play, (the boy is playing the accordion on his knee). He stops, more
intrigued than astonished, and the boy stops. He stops again but the
boy does not stop in time. The deception dawns on Pere Jules and
he turns to the boy: "There are plenty of more remarkable things
than playing a record with your finger. Take electricity: do you know
how that works? Or the radio?" And the scene where, miles apart,
Jean and Juliette turn and toss in their beds, full of desire and remorse.
< )r where Jean, remembering the bit of country lore she has told him,
I hat if you open your eyes under water you see your lover's face, dives
into the river and swims (like Taris) below the surface, while the image
of Juliette in her long bridal dress, floats, out of reach, around him.
Or the sad, grey beauty of the riverside scenes in the half industrial,
half agricultural region of northern France, reminiscent, as Elie Faure
noted, of the landscapes of Corot.

Most of the technicians and some of the cast of L'Atalante were
Vigo's friends from Zero de Conduite. Jean Baste who played the
skipper had been Hugnet, the 'sport' among the schoolmasters of the
earlier film, Louis Lefevre, the ship's boy was the "terror of the 19th
arrondissement" who had played Caussat in Zero. Again he drew upon
old friends of Almereyda, like Diligent and Fanny Clar of La Guerre
Sociale for the small parts. Francis Jourdain, the painter and faithful
friend of Vigo's father, designed the sets; even the film's editor Louis
Chavance, was a young technician of anarchist sympathies. Two well-

known players were employed : Dita Parlo as Juliette, (she later played
the peasant woman in Renoir's La Grande Illusion), and Michel Simon
whose Pere Jules was the finest performance of his career. When Simon
was asked by Albert Riera to take the part, he was asked who Vigo
was, and on being told he was the maker of a film banned by the censor-
ship, replied, "Oh! Bravo, ]e suis tres content.".

In the script Pere Jules had a mongrel, but Vigo replaced it by a
dozen of the stray cats beloved by Almereyda. Pere Jules has a cabin
full of bizarre souvenirs ("trouve a Caracas pendant la revolution") at
which Juliette stares wide-eyed with wonder. His conversation with
her, half-boasting, half-seducing, his evocation of exotic placenames,
his expertise with her sewing-machine which astonishes her (though we
guess where he learned to use it) suggest that he is a man with a past.
Inscribed among the nudes tattoed on his body are the initials of the
slogan M or t-aux-V aches, the old war-cry of the downtrodden, taken up
by the anarchists in the eighteen-nineties.

Some critics see a diminishing of Vigo's social criticism in this film,
but this simply reflects the habit of labelling films as "social comment" or
"love story", a habit which blinded critics to the tenderness of Zero
de Conduite as much as to the social awareness of L'Atalante. Vigo
did not see the troubled heart as a separate thing from the struggle for
existence. When Juliette has her purse snatched and cannot buy a
ticket back to the barge, the pitiful half-starved thief is chased and half-
lynched by the well-nourished citizens in a scene which as Sales Gomes
notes "curiously recalls the illustrations by anarchist artists like Steinlen,
Grandjouan and Gassier in the years before 1914". When she looks
in vain for a job in Paris, we see the real queues of unemployed standing
in the snow with the police ever on hand to prevent disorder. Jean is
sent for at Le Havre by the barge owners and would have lost his job
but for Pere Jules who blusters and frightens the bureaucrat in the
shipping office.

The film was shown to the press and the distributors in Paris on
April 25th 1934. Gaumont, alarmed by the unenthusiastic reception
by the trade, urged Nounez to make alterations, and the film was re-
edited with a popular song Le Chaland qui Passe tacked on, the film
was renamed with this title, and Jaubert's music mutilated. Jean Vigo
only saw the film once. He died later in the year at the age of 29,
and his wife whose health had been as precarious as his own, died in

The film was not restored to its original form until 1940.
His last public act was to sign a manifesto circulated after the fascist
riots of February 1934, and signed by supporters of all factions of the
left beside his signature were those of Pierre Monatte who had signed
an earlier revolutionary manifesto with Miguel Almereyda in 1902,
and Ellie Faure who had helped to pay Almereyda's fare to Amsterdam
in 1904.

* * *

Vigo left four films, with a total running time of no more than 3 and a half
hours. All his work was done in a hurry, working against the clock,
and against continual ill-health, and always short of money. "One
somehow feels," Roy Edwards remarked, "that despite the devotion of
Ins friends and his wife, not only Vigo's childhood but his whole life
was a sort of improvisation". But generations of directors have learned
from the films, ignored by the big distributors and circulated by the
film societies and cine clubs. Seeing once more the scene in L'atalante
when Jean rushes blindly out to the sea at Le Havre, we are reminded
of Fellini's use of similar imagery in La Strada and more recently in La
Dolce Vita, or of Truffaut's in Les Quatre Cents Coups, or Konwicki
and Laskowski's in The Last Day of Summer. Seeing Zero de Conduite
once more, we think above all of Vittoria de Sica's Sciuscia, Bicycle
Thieves, and Miracolo a Milano.

And reading the biography by Sales Gomes we are struck by the
fidelity of Jean Vigo to the anarchist milieu which his father frequented
before he was stifled in the cess-pool of French politics. Following the
author's hint I looked up the old collection of articles Les Feuilles de
d'Axa with Steinlen's illustrations. Here is the barefoot child gazing
in (he shoe-shop, like the contrasts in Nice, or like Juliette looking
wistfully in the luxury shops of Paris, here is the hungry thief chased
and half-lynched by the good citizens, here are the lines of workers out-
side (he factories guarded by police, here the imprisoned children.

The earlier critics of Vigo saw in him a certain prurience or disgust
at the physical world of sex and bodily functions. Later they discovered
instead an extreme tenderness and lyricism, which they regarded as a
development from his anarchism. Dudley Shaw Ashton for instance,
writes that "L'Atalante has a warm adult attitude to sex which I have
not found in any other film. In UAtalante there is no longer anarchy,
the revolution which it advocates is a constructive one."
But isn't this anarchy too?

Making Circus at Clopton Hall

Circus at Clopton Hall is a film about three children who live on
an old abandoned farm in East Anglia; in this world of empty barns
and overgrown cart-tracks where the sound of the wind in the corn
and grasses is broken only by jets overhead, they create their own world
of the circus. Their friends some from the village and join them in
acts of skill and daring: clowns and acrobats with made-up faces,
grotesquely inspired clothes and attitudes, contrasting with the world
they live in, and yet very much of it, because of their joy in fantasy
and make-believe. This filmic shaping of an actual event is achieved
partly through the commentary and music. In the commentary the
eldest girl, now grown up, remembers her childhood and with a mature
child's eye, understands that time. The musical themes again interpret
and counterpoint her realisation.

Ask any artist why he writes, paints, composes, acts, dances or
plays an instrument and he will reply "Because through this medium
which I love and sometimes hate, I can master what I have to say. 9 '
There is an element of compulsion, like climbing Everest because it's

ANNIE MYGIND and DENIS LOWSON made the film Circus at
Clopton Hall which was shown twice in the programmes of experimental
films at the National Film Theatre last May. The BBC made an offer
for it, but it is now being blown up to 35mm. and will be distributed by
Gala Films.

there, but more than Everest : the artist's material is life, human relations
in society as it is and as it might be, understanding of the forces that
shape us, transcending them with a vision of inner reality as against
imposed realities.

Now we had a theme on our very doorstep. Clopton Hall was once
typical of the Suffolk scene: a small farmhouse surrounded by barns,
stables and granaries, the land around farmed with horses, the occupants
centred on themselves and self-sufficient. The character of the land-
scape (mixed farming, gently wooded) and the pattern of living remained
unchanged until mechanisation replaced horses, made larger farms
possible, extended the fields and with modern machinery scraped every
penny out of the soil. Agriculture became fully industrialised, and now
depended on large capital accumulation for further progress, and with
the ruthlessness inherent in such a situation, trees were blasted, ditches
filled, and products of the chemical industry upset the balance of
nature. Clopton was the shell of the old order: its land was merged
with an expanding farm, but the old yellow house still remained, sur-
rounded by high black barns, stables and outhouses. Now the old
equipment rusts away, the waggons rot, the obsolete ploughs and culti-
vators lie deep in nettles, tall weeds and cowparsley invade the granaries,
but the silence is piercingly torn by the Vulcan and Vampire jet planes
that shriek across the sky, now and then, unexpectedly.

This was the setting of the children's games : a strange microcosm
of nostalgic beauty and ruthless destruction. But given the chance,
children are makers. The piggeries and harness-rooms become fort-
resses, palaces, magic caves. Nettles and weeds and the stalking cat
became impenetrable jungles full of wild animals, the pond an ocean
to be conquered. An improvised trapeze became ... a circus, and that
game in particular grew and developed. All the resources of the old
house were drawn upon, a battered top-hat, ostrich plumes, an old gramo-
phone horn became an elephant's trunk. With such materials and later
with their friends from the village school, clowning, daring and grotesque
'acts' that so vividly reflected their reaction to the world around them,
became a constant theme in their games. And thus the Circus was born.

This was a visual theme all right, but painting (our medium) couldn't
wholly contain those elements that were most poignant and telling: it
was more than a moment of time in perspective, it was a whole moving
sequence — a developing theme like music, with antithesis and counter-
point and resolution. So by a bit of luck and a little previous exper-
ience with a camera, the theme determined the medium. The luck was
meeting Lindsay Anderson. His reaction was immediate: "For Christ's
sake, man, artists are needed in films; if this moves you, make something
of it. Don't be afraid because you lack experience — just shoot what-
ever you damn well like yourselves; don't give a bugger for continuity:
above all don't let the professionals intimidate you." Then help sprang
up on all sides, like the lush weeds around Clopton; a Bolex (Walter
Lassally's); reduced rate stock from the British Film Institute, John

Fletcher as a cameraman, and with a capital of £40 (insurance money
on a lost heirloom) we started.

Production Diary

May 1957. Prepared a treatment which stated the theme : the landscape,
children on the farm, birth of circus, climactic circus sequence, end at
dusk, children trailing up to house. Darkened landscape. No concept
of soundtrack.

June 1957, Selection of setups., much drawing, puzzling out elementary
continuity, i.e. child going left-right in one shot must continue that way
next shot if seen from same angle. Prepared shooting script — and

July 1957. John Fletcher and his wife arrive for 10 days shooting,
mainly opening shots of landscape, children alone on farm and village
children arriving. We realised the nail-biting patience needed in the
English summer — the high North Sea clouds scudding across the sun
sent stomachs into knots. Handling the children's flow of enthusiasm,
which might evaporate just as the sun showed a steady course. Time
allowed only brief contact with the circus sequence itself — enough to
realise that it would be much, much more difficult to capture than we
first thought. Total footage shot: 1,000 ft.

Rushes viewed in London. Comment from Karel Reisz: "The
best 16mm rushes I've seen." (Good for John Fletcher). Murmur
from group during projection, "They will pan, these beginners." Reisz
again says, "You people should stop being painters and become film
makers." But how to interpret that?

All money spent. Advised to send just one reel of rushes with
treatment and still photographs to the British Film Institute Experi-
mental Committee, in the hope that they would help us to finish.
Sept. 1957, B.F.I.E.C. met and refused help.

Christmas 1957. Alex-Jacobs viewed the material on a moviescop,
became tremendously enthusiastic — long discussions on how to present
it again to the Committee. Should have been edited in the first place.
Decided to do that.

February 1958. Committee met, and made a grant of £70 to finish
the shooting.

March 1958. Long search for a new cameraman (Fletcher being in India
by now). Finally met John Armstrong who was prepared to put in
twelve days shooting.

Easter 1958. Late spring — not a leaf on the trees. Decided to concen-
trate on Circus sequence taking care to avoid any background that would
reveal the bare branches. Shot act upon act upon act. Children highly
co-operative and prepared to repeat 2-3 times — flattery played its part.
More definite division of labour between us — one with the children
cooking up new ideas, one with cameraman. Moments of rebellion
on children's part gave excellent material. Results showed that acts

consciously devised were worthless — lacked their own spontaneous
spark. But we got the Circus in the can.

June and July 1958. The wettest, stormiest and most thundery summer.
Louis Wolfers, our third cameraman came up weekend after weekend
and no shooting possible. Started cutting the circus material and fell
into the trap of becoming literal in assembly. Lindsay Anderson
advised us to look at Zero de Conduite, which we projected four or five
times (without sound) and this dispersed all fears. Constant destruction
of our own material gradually revealed the joys of editing — and achieved
the state where shots wove in and out of the moviscop like magic, and
the response of movement to movement showed the essence of film : it
is visual music.

August 1958. Request from British Film Institute for material to show
Committee at one day's notice — at the point where we had just peeled
the whole thing apart for the fourth time. Assembled prize shots in
rough sequence, working through the night. Informed three days later
that they could support us no further.

Sept. 1958. One fine weekend got the rest in the can — audience re-
actions, end shots, a few reconstructions of circus acts to amplify the
original material.

Oct.-Nov. 1958. Fully concentrating on editing — it could now take
shape as a whole. Seen by Jimmy Burns Singer the writer and poet,
who asked to write the commentary. Then he fell ill and disappeared
from England for several months. Secretary of the B.F.I, promised
support when plans for sound were made.

December 1958. Wrote to Benjamin Britten in Aldeburgh hoping he
might advise on music — special interest of Suffolk scene and children's
creative effort. Our highly- beloved secondhand projector broke down,
but he had seen enough to say he liked it and had ideas of using his
own childhood compositions. Arranged further meeting with hired

January 1959. Britten too fell ill — commitments, including our tenta-
tive one, cut.

February to September 1959. Moved to London and searched for the
commentary writer and composer. Many meetings with no results.
Finally Philip O'Connor and Roy Teed appeared. Here a curious
intuition was at work: one felt with them both that they understood
what we had said visually, would be able to interpret, amplify and guide
with their own media: it was now or never. Words and music by now
on paper. No response to letters from B.F.L

November 1959. Rehearsed commentary with an actress friend. When
ready to record. Bob Allen, the sound technician was called abroad.
March 1960. Finances very shaky, so far all the work had been done
on a very thin shoestring. Unexpected legacy from an aunt put things
on a firmer basis — inner conviction that this film might get a wider
viewing could now be indulged — and we went the whole hog on sound.
First-rate musicians and professional studio for the music recording.

September I960. Laid the tracks in professional cutting room with help
from friendly professionals. No great difficulties as it had all been
planned to the half -second with a stopwatch. Mounting tension— it is
not possible to see and hear the thing as a whole till the moment it is
being recorded on to one final track in the 'dubbing' session, after which
it cannot be changed anyway. Was our concept of the three interacting
elements— visual, words and music going to come off? Immediate
reaction was one of enormous relief.

October 1960. The whole lot to the laboratories for negative cutting
and production of the final print. Many headaches— inaccurately cut
negative, scratches, bad printing. But they were solved in the end
November 1960. Party to celebrate, inviting all those who had made
the him possible, many probably thinking they would never see an end
result. A good party : they liked the film.

* * *

Now what after all this is our evaluation of our concept and its final
result? Two apparently contradictory discoveries were made. First
that in spite of necessary changes in the making, the original idea
remained constant. But secondly, we discovered the reality of the idea
in the film medium itself, during the actual making— perhaps mostly
in the cutting. The relation of child to environment, of child to child
the rhythm and pace of ideas that resolve conflict. We made mistakes
and are ourselves highly critical of some aspects of the film Never
mind! For we were not concerned to record a series of events, however
colourful, with a camera, to explain it with words, give it body with
music. No, one must do more than that. And next time, do it better »

"What am 1? Who am I? What do I
feel and how do I look? Am I as
right as the girl in the book? Once
you get the right perspective you can
be sure of the right directive: I mean
if you're upside down there's only
one thing right and that's the . . .

The Animated Film Grows Up

Have you ever heard an English cinema audience applaud and boo a
film? It is extremely unlikely that you have, for the films which would
provoke such an un-English demonstration are few and far between.
The usual audience reaction as a film ends is a relieved silence — relieved
because either the boy has got the girl in spite of all the misunderstand-
ings and there is a happy ending, or, if the film finishes 'unhappily', the
release of tension and the end of a harrowing experience is a relief.

Rarely, however, is a film strong enough to call for opposition as
well as applause from the audience. The fact that The Little Island
produced that effect, at least on the occasion when I saw it at the
Curzon cinema, is an indication of its power. The Little Island is a
cartoon film, but if that makes you think of Disney, Bugs Bunny, or
even UPA, I must hasten to tell you that the only thing in common
between them is that they have all been drawn by hand and do not
employ live actors for the visual image. One may as well think of
Annigoni and Picasso as having something in common because they
both use paint and canvas.

The Little Island runs for half an hour, which is long for a cartoon,
and tells the story of three men who land on an island and proceed to
have an argument. Simple enough, except that they represent Good,
Truth and Beauty and into that half-an-hour is packed, in symbolic form,
a statement of man's accumulation of knowledge and the struggle
between goodness and beauty — both of which become transformed in

the course of their conflict into monstrous machines of destruction. That
is all the film is— a statement. Dick Williams, who made it, assures
me that it has no message; it was something he wanted to say. There
can be few statements which have been made so forcibly.

For sheer invention in colour, pattern, form and movement (the
fourth [abstract] graphic dimension which only the cine camera can
offer an artist), this must be one of the wittiest serious statements ever
made, with biting comments on art collectors and the babel of art
criticism, on the church with its prudery and readiness to resort to
violence, and on the detached and objective scientist who realises too
late what he has done and settles the argument once and for all. The
tension and the terror built up in this last section is the equal of any I
have ever felt in the cinema.

Dick Williams who made The Little Island is a twenty-eight-year
old Canadian who came to this country in 1954. He worked day and
night, accumulating heavy debts, and when things got too bad produced
TV commercials to buy more time for The Little Island. He could
obviously make a fortune the easy way in TV advertising, but preferred
to make his statement the hard way. It took him two and a half years
to pay off the debts he incurred in making the film.

Yet although his was obviously the drive and conviction which
has made The Little Island what it is, he would be the first to admit
how much he owes to a handful of good friends who worked with him
or helped and encouraged him through the three years of labour on
this film; the dark despairing days as well as the days of hilarity and
high enthusiasm. Most important among these for the finished result
and the success of the film is Tristram Cary who provided the brilliant
musical score which matches in wit and invention the visual imagery.

Making the Little Island

Have you ever heard an English cinema audience applaud and boo a
film? It is extremely unlikely that you have, for the films which would
provoke such an un-English demonstration are few and far between.
The usual audience reaction as a film ends is a relieved silence — relieved
because either the boy has got the girl in spite of all the misunderstand-
ings and there is a happy ending, or, if the film finishes 'unhappily', the
release of tension and the end of a harrowing experience is a relief.

Rarely, however, is a film strong enough to call for opposition as
well as applause from the audience. The fact that The Little Island
produced that effect, at least on the occasion when I saw it at the
Curzon cinema, is an indication of its power. The Little Island is a
cartoon film, but if that makes you think of Disney, Bugs Bunny, or
even UPA, I must hasten to tell you that the only thing in common
between them is that they have all been drawn by hand and do not
employ live actors for the visual image. One may as well think of
Annigoni and Picasso as having something in common because they
both use paint and canvas.

The Little Island runs for half an hour, which is long for a cartoon,
and tells the story of three men who land on an island and proceed to
have an argument. Simple enough, except that they represent Good,
Truth and Beauty and into that half-an-hour is packed, in symbolic form,
a statement of man's accumulation of knowledge and the struggle
between goodness and beauty — both of which become transformed in
the course of their conflict into monstrous machines of destruction. That
is all the film is— a statement. Dick Williams, who made it, assures
me that it has no message; it was something he wanted to say. There
can be few statements which have been made so forcibly.

For sheer invention in colour, pattern, form and movement (the
fourth [abstract] graphic dimension which only the cine camera can
offer an artist), this must be one of the wittiest serious statements ever
made, with biting comments on art collectors and the babel of art
criticism, on the church with its prudery and readiness to resort to
violence, and on the detached and objective scientist who realises too
late what he has done and settles the argument once and for all. The
tension and the terror built up in this last section is the equal of any I
have ever felt in the cinema.

Dick Williams who made The Little Island is a twenty-eight-year
old Canadian who came to this country in 1954. He worked day and
night, accumulating heavy debts, and when things got too bad produced
TV commercials to buy more time for The Little Island. He could
obviously make a fortune the easy way in TV advertising, but preferred
to make his statement the hard way. It took him two and a half years
to pay off the debts he incurred in making the film.

Yet although his was obviously the drive and conviction which
has made The Little Island what it is, he would be the first to admit
how much he owes to a handful of good friends who worked with him
or helped and encouraged him through the three years of labour on
this film; the dark despairing days as well as the days of hilarity and
high enthusiasm. Most important among these for the finished result
and the success of the film is Tristram Cary who provided the brilliant
musical score which matches in wit and invention the visual imagery

Luis Bunuel: Reality and Illusion

Bunuel is a man as old as this century.
show both his age and the year.


Thus the numbers below

00 February 22 born at Calanda, Zaragoza, Aragon.
12 "Bachillerato" Jesuit school, Zaragoza.

17 Madrid, Student Residence.

18 Agronomic Engineering School.

20 Literature and philosophy at Central University.

23 Degree and Paris.

24 Assistant editor in French film laboratories.

26 With Jean Epstein, assistant director Mauprat (George Sand),
La Sirene des Tropiques, with Josephine Baker.

27 First assistant on La Chute de la Maison Usher /The Fall
of the House of Usher.

28 First film as director UN CHIEN ANDALOU, Paris.

30 L'AGE D'OR, also written with Salvador Dali. Contract
with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Hollywood, 1,000 pesos per
annum. Incinerates the contract after three months, and
back to France.

WITHOUT BREAD, a documentary on poverty.

33 Paris, with Pierre Unik, a script for a surreal Le Haute de
Hurlevent/Wuthering Heights. Fire at studios, produced:

35 Don Quintin El Amargao/The Bitter Man and La Hija de
Juan Simon/ Juan Simon's Daughter.

36 Quien Me Quiere a Mi I Who Loves Me and Centinela
A lerta I A I erf Sentinel

37 Civil War. Edited newsreels including ESPANA LEAL EN
ARMAS. A sound version of LAS HURDES in Paris.

38 to 41 Collaborated on documentaries at Museum of Modern

Art, New York, including TEJIDOS CANCEROSOS/


41 Six year contract with Warner Brothers, laboratory work.
47 Mexico, prepared La Casa de Bernard a Alba j The House of Bernarda Alba,
48 Mexico, GRAN CASINO.


YOUNG AND THE DAMNED, Directors' Prize, Cannes
Film Festival. "The only film I am responsible for since


52 EL BRUTO/THE BRUTE, with Pedro Armendariz and
Katy Jurado

ROBINSON CRUSOE, with Dan O'Herlihy and James


EL /HE, with Arturo de Cordova and Delia Garces.

the version of 33).



56 LA MORT EN CE JARDIN, with Simone Signoret, Georges
Marchse and Charles Vanel, made in France and Mexico.


59 LA FIEVRE MONTE A EL PAO, with Gerard Philipe,
Jean Servais and Maria Felix (Philipe's last film).

60 THE YOUNG ONE, with Zachary Scott.

61 Asked by Cuban Institute of Film Art and Industry to pre-
pare two films The Failures of Providence Street and The
Young Hero and plans twenty films using scripts by such
writers as Jean- Paul Sartre and Francoise Sagan.
Returns to Spain and makes VIRIDIANA. Awarded
Golden Palm at Cannes Festival.


The above information is hard and real, the skeleton of the man,
hooked on to time and the work pinned down in hard type. Treasure
it, preserve it, copy it, blow it up into a photomural. Regard it, remem-
ber to remember it, tear it out and put it in your wallet. Act on it,
subvert your way into the nearest film society and rig the ballot and run
a programme of Bufiuel, not for the others but just for yourself. Spend
all your money on hiring projectors and what copies you can get your
hands on*.

♦The key to this and boundless information is the British Film Institute. 81 Dean
street, London W.I., who have a warm, cheerful and most helpful staff who can
tell you who has what film and what size, how much, and how to get hold of it.

The list is designed to prod the sluggish memories of the lazy con-
sumers of anarchist literature, to stir their murky minds, to throw up
half digested reviews in all the posh Sundays they've read in the past
fifteen years, to trigger their minds with misgivings over the films they
missed and the ones they heard about and the ones they were glad they
didn't see. Do you dimly remember that season of Bunuel's at the
National Film Theatre in the Summer of '55? I am rather reluctant to
advocate further passive consumption of entertainment and art, but in
Bunuel's case I offer active participation, the scouring of What's On to
find the odd fleapit or Classic or Odeon at Harlesden that might be
showing a Bufiuel on Sunday. An arduous three change trip by public
transport into strange wastelands to see a film. As my mother used to
say, only the things that you have to fight for are the things that you
really enjoy.

As far as time goes, Bufiuel has a thirty-two year lead on me, and
I have very little qualification to be writing about him, except that I
was a pre-television child and therefore a cinema kid, a particularly
bad /good one, an avid consumer in fact. It all started when I left the
Wolf Cubs owing 4s. 9d. subs, and I was precipitated into the nine-
pennies and averaged one hundred and eighty visits a year, and all
double features too. The addiction reached its height in the summer
of 1948 when in one delirious week I saw nineteen films. I put myself
on a cure and tapered off my shots, but even in my twenty-fifth year if
I didn't get to a cinema every ten days I suffered withdrawal symptoms.
Bufiuel, Welles, Vigo, Chaplin and the Marx Brothers can bring on
another jag right away (Ingmar Bergman was the monkey on my back
the year before last).

I have laboured you with my own case history in order that you
respect, and act on, my recommendation. I have refrained from the
usual journalese of quoting some juicy passage from any one or all of
the films to whet your flagging jaded palate. I have suffered and
enjoyed countless (about 4,000 in fact) films, mostly Bones, and offer
this saving in time. Approaches I haven't tried are those which take
a psychological or national character view of the man, you can see how
easy it would be to caricature Bufiuel as a Spanish Hero of his Time.
Another is the fate of art cinema versus Hollywood and the hard world
of hard cash. Dwight Macdonaid who is now writing on films in
I i squire, is well worth pursuing in this connection and Orson Welles has
gone through it and is highly articulate about it

Even for the sake of Anarchy and anarchy I cannot claim Bufiuel
for our side, but to raise my consumer's flag again, here is the only man
of (he cinema that I would be a one man procession for, a man that can
make films that kick my guts, humble me, excite me, wet my eyes for
mo and fill me with compassion. There they all are, in CAPITALS
above, the failures and triumphs. See them.

Another Look at Bunuel: The Tragic Eye

His hatred of Catholic morality must not he taken as implying that
he is without a moral sense. On the contrary he is obsessed by one. It
is precisely his detestation of suffering, cruelty i injustice, and hypocrisy that
made him judge life so\ severely. His criticisms of Spain are the most
severe ever made by a Spaniard.

These words were spoken, not of Bunuel but of the novelist Pio
Baroja, and they remind us that without making Bunuel a Spanish hero
of our time, it is possible to find, in his background, his teachers and
his contemporaries, the clue to much that is puzzling in his work, and
its intense and savage power. Towards the end of the last century, the
Spanish government, dominated then as now, by the Church, dismissed
the leading university professors. A few of them started a 'free' school
for higher studies, the Institution Libre de Ensencmza, and around this
arose the so-called "Generation of '98", the small group of intellectuals
who sought, as a parallel to the growth of working-class movements,
to diagnose the stifling inertia, hypocrisy and corruption of Spanish life —
the art critic and teacher Manuel Cossio, the philosophers Unamuno
and Ortega y Gasset, the economist Joacqum Costa (who summed up his
programme for Spain in the words school and larder, the poet Antonio
Machado, Pio Baroja. The Institution had an even more remarkable
offspring, the Residencia de Estudianles, or Residential College for
Students, founded by Alberto Jimenez in 1910. Gerald Brenan gives us
this fascinating glimpse of the Residencia :

Here, over a long course of years, Unamuno, Cossio and Ortega taught,
walking about the garden or sitting in the shade of the trees in the manner
of the ancient philosophers: here Juan Ramon Jimenez wrote and recited
his poems, and here too a later generation of poets, among them Garcia
Lorca and Alberti, learned their trade, coming under the influence of the
school of music and folksong which Eduardo Martinez Torner organised.
Never, I think, since the early Middle Ages has an educational establishment
produced such astonishing results on the life of a nation, for it was largely
by means of the Institucion and the Residencia that Spanish culture was
raised suddenly to a level it had not known for three hundred years.

It was to this remarkable environment that Luis Bunuel came in
1917, born in a wealthy land-owning family which he despised, and
educated in a Jesuit college which he loathed, with that intense hatred
for the Catholic Church which is peculiar to a deeply "religious" people
like the Spaniards (see M. L. Berneri's article in Anarchy 5). At the

Residencia, Bunuel met his contemporaries Salvador Dali and Federico
Garcia Lorca, as well as the older writers Rafael Alberti and Ramon
Gomez de la Serna : Dali, who was to write with Bunuel the scenaria
of his first two films before declining into triviality; Garcia Lorca, who
was to become the greatest poet of his generation, and to write, before
being murdered in Fascist Spain in 1937, the play which Bunuel was
to turn into the film The House of Bernarda Alba; Alberti who is today
a poet in exile denied an audience in Spain; and Gomez de la Serna, ten
years older than Bunuel, who had already begun to 1910 to write his
aphoristic greguerias, or attempts to define the indefinable (a surrealism
which antedated that of Breton and Dali).

Bunuel has remained singularly faithful to this generation and its
teachers. Compare, for instance, with his work, the conclusion of
MaragalPs La Espaciosa y Triste Espaha :

This, then, is the land of Spain. I have raised my eyes and seen the
scraggy trees and the houses, the bushes, agaves and cactuses in the brown-
red and wretched soil, all covered with the dust raised by wandering beggars
as they pass along the roads ... and I have felt within me, as my only
reaction to all this, a deep and helpless disgust. . . .

Or Pio Baroja's declaration that

Every subversive instinct— and the natural is always subversive — carries
with it its own policeman. There is no pure fountain which men have not
trampled with their feet and dirtied.

Or finally, listen to the philosopher Miguel de Unamuno (who was
to die under house arrest after being dismissed for the second time from
the rectorship of Salamanca University), confessing his destructive faith,
in The Tragic Sense of Life :

But it is my task— I was going to say my mission — to shatter the faith
of the one, of the other, and of the third, the faith in affirmation, the faith
in negation and the faith in abstention, and to do this out of faith in faith
itself. It is my task to fight against all those who resign themselves, be it
against Catholicism or Rationalism or Agnosticism. It is my task to make
all live in unquiet and longing.

Here, for comparison, is Bunuel, answering in 1959 a questionnaire about
the kind of film he would like to make:

If it were possible for me, I would make films which, apart from
entertaining the audience, would convey to them the absolute certainty that
they do not live in the best of all possible worlds. And in doing this I
believe that my intentions would be highly constructive. Movies today,
including the so-called neo-realist, are dedicated to a task contrary to this.
How is it possible to hope for an improvement in the audience — and conse-
quently in the producers — when every day we are told in these films, even
in the most insipid comedies, that our social institutions, our concepts of
Country, Religion, Love, etc., etc., are, while perhaps imperfect, unique
and necessary? The true 'opium of the audience' is conformity; and the
entire, gigantic film world is dedicated to the propagation of this com-
fortable feeling, wrapped though it is at times in the insidious disguise of

* * *
It is a sobering experience to look at Bunuel's first two films thirty
years after they were made. We reflect of course, that Un Chien
Andalou and L' Age D'Or were conceived by two young men of bour-
geois origins who came from a country which had escaped the first
world war, but whose revulsion from their environment was so intense
that they could describe their first film as "a despairing passionate call
to the slaughter". Today, after the slaughter, we are not so impressed
by gratuitous acts of violence. In the second film however, the revolt-
ing images develop a more coherent allegory and we notice as Georges
Sadoul puts it, that "through the Surrealist extravagance and anarchic
scandale comes the thin end of the wedge of social criticism", or as
we would prefer to put it, the nihilism becomes tinged with anarchism.
For, while Dali moved on to disintegrate his talents, Buiiuel fortified
his, and on the fall of the Spanish monarchy, returned to Spain to make,
in the Year One of the Republic, Land Without Bread. Garcia Lorca
discovered the gypsies of Andalusia, but Buiiuel discovered the deformed
and monstrous inhabitants of the desolate region of Las Hurdes. "This
then," he might say with Maragall, "is the land of Spain ..." and to
the charge that he got a sadistic pleasure from the display of its degrada-
tion, he would reply, as did the novelist Valle-Inclan, that the tragic
reality of Spanish life could be conveyed only by a systematic deforma-
tion, "because Spain itself is a grotesque deformation of European
civilisation". This, says Buiiuel, is your liberal republic with its sacred
principle of universal suffrage, and we see starving animals, cretinous
beggars, cave dwellers and dead children : images with a good deal less
surrealist chic than the artfully-arranged dead donkeys on Parisian grand
pianos, of his first film.

There follows a great gap in what Buiiuel himself would regard
as his creative life, since he disclaims all his subsequent work until The
Forgotten Ones of 1950. Transplanted to Mexico (the country whose
art, in its preoccupation with suffering and death, most resembles that
of Spain), he made his offering on that topic so equivocally precious to
the cinema, juvenile delinquency. Why is the adult world so fascinated
by this theme? Do we project on to the pointless viciousness of naughty
children, the guilt we feel for the massive and purposeful delinquencies
of our social and political life? Are we looking for microcosmic scape-
goats for our defence programme? Bufiuel does not indulge us by
making us vicarious therapists; his anti-social innocents are not restored
to the bosom of society, for society itself displays on a grand scale the
pitiful petty cruelty and crime of the forgotten ones. Virtue is not
rewarded: Pedro and Meche, the adorable children of this film, are as
doomed as the vicious Jaibo and the spiteful old blind man, and Buiiuel
scorns to offer us any attenuating circumstances or comforting conclu-

Two years later he made Robinson Crusoe. You can imagine the
standard cinema treatment which Defoe's story would get : the resource-
ful castaway on Do-It-Yourself-Island, always ingenious in making the
best of things. ("Grand entertainment for ail the family"). But Bufiuel
concentrates his power on the theological aspects of the novel, which
the modern reprints leave out, or the modern reader skips. Defoe's
Crusoe writes, "I am singled out and separated, as it were, from all
the world to be miserable. I am divided from mankind, a solitaire,
one banished from human society". And Bunuel's Crusoe rushes,
panic-stricken out to sea, yells across deep valleys to hear a human
voice in the faint echo of his own, and frantically searches the Bible
to learn why he has been forsaken by God.

In these films the manipulation of symbols and dream sequences
has been refined and controlled, so that they are neither arbitrary nor
arty. What for Salvador Dali was transitory exhibitionism, becomes
for Bufiuel a tool of analysis and exposition.

To everyone's surprise Buiiuel returned to Spain early this year,
and made, with the same cast as he used for Nazarin, the film Viridiana
which was given the highest award at the Cannes festival in June,
together with Colpi's Une Aussi Longue Absence. The most incredible
thing about this film, writes John Francis Lane in last month's Films
and Filming,

is that it was made in Spain. A film packed with erotic and blasphe-
mous symbolism made in the country with the most rigid censorship in the
Western world.

and he tells us as explanation.

It appears that Genera! Franco wants to confound his critics by demon-
strating his 'liberal' attitude to the intellectuals who stood out against his
regime in the 'thirties. "Come home and you will be forgiven" is the
message he has sent out. A Picasso or a Pablo Casals is obviously not
interested. But Bufiuel has taken up the challenge. Told he could make
whatever film he liked, he has taken the Generalissimo at his word. The
script of Viridiana was given official approval in Madrid. One would like
to know, however, how much of the blasphemous material was in that
script. I am sure, for example, that nobody expected a beggars' orgy to be
turned into a pose of The Last Supper, or that this scene would conclude
with an obscene gesture that will make censors all over the world sharpen
their scissors feverishly as soon as they hear about it!

Bunuel's anguished view of a Catholic-dominated society is very similar
to that of Fellini. Viridiana is a ruthless denunciation of the social and
religious values in Franco's Spain. The atmosphere is so mediaeval that
one is shocked to suddenly see a motor car or hear a pop song on the

Only one Spanish newspaper, El Pueblo, reported the award of the
prize to Viridiana. Subsequently the censorship has vetoed all mention
of the film. Buiiuel himself, talking about the film, in phrases that
bring to mind that straining of the very limits of their medium which
characterises Spanish painters and musicians, comments :

Octavio Praz says but that a man in chains should shut his eyes, the
world would explode. And 1 could add But that the white eye-lid of the
screen reflect its proper light, the universe would go up in flames. But for
the moment we can sleep in peace: the light of the cinema is conveniently
dosified and shackled.

The Innocent Eye

An anarchist cinema? Well, the first thing this suggests is the Marx
Brothers, and the second, Chaplin, who at least has called himself an
anarchist and who in some films like Monsieur Verdoux achieves a
pretty savage degree of social criticism, and at the same time has reached
every corner of the world with the character (much more like Schweik
than the "little man" he is usually called), variously known as Charlie,
Chariot, Carlos, Carlino and Carlitos, the innocent or 'holy fool' who
has only his wits to fight authority with.

Or it suggests Vigo, Bufiuel, or perhaps Georges Franju. Or fan-
tasies like de Sica's Miracle in Milan, the most anarchistic, though not
the best of his films.

But it also suggests a certain vision of life and of human dignity
and integrity, that we are prone to see in simpler societies, which though
they are more at the mercy of natural disaster than our own, but are,
to our eyes, more free from the tyranny of arbitrary authority. The
American critic Lionel Trilling writes of the "great modern theme" of
"the child's elemental emotions and familial trust being violated by the
ideas and institutions of modern life" and notes that

Haunted as we all are by unquiet dreams of peace and wholeness, we
are eager and quick to find them embodied in another people. Other
peoples may have for us the same beautiful integrity that, from childhood
on, we are taught to find in some period of our national or ethnic past.
Truth, we feel, must somewhere be embodied in man. Ever since the nine-
teenth century, we have been fixing on one kind of person or another,
one group of people or another, to satisfy our yearning . . . everyone
searching for innocence, for simplicity and integrity of life.

In terms of the cinema, this suggests one man, Robert Flaherty, who
died ten years ago this month. Flaherty was a film director who had
nothing at all in common with the 'motion picture industry'. He did
not speak its language or obey its rules. He was concerned, not with
finance, output or the supposed requirements of the box office, but with
using the medium of film for enhancing our perception of human life
and the land and water on which it is lived.

He began his working life as a prospector looking for iron ore in
Northern Canada and then between 1910 and 1916 became an explorer,
discovering a land mass bigger than England at the north of Hudson's
Bay, where an island bears his name. On his last journey he took with
him a film camera, and after he brought back 70,000 feet of film to
edit, he dropped a lighted cigarette on it, so he decided to return and
make a better one about the life of the Eskimos. With seven thousand
pounds from the fur traders Revillon Freres, he got together an expedi-
tion to Port Harrison, Hudson's Bay, where he took eighteen months
to make the film which was first shown to the public in 1922 and has
had welcome revivals ever since.

Nanook of the North is a story of man's life at its very hardest,
a constant desperate struggle for food, a struggle which leads not to
competition, but to all food being common to all. "It has to be so,"
said Flaherty, "an Eskimo family on its own would starve. If I went
into an igloo, whatever food they had was mine ... I often think of
the Eskimo after a long journey, starving and with not even oil for his
lamp, coming to the white man's store full of bacon and salt beef
and tins of food and tons of flour, and yet the white man will not
give him anything unless he has skins. That is something he cannot
understand." Nanook died of starvation just two years after the film
was finished. And yet, Flaherty concluded, "These people, with less
resources than any other people on earth, are the happiest people I have
ever known."

In 1923 Flaherty and his family went to the South Seas to make
Moana, a film built around the ceremonial tattooing which marked the
Samoan's coming of age. "As a matter of fact," Frances Flaherty
wrote, "we had come only just in time to catch a fleeting ghost," the
ghost of a way of life which was coming to an end.

The true Samoan does not know the meaning of private property; he

does not know the meaning of gain. He does not know want nor the fear

of poverty. If his house burns down, there is always his neighbour's house.

If he gets no fish, there are always his neighbour's fish. Small wonder

his inclination is for singing and dancing, for flowers and loving. Wherever

he walks, it is 'Malic, Malic!— Beautiful, beautiful!'

But the film was not what its sponsors had expected, and when it
appeared in 1926, it was introduced as "the love-life of a South Sea
siren". Flaherty parted from Paramount and was sent by Metro-
Goldwyn-Mayer to make a film in Tahiti. But Mr. Goldwyn wanted
an 4 epic drama' and Flaherty tore up his contract, returning with the
German director, F. W. Murnau, to make a film of a different sort.
The film was made, appearing as Tabu in 1931, though it was more
Murnau's than Flaherty's: Tahiti seen through the eyes of an imagina-
tive European, rather than the real Tahiti.

After this, Flaherty came to Europe, and after making Industrial
Britain, with John Grierson for the GPO, he went to the far west of
Ireland and produced Man of Aran (1932-4) about the never-ending
struggle of the islanders with the sea. Then Alexander Korda sent
him to India to bring back in 1936 Elephant Boy, built around one of
Kipling's stories. The story was not considered exciting enough, and
new scenes were shot at the Denham studios, by other hands than
Flaherty's, to make it more acceptable to the British film industry.

In the period of the New Deal in America, Pare Lorentz had made
The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River, and their success had
landed Lorentz with the job of director of the United States Film
Service. He sent for Flaherty to make a film about soil erosion and the
dust bowl. The film was made, The Land, but after one performence
in 1941 the authorities neither showed it nor permitted it to be shown.
It apparently did not fit in with the "new mood" of America, because
of the bitterness with which it showed the squalor and misery resulting
from the commercial exploitation of the soil.

His last film, Louisiana Story, began two years after the war and
shown here first in 1949, is an exquisite elegiac evocation of the swamps
and forests of Southern Louisiana, and the coming of floating derricks
canoe by the son of a Cajun trapper. (The Cajuns descend from French
settlers deported from Canada for sedition in 1750).

"Do it again and you will be immortal — and excommunicated from
Hollywood, which is a good fate," wrote Charlie Chaplin to Flaherty,
but he was never to make the films he planned about Burma and
Ethiopia. Considering the thirty years he spent making films, they
were few in number compared with those of the successful directors
of the "industry", for he worked slowly, spending months in absorbing
the life which he was to photograph and interpret, and working with a
small team of enthusiasts. But his influence on other directors was
profound, from Eisenstein who declared that "We wore out Nanook,
studying it", to the pioneers of the documentary school

The qualities which Flaherty gave to his films are a sense of the
uniqueness of individual people, of the dignity of human activities and
of the reciprocity between man and his environment, his home and
family, and the tools with which he earns his living. Yet Flaherty's
too, was a cinema of social comment and social protest. His friend
Charles Siepmann writes :

Bob was one of the great protestants of his time. Nothing was small
about him, and his indignation, like his love, fairly overflowed. His films
are full of both, of the former— at least by inference. He hated the ugliness
and impersonality of the urbanized, industrialised world he lived in, and he
hated 'man's inhumanity to man' as expressed in one ugly word, exploita-
tion . . . Bob was worldly enough, but he loathed the insensibility of the
'sophisticated'. He stood in the pathway of his own times and shouted
"No!" to the callous and indifferent.

For his extraordinary perception of the delicate personal relation-
ships of simple people, painstakingly interpreted to enlarge our vision
also, we owe much to this passionate ecologist. C.

I am an anarchist. 1 wish governments would go away and leave
people alone more. People can get along without governments.
I can."

—Charlie Chaplin, 25/9/51.