1. For historical discussions of this impasse, see De Baecque, 248-263, and Bickerton, 78-84. [return to text]

2. An early, undated version of Comolli/De Gregorio’s script, noticeably different to the completed film, is presently available for consultation in the Bibliothèque du film’s archives in Paris under the reference code SCEN492-B145. De Gregorio was briefly associated with Cahiers in 1971, but severed ties with the journal in early 1972 along with Bernard Eisenschitz when the editors shifted towards Maoism.

3. Of these works, Comolli now only mentions Les Deux Marseillaises in his filmography. The two television programs, part of Labarthe’s “Cinéastes de notre temps” series, can be viewed in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris. The two short films, Un coup pour rien and Comme je te veux (both 1970), which were made under amateur conditions and never released commercially, are not presently available for viewing. A screenplay for the former film, however, is housed in the Bibliothèque du Film archives, and details a plot concerning two would-be left-wing terrorists who plan to assassinate a provincial industrialist.

4. One interesting parallel is that, as with the original settlement at La Cecilia, Cahiers in the late 1960s had only one woman (Sylvie Pierre) in an otherwise entirely male team.

5. Büchner’s play (Danton’s Death, 1835) follows the French revolutionary Georges Danton (a relatively moderate figure) during the 1793-94 “reign of terror,” and culminates in his execution at the hands of Robespierre’s more radical faction. There is some irony to the use of the play in La Cecilia: Danton’s Death is far from being an unambiguous celebration of the revolutionary zeal of the Jacobin wing of the revolutionary movement, which is the spirit in which the Cecilia group performs the text.

6. Comolli notes that this sentence possesses an “extraordinary violence,” and that the chosen conclusion to the film gestured towards “turning the end of the Colonia Cecilia into a larger version of all stories of failed utopias” (Lleó).

7. Comolli felt that the film’s music was “the other side of speech, the other sound of the voice, the other voice that is superposed on top of the voice making a speech [discours], the other discourse running underneath that of the logos, of ideology, anticipating it or prolonging it” (Dossier, 104).

8. Cornand even avers that Rossi’s failure is an unintended metaphor for Comolli’s own “failed” passage from film theory to direction.

9. Comolli’s film was also reviewed in Jump Cut, with Reynold Humphries and
Geneviève Sizzoni offering their own Marxist analysis of the shortcomings of Rossi’s commune.

10. The conference, organized by Stephen Heath and Teresa de Lauretis, was focused on the issue of “Cinema and the Apparatus” and featured contributions by Comolli, Metz and scholars from the UK and the USA, who mostly discussed film from a psychoanalytic perspective. The conference organizers were, however, themselves the target of claims of sexism and elitism, made by, among others, the editors of Jump Cut (for a summary of this critique, see Rich/Kleinhans/Lesage).

11. The fictional Olimpia is an amalgam of two figures from Rossi’s account of the Cecilia commune: an unnamed individual who was the only female member of the initial settlement, and a later arrival called Elèda with whom Rossi undertook his “experiment.”

12. Of these individuals, Danièle Dubroux, Serge Le Peron and Dominique Villain (who was married to Narboni at the time) would become regular critics at Cahiers in the 1970s. Dubroux and Le Peron, who had earlier experience in the Cinéluttes collective, would also become filmmakers in their own right in later years. [return to text]

13. The filmmakers note that a 150-minute preliminary edit shown informally was first whittled down to 110 minutes for the film’s premier at the “festival du film politique” at Cannes in May 1975. The final cut was released in the Latina cinema in Paris’ Marais district in March 1976 (“L’Olivier,” 38).

14. A political reading of the conditions of the production of film images is also present in Comolli’s critical response to the film (“L’image absente,” 44-47).

15. The looser, but more widely available, translation by Susan Bennett renders this phrase as “a breaking down of the traditional way of depicting reality” (Screen Reader 1, 6).

16. The films were discussed in issues 262-263 (January 1976), 264 (February 1976) and 271 (November 1976) of Cahiers. While Ici et ailleurs had not yet been released in theaters, it is clear from their discussions that the Vincennes group had seen the film while working on L’Olivier. Serge Daney admits to being so emotionally affected by Ici et ailleurs that he vomited after watching it (Daney, Exercice, 252).

17. These figures include René Raindorf, an Auschwitz survivor and anti-Zionist campaigner, Piet Nak, a Dutch communist who led a strike of workers in the Netherlands against the deportation of Jews to the concentration camps when the country was under German occupation, and Israel Shahak, a Holocaust survivor and president of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights.

18. In his speech, Arafat declares his pride in the role of Palestinian woman in the armed struggle, stating, “By taking up arms, the Palestinian woman has forged an authentic revolutionary spirit.”

19. Their mode of speech is noticeably different to those of young boys (known as “lion cubs”) in a parallel scene: here one boy seems to speak for the entire group, and his summary history of the Palestinian revolution is recited in mechanical fashion, as if learnt by rote.

20. Narboni discusses these criticisms and ascribes them to the viewpoint of “some (French and Arab) bewildered dogmatists” (“L’Olivier,” 32).

21. The next (and so far only other) film for which Narboni would take a credit was À voir absolument (si possible): Dix années aux Cahiers du cinéma 1963-1973 in 2011, co-directed with Comolli. Made for cable television, the film was a retrospective look at their time with the journal.

22. One of the discreet ways in which Narboni has influenced the history of film theory came in the form of his close collaboration with Gilles Deleuze, who also taught at Vincennes, in the late 1970s and 1980s. The cinephilic guidance Narboni gave to the philosopher was crucial to the final shape his enormously influential two-volume work Cinéma (1983-1985) would take, and is perhaps one reason for the correlation between the corpus of films Deleuze discusses and the Cahiers “canon” of the 1950s-1960s (see Dosse/Frodon, 21-30).

23. The major exception here is his contribution to Les Années Pop: cinéma et politique, 1956-1970, a book which also contained texts by Comolli and former Cinéthique editor Gérard Leblanc.

24. Jean Narboni, private communication, April 2, 2014 (Paris).

Works cited

Akika, Ali, Guy Chapouillié, Danièle Dubroux, Serge Le Peron, Jean Narboni and Dominique Villain, “L’Olivier: entretien et commentaires,” Cahiers du cinéma 264 (February 1976): 11-38.

Bickerton, Emilie, A Short History of Cahiers du cinéma. London: Verso, 2009.

Burnett, Ron and Phil Vitone, “Jean-Louis Comolli: On the Practice of Political Film. An Interview,” Ciné-tracts 4 (Spring-Summer 1978): 44-47.

Comolli, Jean-Louis, “La Cecilia: Présentation,” Cahiers du cinéma 262-263 (January 1976): 69-78.

Comolli, Jean-Louis, “L’image absente,” Cahiers du cinéma 265 (March 1976): 44-47.

Comolli, Jean-Louis, La Cecilia: Une commune anarchiste au Brésil en 1890 (Dossier d’un film). Paris: Daniel et cie, 1976.

Comolli, Jean-Louis, Voir et pouvoir. Paris: Verdier, 2003.

Comolli, Jean-Louis, Corps et cadre: Cinéma, éthique, politique. Paris: Verdier, 2012.

Comolli, Jean-Louis and Jean Narboni, “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism (1),” trans. Daniel Fairfax, in Comolli, Cinema against Spectacle: Technique and Ideology Revisited. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2015, 251-259. Originally published as “Cinéma/idéologie/critique,” Cahiers du cinéma 216 (October 1969): 11-15. Also available, in a different translation, as “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism (1),” trans. Susan Bennett, in Screen Reader 1: Cinema/Ideology/Politics (London: Society for Education in Film and Television, 1977), 2-11.

Comolli, Jean, Gérard Leblanc and Jean Narboni, Les années pop: cinéma et politique 1956-1970. Paris: Centre Pompidou, 2001.

Cornand, André, “La Cecilia,Revue du cinéma/Image et son (304): 73-76.

Daney, Serge, “Chantez le code,” Cahiers du cinéma 264 (February 1976): 52-54.

Daney, Serge, L’Exercice a été profitable, Monsieur. Paris: POL, 1993.

De Baecque, Antoine, Cahiers du cinéma: Histoire d’une revue vol. II: Cinéma, tours détours (1959-1981). Paris: Cahiers du cinéma, 1991.

Dosse, François and Jean-Michel Frodon (eds.), Gilles Deleuze et les images. Paris: Cahiers du cinéma, 2008.

Fairfax, Daniel, “‘Yes, we were utopians; in a way, I still am...’: An Interview with Jean-Louis Comolli (part 2),” Senses of Cinema 64 (2012). http://sensesofcinema.com/2012/feature-articles/yes-we-were-utopians
Accessed July 11, 2015.

Hennebelle, Guy (ed.), “Cinéma militant: histoire, structures, méthodes, idéologie et esthétique”, special issue of Cinéma d’aujourd’hui 5-6 (March-April 1976).

Humphries, Reynold, and Geneviève Sizzoni, “Anarchism vs. reality”, Jump Cut 12-13 (December 1976): 30-32.

Kané, Pascal. “Le detour par l’enfance”, Cahiers du cinéma 265 (March 1976): 21-24.

Lleó, Rosa, “How to Film History: An Interview with Jean-Louis-Comolli about La Cecilia”, Afterall (2009). http://www.afterall.org/online/how.to.film.history.an.interview.with.jean-louis.comolli.about.la.cecilia#.VZt5H-2qqko. Accessed July 11, 2015.

Narboni, Jean. Pourquoi les coiffeurs.... Paris: Capricci, 2010.

Rich, B. Ruby, Chuck Kleinhans and Julia Lesage, “Report on a conference not attended: The scalpel beneath the suture,” Jump Cut 17 (April 1978): 37-38.

Smith, Alison, “Jean-Louis Comolli and La Cecilia: theory into practice,” French Cultural Studies 4 (February 1991): 13-33.

Toubiana, Serge, “Les arpenteurs,” Cahiers du cinéma 264 (February 1976): 41-43.