1. This essay develops research from two earlier papers, one delivered at the 2010 annual conference of the Society of Cinema and Media Studies, the other presented at the Fourth Annual Conference of the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities, University of California, Los Angeles, February 11-12, 2010. [return to page 1]
2. The other members were Ricardo Becher, Raúl de la Torre, Alberto Néstor Paternostro, and Juan José Stagnaro, none of whose contemporaneous films attained the formal (and political) audacity of The Players. In hindsight, Fischerman’s work was in more intimate dialogue with other filmmakers who operated even farther to the margins of Argentine cinema at the time, among them Julio Ludueña, Miguel Bejo, Edgardo Cozarinsky, and Rafael Filippelli. Néstor Tirri discusses these connections in the only book-length work to date dedicated to Fischerman’s cohort. See Néstor Tirri, comp., El Grupo de los 5 y sus contemporáneos. Pioneros del cine independiente en la Argentina (1968-1975) (Buenos Aires: Secretaría de Cultura GobBsAs, 2000), 87-100. Since drafting the original version of this article, I have encountered David Oubiña’s compelling monograph, El silencio y sus bordes: modos de lo extremo en la literatura y el cine (Mexico, D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2011), an unaltered version of his 2005 doctoral thesis, in which he devotes an extensive chapter to Fischerman’s work. Also signaling Fischerman’s greater affinity with those other artists outside the Group of 5, Oubiña frames The Players as one of a small corpus of unrepeatable limit-works of narrative art from Argentina at the turn of the 1970s, meanwhile situating Fischerman’s larger concerns firmly within a matrix of global critical discourses, from political-modernist film theory and the Adorno of The Dialectics of Enlightenment to theories and practices of the happening.
3. Diana Sorensen, A Turbulent Decade Remembered: Scenes from the Latin American 60s, Cultural Memory in the Present (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2007), 17.
4. On the now unproblematic designation of the 60s as a “long decade” (roughly, from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s), see Fredric Jameson, “Periodizing the 60s,” Social Text 9/10, The 60's without Apology (Spring-Summer, 1984): 178-209; and, more recently, Arthur Marwick, The 60s: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). Implicit in Jameson’s original formulation is a geographic component that locates the origins of the global 60s outside the industrialized West, that is to say, in the third world, or more precisely, in the former colonies of Great Britain and France, where the first national liberation movements erupted. Nonetheless, still earlier manifestations of this global moment arguably come from Japan, where Left-revolutionary, “anti-imperialist” student movements began with opposition to the first U.S.-Japan Security Treaty of 1950 and spanned the entire decade to follow. See Victor Koschmann, “Intellectuals and Politics,” in Postwar Japan as History, ed. Andrew Gordon (Berkeley: University of California, 1993), 395-423.
5. Although its purview does not extend to cases beyond Europe and North America, the definitive critique of the discourse of political modernism, particularly in its articulation of the conflict between “the aesthetic” and “the political” in post-1968 avant-garde film theory and practice, remains D. N. Rodowick, The Crisis of Political Modernism: Criticism and Ideology in Contemporary Film Theory, 1st pbk. ed. (Berkeley: University of California, 1994). The seminal theoretical statement on “the two avant-gardes” in modernist film discourse is Peter Wollen, “The Two Avant-Gardes,” Studio International 190.978 (November/December 1975): 171–175. Here Wollen traces the opposition to competing tendencies of self-reflexive formalism (mainly in North American experimental film) and narrative anti-illusionism (mainly in the European tradition leading from Eisenstein to Godard), before heralding a potential “third avant-garde” that would effectively merge the two orientations. Not coincidentally—though without referring explicitly to Wollen’s essay of five years earlier—Robert Stam would discern just such an amalgamation in Solanas and Getino’s 1968 documentary. See Robert Stam, “The Hour of the Furnaces and the Two Avant-gardes,” in The Social Documentary in Latin America, ed. Julianne Burton (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990) 251-66, originally printed in Millennium Film Journal 7-9 (Fall-Winter 1980-81).
6. A project unto itself is needed to adequately redress the long-standing pan-continental bias of scholarship on 1960s Latin American film in this regard. A cursory review of the scholarly literature on the New Latin American Cinema itself, however, is instructive. To begin, one of the principle anthologies of studies on the New Latin American Cinema succinctly epitomizes the contradictions in the competing titles of its two volumes: see Michael T. Martin, ed., New Latin American Cinema, Vol. 1: Theory, Practice and Transcontinental Articulations (Detroit: Wayne State UP 1997), and Vol. 2: Studies of National Cinemas (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1997). Numerous other key sources on the New Latin American Cinema are equally susceptible to the seductions of this (elusive) pan-continental ideal in the analysis of 1960s Latin American cinema. In addition to Burton’s edited volume, cited above, see also Michael Chanan, ed. Twenty-five Years of the New Latin American Cinema (London: BFI, 1983); Julianne Burton, ed. Cinema and Social Change in Latin America: Conversations with Filmmakers (Austin: University of Texas, 1986); and Zuzana M. Pick, The New Latin American Cinema: A Continental Project, Texas Film Studies Series (Austin: Texas UP 1993).
7. Solanas and Getino in no way propose that First and Second Cinema somehow cease to operate with the ideological evolution of film history towards Third Cinema. Rather, they find all three operating simultaneously and dialectically within the historical conjuncture of national liberation. The document (originally titled “Hacia un tercer cine”) has been reprinted in various publications, including Michael T. Martin, New Latin American Cinema, Vol. 1, 59-61. The Spanish text is included in Hojas de cine: testimonios y documentos del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, Consejo Nacional de Recursos para la Atención de la Juventud (Puebla, México: Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, 1986). The concerted revision and expansion of the theory of Third Cinema commenced with Teshome Gabriel, Third Cinema in the Third World: The Cinema of Liberation (Ann Arbor: UMI, 1982), and arguably culminated with Jim Pines and Paul Willemen, eds., Questions of Third Cinema (London: British Film Institute, 1989). On Third Cinema discourse in the Latin American context specifically, see Octavio Getino and Susana Velleggia, El cine de las historias de la revolución. Aproximaciones a las teorías y practices del cine politico en América Latina (1967-1977) (Buenos Aires: Grupo Editor Altamira, 2002). Insofar as it represents the film-discursive counterpart to the discourse of liberation in the Latin American 60s, it bears comprehending Third Cinema as just one of an array of transnational Latin Americanisms at the time, viz., Dependency Theory, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Liberation Theology, the New Latin American Novel (a.k.a. the Boom).
8. In subsequent writings, Getino was in fact quite explicit about the expressly national objectives of his collaboration with Solanas. Specifically, within the parameters of the film collective they founded, Grupo Cine Liberación, Solanas and Getino regarded their artistic activity as nothing short of the cultural arm of Revolutionary Peronism, the broader militant political movement that dominated the opposition to the right-wing military regime in Argentina at the time. See Octavio Getino, A diez años de “Hacia un tercer cine” (México, D.F.: Filmoteca de la UNAM, 1982) 5-35. On the crucial role of Grupo Cine Liberación in the Left-Peronist movement in Argentina at the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 70s, see Mariano Mestman, “Raros e inéditos del grupo Cine Liberación. A 40 años de La hora de los hornos,” Revista Sociedad 27 (primavera 2008): 25-79. However abundant the scholarship on Peronism, it bears underscoring the deeply problematic association of Perón’s own political ideas with those of Left-Revolutionary ideology in 1960s Argentina, which took its inspiration mainly from the Marxist-Leninist orientation of the Cuban Revolution. Perón was by and large a realist who forged alliances across the political spectrum, and whose corporatist “third way” between the extremes of the Cold War often embraced starkly contradictory political positions. Important analyses of Peronism include Ernesto Laclau, “Towards a Theory of Populism,” in Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory: Capitalism-Fascism-Populism (London: NLB, Humanities Press, 1977) 143-98; Tulio Halperin Donghi, “El lugar del peronismo en la tradición política argentina,” and Mariano Ben Plotkin, "La ‘ideología’ de Perón: continuidades y rupturas," both in Perón, del exilio al poder, ed. Samuel Amaral and Mariano Plotkin (Buenos Aires: Cántaro, 1993) 15-44, 45-67; Ricardo Sidicaro, Los tres peronismos. Estado y poder económico, 1945-55/1973-76/1989-99 (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2005); and Loris Zanatta, Breve historia del peronismo clásico, trad. Carlos Catroppi, Serie Nudos de la historia argentina (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 2009).
9. Until recently, the principal industrial history of advertising in Argentina was Armando Alonso Piñeiro, Breve historia de la publiciad argentina 1801-1974 (Buenos Aires: Alzamore Editores, 1974) For a new, more nuanced critical study of the rise of consumer culture in post-war Argentina and, subsequently, of the evolution of commercial advertising, see Natalia Milanesio, Workers Go Shopping in Argentina: the Rise of Popular Consumer Culture (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 2013), especially chapter 3, “Commercial Culture Becomes Popular: Advertising and the Challenges of a Changing Market,” 83-122.
10. One fairly recent exception to this oversight is Laura Podalsky, “La hora de los hornos in the Advertising Age,” in Specular City: Transforming Culture, Consumption, and Space in Buenos Aires, 1955-1973 (Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2002), 208-227. While Podalsky’s stated aim is to historically situate the “critique of consumerism” in Solanas and Getino’s documentary “against the backdrop of the contemporary Argentine advertising industry,” it must be noted that her account neither attempts to compare the effective uses of “advertising techniques” in The Hour of the Furnaces with those found in actual advertising spots from the period, nor ventures to relate the film’s putative advertising aesthetics to the broader critical discourse on advertising taking shape both within and beyond Latin America at the time. I will bring greater attention to this discursive constellation below.
11. César Maranghello, “Alberto Fischerman, el hombre que sabía escuchar,” in Tirri, El Grupo de los 5, 25.
12. For all its merit, Podalsky’s analysis in the aforementioned chapter of Specular City is symptomatic of this kind of omission: while she addresses Solanas’s vocation as a factor in the adoption of what she perceives as advertising strategies in The Hour of the Furnaces, she disregards the political contradictions that result from his professional association with the very advertising world his film denounces.
13. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1964, Introd. Lewis H. Lapham (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994), especially chapter 23, “Ads: Keeping Upset with the Joneses,” 226-33. To today’s reader, McLuhan’s pronouncements on advertising—“a self-liquidating form of community entertainment” with the “goal of a programmed harmony among all human impulses and aspirations and endeavors”—can sound frankly oracular. Certainly, to judge not only by the ubiquity and uniformity of advertising imagery across the contemporary media landscape (even in the case of images made merely to look like high-production advertisements), not to mention the ubiquitous iconicity of that advertising imagery, according to which any reference to an actual product has long since become extraneous to the objective of the ad, McLuhan’s insights may now sound more clairvoyant than ever. As I hope to suggest, the way Fischerman’s The Players vs. Ángeles Caídos understands advertising media imparts a similar prescience, perhaps to the same degree that Solanas and Getino’s critique of mass media can now look and sound somewhat dated.
14. The scholarly literature on this period of Argentine history is vast. My severely schematic overview here relies mainly on Hugo Vezzetti, Sobre la violencia revolucionaria. Memorias y olvidos (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI Editores, 2009); and Boris Fausto and Fernando J. Devoto, Brasil e Argentina: um ensaio de história comparada (1850-2000), trans. of Spanish texts by Sérgio Molina (São Paulo: Editora 34, 2004), especially chapter 3, “A construção dos dois populismos e sua crise (1937-1968),” 332-93; and chapter 4, “Ditadura, democratização e o tempo mais recente (1968-2002),” 395-453.
15. My schematic discussion of the Di Tella Institute here relies mainly on two sources. First is the now classic history of the organization by John King, El Di Tella, y el desarrollo cultural argentino en la década del sesenta, 1985, 2nd ed. (Buenos Aires: Asunto Impreso Ediciones, 2007). Though eminently useful as a historical reconstruction of a crucial hub of cultural production, King’s is a mostly acquiescent, linear account of the Institute’s activities through the 1960s, based primarily on archival documents. Farther-reaching in its purview and more circumspect in its analytical stance is Andrea Giunta, Vanguardia, internacionalismo y política: arte argentina de los años sesenta, edición ampliada (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI Editores, 2008), which aims to situate organizations like the Di Tella within a broader nexus of global cultural phenomena during this complex chapter of Argentine art history.
16. The commercial can be viewed on-line, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsxDECDB-f8, last accessed 12/4/14.]
17. Con un poco de arena / con un poco de mar / si tu estás a mi lado / ya no quiero más. [This and all subsequent translations of non-English sources are mine unless otherwise noted.]
18. The investigation of Erize’s case—which culminated in July 2009 with the conviction of those responsible for her sequestration, rape, and murder—has gained considerable attention in the Argentine press. See, for instance Juan C. Poblete Barrios, “Tres hombres secuestraron a la joven,” La Nación, Aug. 9, 2000, accessed Oct. 14, 2013, www.lanacion.com.ar/28108-tres-hombres-secuestraron-a-la-joven; , Miriam Walter, “Procesaron a Menéndez por el asesinato de Marie Anne Erize,” Diario de Cuyo, July 25, 2009, accessed Oct 26, 2013, www.diariodecuyo.com.ar/home/new_
noticia.php?noticia_id=354184; and Daniel Tejada, “El retrato íntimo de Marie Anne, Tiempo de San Juan, Sept. 29, 2012, accessed Oct. 25, 2013,
19. Edgardo Cozarinsky, “The Players vs. Ángeles Caídos,” Primera Plana (June 1969), reprinted in Tirri, El Grupo de los 5, 76. [return to page 2]
20. Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, 1974, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), 384-85. One may also detect in The Players certain anarchist tendencies that resonate with aspects of Lefebvre’s thought. Though he never assumed the mantle of anarchism for himself, Lefebvre’s sympathies with anarchist philosophy are well-known. See Andy Merrifield, Henri Lefebvre: A Critical Introduction (New York & Oxford: Routledge, 2006), xxiv-xxv; 175n13. Responding to speculations over his anarchist predilections, Lefebvre famously confessed to Edward Soja in 1978 that he was “a Marxist, of course…so that we can all be anarchists some time in the future.” See Edward W. Soja, Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-And-Imagined Places (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), 33.
21. As so many critics have commented, the film is a tour de force of avant-garde film techniques—though I must side with Gonzalo Aguilar in asserting that none was truly innovative any more by 1969. Rather, the film’s radical status resides in its rejection not only of hegemonic industrial modes of cinematic production, but of the entire institution of commercial cinema itself. See Gonzalo Aguilar, “La hora de los hornos: historia de su recepción,” in Cine argentino: Modernidad y vanguardias 1957/1983, Vol. II, ed. Claudio España (Buenos Aires: Fondo Nacional de las Artes, 2005) 496.
22. This, in essence, is how Podalsky characterizes the deployment of advertising aesthetics in The Hour of the Furnaces: a tactical means of turning the language of “the System” against itself. In a similar vein, Robert Stam makes brief mention of advertising as one of many aesthetic strategies of persuasion and demystification in the film, though he refers mainly to the film’s re-appropriation of advertising images from commercial print media. See Stam, “The Hour of the Furnaces and the Two Avant-gardes,” in Burton, The Social Documentary in Latin America, 253. As I remark below, Emilio Bernini has addressed similar questions of advertising style and media appropriation in The Hour of the Furnaces with considerably greater depth and complexity. See Emilio Bernini, “Politics and the Documentary Film in Argentina,” Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies 13.2 (August 2004): 155-170.
23. Cited in Beatriz Sarlo, “La noche de las cámaras despiertas,” La máquina cultural: maestras, traductores y vanguardias, Colección Los Tres Mundos (Buenos Aires: Seix Barral, 2007) 183.
24. For the first formal theoretical statement on détournement, see Guy Debord and Gil J. Wolman, “Mode d’emploi du détournement,” in Guy Debord, Oeuvres, ed. Jean-Louis Rançon with Alice Debord, pref. and introd. Vincent Kaufmann (Paris: Gallimard, 2006) 221-29, first printed in Les Lévres nues 8 (May 1956). To my knowledge, no one has yet drawn the connection between the techniques of appropriation in The Hour of the Furnaces—themselves inspired by the work of Cuban director Santiago Álvarez at the Instituto Cubano de Artes e Industrias Cinematográficas (ICAIC) beginning in 1959—and the methods of détournement in Situationist cinema. Guy Debord’s short film, Critique de la séparation, dates from 1961, and already contains the basic elements of détournement, though it would only be with the 1973 film “adaptation” of his 1967 tract, La societé du spectacle,that the method would find its full expression. In this sense, both Álvarez’s films and The Hour of the Furnaces prefigure Society of the Spectacle as a work of cinematic détournement.
25. Beatriz Sarlo, “La noche de las cámaras despiertas,” in La máquina cultural, 189.
26. This counterpoint, it should be noted, does not result from conventional parallel montage, a narrative strategy that Fischerman resisted categorically in The Players (yet another of the factors distancing him from his Group of 5 peers). Both Oubiña and Rafael Filippelli stress this point. See Filippelli, “Una combinación fugaz y excepcional: el Grupo de los 5,” in Tirri, El Grupo de los 5, 20; and Oubiña, El silencio y sus bordes, 147.
27. Yo me encuentro al despertar / con el mundo que dejé: / con mi cuarto, con mi chica / con mi tasa de café….
28. Hoy me levanté alegre / porque alegre me acosté. / Mi amor se durmió conmigo / yo me desperté con él / La-da-da-da-da-da-da-dum, […] / Si me duermo, llego tarde. / Si me visto, tarde es. / Si hago el amor llego tarde / pero llegaré muy bien.
29. Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, 1967, trans. Ken Knabb (London: Rebel Press, nd), 7. The four cited passages come from chapter 1, “The Culmination of Separation,” sections 1, 3, 4, and 5, respectively.] [return to page 3]
30. Lyn Spiegel, TV by Design: Modern Art and the Rise of Network Television (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 243-44.
31. Raymond Williams, Television: Technology and Cultural Form (New York: Schocken Books, 1975), 68-69.
32. Emilio Bernini, “Politics and the Documentary Film in Argentina,” 163-64.
33. Indeed, as articulated in the first part of The Hour of the Furnaces, Solanas and Getino’s critique of “neo-colonization” in Latin America by means of the mass media is tightly aligned with the ideas of such intellectuals. See, in particular, Juan José Hernández Arregui, Imperialismo y cultura: la política en la inteligencia argentina (Buenos Aires: Editorial Amerindia, 1957), which the filmmakers cite in both The Hour of the Furnaces and in “Towards a Third Cinema”; and Hernández Arregui, Nacionalismo y liberación: metrópolis y colonias en la era del imperialismo (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Hachea, 1969). See also, Armand Mattelart, La comunicación masiva en el proceso de liberación (México: Siglo XXI Editores, 1973); and Heriberto Muraro, Neocapitalismo y comunicación de masa (Buenos Aires: Editorial Universitaria de Buenos Aires, 1974).
34. That the first formulations of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari on the Capitalist “machine” also date to this period is no coincidence. I refer specifically to their postulation of the “Body without Organs” as that virtual dimension of Capitalism—a kind of matrix of potentialities or flows of desire—that continually “reterritorializes” the various forms of surplus, aberration, or resistance that Capitalist society itself engenders. See Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, 1972, Vol. 1 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane, pref. Michel Foucault (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1983), especially the sections titled “The Body without Organs,” 9-16; and “The Civilized Capitalist Machine,” 222-240
35. Jean Baudrillard, System of Objects, 1968 (London: Verso, 2005), 178 (my emphasis).
36. Roland Barthes, “Myth Today,” in Mythologies, 1957, trans. Annette Lavers (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972) 114; 115; 129.
37. Jean Baudrillard, “Requiem for the Media,” in Utopia Deferred: Writings for Utopie (1967-78), trans. Stuart Kendall (New York: Semiotext(e), 2006) 83.
38. Baudrillard, “Requiem for the Media,” in Utopia Deferred, 84.
39. “Éramos… militantes del ‘partido cinematográfico’” (“We were… militants in the Party of Cinema”). Bebe Kamin and Julio Ludueña in conversation with Néstor Tirri, in Tirri, “Alianzas Contestatarias (Ludueña, Bejo, Cozarinsky),” El Grupo de los 5 y sus contemporáneos, 100.