1. Varda returned from her famous 1967 sojourn in California to discover that Marker had deleted all but a few shots of her fictional episode of “a woman who lives in Paris and experiences delirium, confusing the demolition of the old neighborhoods in the 20th Arrondissement with the U.S. bombing of Hanoi, and the manhole covers with the “man holes” where the Vietnamese were hiding. In a mental panic, she becomes aware that this distant war contrasts tragically with her modest and well ordered milieu.” Some of Varda’s material was however retained by Marker, namely shots of Vietnamese repairing dikes she had set up and filmed in a vacant field near Paris’s Porte Dorée; it would serve as a transition from the compilation history of the conflict narrated by Varda, and Godard’s monologue “Camera Eye.” On her return to Paris Varda was not even able to view her episode that had already been fully edited before her departure, but she apparently did not unduly resent the decision of her collaborator who had after all been assigned the final cut.  Rather she “would take a leaf out of his book” and declared the final result a respectful rendition of the group’s thinking, but “without warmth”:

“Strong and intelligent personalities gathered together in a group are not necessarily the most likely to transmit a feeling, nor the most efficient for indicating the urgency of taking a stand.”

Varda returned to Los Angeles and participated in anti-war demonstrations there. (Varda 1994, 92-3).

It is not inconceivable that Varda also was imitating Ivens’s style in her shots retained for the final film—so much so that this Ivens expert was sure he recognized in the footage of files of workers moving clods of wet earth from hand to hand a classic trope from over thirty years of Ivens’ documentary work—until he read Varda’s memoir. There is in any case a lesson here for facile auteurists. [return to page 3 of essay]

2. Auschwitz survivor Loridan was three decades Ivens’ junior and had been one of the main performers in Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin’s Chronique d’un été (Chronicle of a Summer, 1960). More recently she had been involved in solidarity documentary work around the Algerian war of independence with Jean-Pierre Sergent (Algérie année zéro, 1962).

3. Schoots’ account has Loridan handling the Far from Vietnam shots because Ivens was teaching at the film school in Hanoi (292).

4. Was Sarris making an erroneous unconscious connection between Far from Vietnam contributor William Klein and the Paris painter/performance artist Yves Klein whose famous blue nude body paintings were depicted sensationally in Mondo Cane?

5. The English version of Far from Vietnam  seems to have been cut for its U.S. release by twenty-five minutes, down from its original 115 minutes, but further details are not available at this time. [return to page 4]

6. Although the Times’ Adler at least had the critical equipment to describe (accurately) Far from Vietnam as a “collage.”

7. Lelouch was not the only nouvelle vaguiste who found himself offside. Right Banker François Truffaut was an interesting case study, immersed in the late sixties in various apolitical cinephile activities, but who would join other New Wave filmmakers including Lelouch at the superstructural barricades the following year when film institutions came under attack from the Gaullist government. Nevertheless, the previous year, with his Hitchcock riffs The Bride Wore Black and Mississippi Mermaid  both in the pipeline, Truffaut’s response to Loin du Vietnam in Cahiers du cinéma (1967) was an ad hominem attack on Ivens who seemed to represent for him the vile combination of cinéma du papa and the Parti communiste, an attack which also baited Marker in the process:

“the pseudo-poetic career of Joris Ivens, sponger off of festivals, who ambles around from progressive palace to progressive palace, filming water puddles with municipal funds and much aestheticism. Next, upon these decorative images—thus rightwing images—his pal also devoted to the genre, Chris Marker, will try to veneer on it a leftwing commentary.”


I am indebted to Ian Mundell for his pioneering work with documents in the Ivens archives on this topic (2003), to Steve Unger for inviting me to participate on his panel on “Left Bank Documentary” at Visible Evidence Istanbul 2010, and to my research assistant Steve Généreux for his impeccable transcription of the film. Translations are the author’s unless otherwise indicated.

Adler, Renata. 1967. “Movie Review: ‘Far from Vietnam:’  Six Directors Join to Shape a Collage. New York Times. June 7, 1968.

Les cahiers de media (Paris). 1968. Dossier on Loin du Vietnam (typescript). No. 24 (6 June) : 5-17.

Chapier, Henri. 1967. “Loin du Vietnam: Une prise de conscience sincère et passionnée.Le film du jour (Paris, 13 December) .

Chauvet, Louis. 1967. “Les Films par Louis Chauvet: Loin du Vietnam.” Figaro (20 December).

de Baroncelli, Jean. 1967. “Loin du Vietnam” (review). Le Monde 19 December 1967.

Ciment, Michel. 1967. “Loin du Vietnam” (review). Positif 89 (November): 11-13.

Gayman, Claude. 1967. Review of Loin du Vietnam. Tribune sociale (Paris): 21 December.

Ivens, Joris. 1931. “Quelques réflexions sur les documentaries d’avant-garde. »  La Revue des vivants 10 (October 1931)

---------------- and Robert Destanque. 1982.  Joris Ivens ou la mémoire d’un regard. Paris : Éditions BFB.

Lacouture, Jean. 1968. “Dix-Septième Parallèle” (review). Le Monde (8 March): 12.

Loin du Vietnam: (un film meeting).”  No author, unidentified newspaper (Paris): 27 December 1967.

Lachize, Samuel. 1967. “Pour un peuple bombardé: Loin du Vietnam par 150 cinéastes.” Humanité (16 December).

Macabies, Jean. 1967. “Godard: “Il fallait éprouver un sentiment violent pour faire Loin du Vietnam.” France-soir (7 December).

Mundell, Ian. 2003. “Far from Vietnam > < Inside Vietnam: The Genesis of the Collective Film Loin du Vietnam.” European Foundation Joris Ivens Newsmagazine 9 (November): 25-28.

Ropars-Wuilleumier, Marie-Claire [M-C W.]. 1968. “Journal à plusieurs voix [review of Loin du Vietnam].” Esprit 36-4 (April): 701-703.

Roud, Richard. 1967. Far from Vietnam. Guardian (London). December 20, 1967.

Sarris, Andrew. 1967 (1971).  “The New York Film Festival,”  The Village Voice (October 12). Reprinted in Sarris, Confessions of a Cultist: On the Cinema, 1955/1969  (New York: Simon and Schuster): 314-18.

Schoots, Hans. (1995) 2000.  Living Dangerously: A Biography of Joris Ivens. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Seguin, Louis. 1968. “L’art du scrupule (Loin du Vietnam).” Positif  93 (March 1968): 10-15.

Truffaut, François. 1967. “Entretien avec François Truffaut.” Cahiers du cinéma 190 (May) : 20, 23.

Ungar, Steven. 2009. “Jean Vigo, L’Atalante, and the Promise of Social Cinema.” Historical Reflections 35.2 (Summer): 63-83.

Varda, Agnès. 1994. Varda par Agnès. Paris: Éditions des Cahiers du Cinéma.

Vigo, Jean. 1930. “Toward a Social Cinema,” in French Film Theory and Criticism, 1907–1939, vol. II: 1929–1939, ed. Richard Abel (Princeton, NJ, 1988), 60. Original French version in Pierre Lherminier, ed., Jean Vigo, oeuvre de cinéma (Paris, 1985), 65–68.

Waugh, Thomas. 2009. “The Four Hundred Million (1938) and the Solidarity Film: “halfway between Hollywood and Newsreel.” Studies in Documentary (Australia) 3.1: 7-17. Co-published in Chinese-language periodical Art Film, No. 3 2009.

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