1. Lefebvre, 1991, pp. 44 & 54. [return to text]

2. Watkins, 2014: online.

3. Taken from one of the copious text screens seen throughout the collaborative 2000 film directed by Watkins, La Commune (Paris, 1871).

4. Readers primarily interested in discussion of the film may wish to proceed straight to Part II, which gains far greater theoretical-historical contextualization in light of Part I but nonetheless remains sufficiently coherent read on its own.

5. Lefebvre, 1991, p. 22.

6. As a result of this long relationship, roughly half of Lefebvre’s written output was for Communist publishers. Upon eviction by the PCF in 1958—following many years’ internal criticism for his comparatively unorthodox Marxism and insufficiently pro-Moscow views—Lefebvre subsequently remained a committed non-institutionally aligned communist to the end. [return to text]

7. “Enamoured with Louis Althusser and his school,” writes Stanley Aronowitz, “the academic left largely ignored these [early translated] works because Lefebvre was a representative of the Hegelian-Marxist tradition that they were labouring to discredit.” (2007, p. 134) The title of Aronowitz’s article, “The Ignored Philosopher and Social Theorist: On the Work of Henri Lefebvre,” suggests itself that any influence Lefebvre may have had in the Anglophone world has been sketchy and highly selective at best—despite that in many ways both his concerns and conceptual attitude if anything chimes increasingly better with our own in recent years, such as incorporating an ecological dimension into the humanities and political science. Lefebvre, of course, has his committed advocates in the English-peaking world, and his work has probably not been quite as marginal or misunderstood as Aronowitz implies. But the still very partial and rather fragmentary nature of its reception and lack of wholehearted adoption (as was enjoyed by other post-war French intellectuals I mention here and in the following footnote) remains notable.

8. In Australia, where I received my academic training in the Humanities, Lefebvre was never mentioned in classes (even as the roughly contemporary German “New Marxists” of the Frankfurt School were comparatively prominent, if often as “elitist” targets for postmodern critique). This is in sharp distinction to the following generation of French thinkers we call poststructuralist, whose work dominated my university theory curriculum. Encountering Lefebvre much later provided an illuminating “corrective” to what even as a student I felt to be an excessive emphasis on—and, I later surmised, a rather depoliticized account of—Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva and other French thinkers of the post-war generation initially drawn to Marxism but soon mounting a very successful Oedipal overthrow. Some of the footnotes in Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1991) feature interesting, if sometimes glib, critiques of such poststructuralist stars at the early peaks of their fame.

9. Aronowitz, 2007 p. 133.

10. Aronowitz, 2007, p. 150, before quoting Lefebvre (1991, p. 128).

11. Historical film studies scholarship over the last three decades or more has often devoted quite some attention to the close relationship between cinema and “the modern city,” both of which enjoyed twin peaks of cultural, economic and political importance during the same historical period. Until the 1950s, cinema’s production and consumption bases were thoroughly urban in concentration, which for key Hollywood styles and genres—such as the gangster film, the thriller, and above all film noir—became crucially reflected onscreen. (It can be argued that Hollywood’s primary “rural” genre, the Western, was also largely urban in regards to both its target audience and escapist appeal as an often-reactionary critique of the modern capitalist United States and wage-labor from the perspective of a constructed pre-modern past.) Yet the odd reference aside, Lefebvre’s work has generally received little sustained attention within even this scholarship on cinema and the city.

12. Lefebvre, 1991, pp. 22–3. In addition to Marx, Lefebvre had a long interest in Nietzsche’s work, devoting an early book solely to the philosopher (1939) and another to Nietzsche, Hegel and Marx (1975).

13. This crucial notion of Adorno’s is most strenuously worked through as a philosophical concept in the magisterial Negative Dialectics (1991), originally published in 1966. For a brief, hopefully clear explication of Adorno’s understanding of and stress on negation and its ongoing usefulness, including in the perhaps surprising context of film studies, see Ford (2012, pp. 54-61).

14. Lefebvre, 1991, p. 23.

15. Lefebvre, 1991, p. 23.

16. Each strongly influenced by Hegel, both Marxist philosophers engaged extensively with Nietzsche for his substantive troubling of the idealist Hegelian tradition of synthesis. The connection is made even clearer in Lefebvre’s invocation of negativity. Adorno partially exempted Nietzsche from what the former argued was Western philosophy’s obsession with synthesis, the lingering spectres of Platonic and later German idealism forever resulting in ethico-political regression and justification of suffering. Such majority philosophers, Adorno writes, “all have a parti pris for unity. It is in that fact that we discover philosophy’s uncritical complicity with civilization.” (2008, p.159)

17. Efficacious revolutionary change in the 20th Century usually started or was often primarily fought across rural environments in countries such as China, Cuba, Algeria, and Vietnam.

18. Lefebvre, 1996, p. 158.

19. Harvey, 2013, p. xvii.

20. Far from a selfless gesture, such temporary allowance of would-be revolutionary activity works to prove the political establishment’s liberal values, a useful propaganda exercise helping “justify” the endless invasions and occupations by the United States and other Western armies of, we are told, “pre-modern” countries in selective need of “liberation”.

21. This holds equally true today for radical forces of the far right in both Western and non-Western contexts—if, in fact, such distinctions can still be made—when it comes to the recent wave of so-called Islamic-based terrorism carried out by often Western-born citizens. “Islamic State” or “IS” (sometimes also called “ISIL” or “ISIS’) is usually associated with non-urban and symbolically pre-modern space, matching what we are told is its “Middle Ages” ideology, by our dominant media and political discourses. Yet even from the latter’s Western-centric perspective, the real “revolutionary” potential of this reactionary movement—which has previously enjoyed (and still indirectly does so via Turkey) substantial Western-aligned financial and military support, as well as being largely enabled as a result of the US-led invasion of Iraq was most significantly demonstrated in the streets of Paris on 13 November 2015, no matter whether the terrorists acted on “orders” from IS or were simply inspired by it. That most were born and raised in Western European cities highlights the trans-ideological importance of urban space to diverse revolutionary purpose no matter its ideological color.

22. Syriza ultimately negotiated a series of deals with the Troika, more explicitly with Angela Merkel’s German government, actually harsher than previous Greek governments’ agreements, which Syriza’s leadership and activists had sharply criticized—flying in the face of the early July 2015 “No!” national referendum result that both roundly rejected further austerity measures and the notion of Greece leaving the Eurozone. Syriza then reached a gradual détente with Greece’s creditors, shedding more left-wing supporters inside and outside the party and country, and winning a second national election in September. In mid-November Syriza publically backed widespread strikes against ongoing austerity measures—the very same measures enforced by the Syriza-lead government itself, demonstrating a kind of bizarre-yet-logical cycle.

23. As of September 2016, once again no grouping appears capable of forming a stable governing coalition in Spain at the national level, so that a third election remains quite possible.

24. Mike Bird, 2015.

25. The English-speaking world, meanwhile, has also seen some notable developments. In mid-2015 under new rules the membership of Britain’s Labour Party elected Jeremy Corbyn, by most accounts the most leftist leader in its history—much to the chagrin of the still majority right-wing “Blairite” parliamentary membership and the UK media, spanning conservative and left-liberal variants. Enormously popular within the party's membership, its numbers skyrocketing in direct response to his leadership and overtly socialist policy transformations, in September 2016—following an internal leadership challenge resulting from an 80% vote of no confidence by majority Blairite parliamentary colleagues—he was was re-elected a second time by party members (now numbering half a million, according to Corbyn, more than any other European political party) by an even bigger margin. Even in the United States, self-proclaimed “socialist” Bernie Sanders—whose positions are seen as very centrist, even conservative, to outsiders—did unexpectedly well in state caucuses and primaries in the battle with Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Multiple polls in the first months of 2016 had Sanders ahead of Clinton as more likely to defeat Donald Trump or any of the other Republican candidates. The apparent resurgence (or in the case of the United States, rather unprecedented) and prominence in polls and thus-far partial political success of unusually left-wing political figures and parties—both old and young, radical and more moderate—across parts of the Western world has been, in each case, crucially helped or even partially enabled by sustained activist critiques noisily articulated across major city centers of an exponentially unequal socioeconomic reality, peaking with the often-vicious austerity measures enforced on populations since 2008.

26. Such activism is, of course, far from limited to cities. In November 2015, for example, events in France (as so often the case) showed that the agricultural sector remains more than capable of major disruption and protest, blocking tourist sites with farm machinery and dumping produce across highways. I thank Jump Cut editor Chuck Kleinhans for this observation.

27. Lefebvre, 1991, p. 109.

28. This should not be taken to mean Lefebvre was not also interested in addressing rural space. In much of his work, including Critique of Everyday Life, Lefebvre extensively analyses what he sees as the different “cyclical” temporality of rural life as compared to the violent, instrumental linear time (very much following Georg Simmel’s very early 20th-century observations) of urban living. This often informs his own distinct critique of urban modernity itself, but also the often city-centric nature of self-proclaimed radical movements such as Surrealism and Situationism (both of which he was closely involved with for a time). “He was a prolific writer on rural social life,” notes Aronowitz, adding that this has largely been ignored in most of the U.S. response to his work—especially for sociology, due to being “predominantly a study of industrial society for which agriculture is simply taken for granted and the countryside understood as a vanished civilization.” (2007, p. 134). Nevertheless, following Lefebvre’s move to Paris, in publications such as La Proclamation de la Commune (1965), Le Droit à la Ville/Right to the City (1968), and Production of Space, special attention is clearly paid to the ramifications of urban space.

29. Harvey, 2013, p. xiii.

30. Harvey, 2013, p. xiii.

31. Brown, 2006: online.

32. Brown notes that Lefevre’s own explanation for the similarities of his and the Situationists’ work in this area was that they shared in extensive discussions on the topic prior to falling out. In this sense both analyses are collaborations of a sort. (Brown, 2006: online.)

33. Lefebvre, 1996, p. 130. Originally published in 1968, an English translation of Le Droit à la Ville finally emerged within a posthumous Lefebvre volume called Writings on Cities (1996), featuring many basic spelling errors. (The passage quoted above is from this original translation, forgoing Brown’s added italicization.)

34. Harvey, 2013, p. xiii. Presumably he is evoking here a relatively traditional brand of Marxism, rather than the various, and often fragmented, left-wing movements that have emerged since the late 1960s often centered around issues such as anti-colonialism, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity—movements that have often had their most visible bases in urban centers—not to mention the “anti-globalization” protests of the late 1990s-early 2000s, and again the “anti-austerity” and broader left-wing activism since 2010.

35. Harvey, 2013, p. xiv.

36. Galloway, 2015: online.

37. Gilles Deleuze, 1986 & 1989.

38. Galloway, 2015: online.

39. Jameson, 1981, p. 102.

40. Galloway, 2015: online.

41. Naturally, countless other historical events and traumas have resulted in far worse death tolls and total suffering. My point pertains, rather, to Galloway’s precise discussion of Jameson’s idea, something of a generative transition between the two parts of this article.

42. Ross, 2015. Her book, Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune, offers a fascinating account of the philosophical and political principles guiding the Commune and what became of key surviving figures and their ideas—those who spent the rest of their lives seeking at first to literally memoralize what happened (especially important during the period when there was a virtual ban on the Commune’s recognition in France), and then find ways to develop further its underlying principles, seeking out new contexts in which this might productively occur. McKenzie Wark (2015) offers a useful extension of and commentary upon Ross’ discussion. Another account of the Commune’s cultural significance and heritage, and the role of survivors and sympathizers in “commemorating trauma,” can be found in Starr (2006). These sources all differ starkly from the version of the Commune we get win La Commune, which features prominent leaders and strategists hardly at all, in favor of concentrating on everyday people.

43. Readers confident in their familiarity with the history of the Paris Commune may wish to skip the next eight paragraphs.

44. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes from La Commune are from these text screens.

45. The decrees that were actually enacted by the Commune’s government in its brief life during official sittings were: separation of church and state; establishment of a secular, state-run education system; remission of rents owed during the siege; abolition of night work in bakeries; granting of pensions to unmarried companions and offspring of National Guardsmen killed in active service; free return of work tools and domestic appliances by pawnshops valued up to 20 francs pawned during the siege; deferral of commercial debts, and abolition of interest thereon; the right of employees to take over and run enterprises upon the owner’s desertion (the latter nonetheless maintaining a right to claimable compensation); and prohibition of fines by employers on workers.

46. Mulhern, 2015: Online. Ross (2015) provides the most extended recent overview of this expansive, integrationist cultural-educational-social-labor agenda of the Commune, by charting the philosophical and political visions of key figures.

47. Aronowitz, 2007, p. 136. Lefebvre, Aronowitz later writes, “declares the merging of art and everyday life as exemplary consequences for reversing the reversibility of time that routines and repetition have wrought.” (2007, p. 151.)

48. For both the Commune and the Church, Montmartre was clearly significant. The site where Government troops failed to take the National Guard cannons, the Archbishop of Paris—who became a martyr for the Church in its subsequent return to political and public influence—was also executed there by Communards.

49. During a televised speech to the National Assembly aired on “Versailles TV” in La Commune, following Thiers’ announcement that a final peace treaty with Prussia has been signed (receiving much applause), he then adds that the Commune has been “causing havoc with our foreign relations.” Specifically addressing Africa, Thiers continues: “I can say that the dangers threatening our colony have been partly averted,” quoting with great approval a letter by the son of “one of our most valued Generals: ‘I'm fine. Superb 8-hour battle. Al-Mokrani, head of the insurrection, killed stone dead.’ Thus, gentlemen, the danger which threatened our beautiful African possession has passed, and will hopefully, in a few days, have completely disappeared.” Much applause again ensues. The viewer then reads on a text screen: “When the Commune is crushed, 100,000 soldiers leave for Algeria to suppress the Muslim revolt. ... The resistance lasts until January 1872.”

50. Bullard, 2000, pp. 85 & 93.

51. The historical sketch of the Paris Commune I have provided is drawn from Ross (2015), Badiou (2010), Merriman (2014), Starr (2006), Shafer (2005), Horne (2004), Watkins (2014), the French documentary film, La Commune des Paris 1871 (Cécile Clairval-Milhaud and Olivier Ricard, 1971), the Canadian documentary about Watkins and La Commune’s production, The Universal Clock: The Resistance of Peter Watkins (Geoff Bowie, 2001), and La Commune (Paris, 1871) itself. According to Clairval-Milhaud and Ricard’s film—largely made up of quotes from archival texts and historical scholarship, accompanied by extensive period sketches—following the final defeat, 26,000 Communards were taken prisoner, a thousand dying in detention. 36,309 sentences, 10,137 condemnations, 4,837 deportation orders and 267 death sentences were handed down by the national government in the weeks and months that followed. The film adds that Thiers’ forces, meanwhile, counted 877 fatalities throughout the period of the Commune. Readers seeking a relatively quick but more extensive and detailed online introduction to the Paris Commune than my own will find its Wikipedia page a useful entry point. Meanwhile, an online source offering original documents and contemporary writings by key Communards, as well as a timeline of events, can be found here: <https://www.marxists.org/history/france/paris-commune/index.htm>

52. Mehringl, cited by Benjamin, 2002, p. 788.

53. Marx, 2009: online.

54. “One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that 'the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes'.” (See The Civil War in France: Address of the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association, 1871, where this point is further developed.) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 1872: online.

55. Marx, 2009: online.

56. Harvey, 2013, p. xvi.

57. For the fullest list I can find of these films, see here: <http://www.commune1871.org/
Meanwhile, the Commune provides important historical context for other, usually better known films, without comprising the chief topic or setting.

58. Kracauer, 1947, p. 5.

59. Benjamin, 2002, p. 904.

60. Of course, nothing is impossible to appropriate for the tourist market, with guided tours of key Commune sites available.

61. The film’s immediate exhibition context is complicated. Watkins writes on his lengthy website page devoted to La Commune that La Sept ARTE, the large television network (well respected for supporting “serious” cinema and documentary work with limited commercial prospects) with the initial screening rights, finally premiered it “in the middle of the night” after initially refusing to screen the film at all, following which he claims it was effectively “banned.” Of course, with the exception of hit programs, it is quite normal for a television work to receive no distribution beyond initial screening context (and possible non-prime time repeats). Less common is for the exhibition rights holder to initially refuse to show the work at all, only to eventually—following much harassment by the director (and threat of legal action)—finally agree to a single screening very late at night. This situation meant, the director argues, that there was no prominent discussion of the film, or, more importantly, any rejuvenated mass-public discourse about the Paris Commune, its legacy, and ongoing relevance. Watkins appears to have been rather unrealistic in his hopes (especially in light of his previous experiences in other national filmmaking contexts as I have described), especially considering the film’s length, radical form and mode of political analysis.

But as detailed on his website, the film did in fact receive some additional exposure in France upon completion. Outside the one-off small-hours TV broadcast, he notes the film was screened at some French film festivals, plus at the Musée d’Orsay—which was also one of the film’s credited production sources, hence qualifying La Commune as a partial “gallery work” —in Paris as part of an exhibition on the Paris Commune spanning March–June 2000. Based on these initial screenings, Watkins describes responses to La Commune as “very mixed. And since the film has not been shown to a wide audience, it is impossible to comment broadly on how the public has responded to this film. … The audiences have been either relatively small and generally very positive to the film, with most people staying to the end, or they have been much larger and with more mixed reactions, in which case usually about one third of the viewers leave part way through the screening.” Despite this exposure, its director laments, the film’s potential moment of national relevance was seemingly missed—though surely its tie-in with the Musée d’Orsay exhibition was a fortuitous and significant financial and public exposure advantage otherwise unavailable.

What Watkins really seems to lament is a familiar cry by radical artists: the desire for a large audience—the rather mythic “public” he speaks of—for work that will rarely if ever be sufficiently supported by the requisite commercial or state-funded institutions. Three years later the film was made available to see outside France for French and English speakers—where viewers knew about La Commune’s existence so as to seek it out—when a small New York-based company specialising in the distribution of radical documentaries released the film in its full cut on DVD with English subtitles. More recently it has appeared on YouTube, again in the complete version. Watkins’ discussion of the film’s full production and exhibition history, from which I draw the above material, and what he argues can be learned from this story, can be found here: <http://pwatkins.mnsi.net/commune.htm>

[return to text]

62. He writes on his website, with typical bluntness: “We are now moving through a very bleak period in human history—where the conjunction of Post Modernist cynicism (eliminating humanistic and critical thinking in the education system), sheer greed engendered by the consumer society sweeping many people under its wing, human, economic and environmental catastrophe in the form of globalization, massively increased suffering and exploitation of the people of the so-called Third World, as well as the mind-numbing conformity and standardization caused by the systematic audiovisualization of the planet have synergistically created a world where ethics, morality, human collectivity, and commitment (except to opportunism) are considered ‘old fashioned.’ Where excess and economic exploitation have become the norm—to be taught even to children. In such a world as this, what happened in Paris in the spring of 1871 represented (and still represents) the idea of commitment to a struggle for a better world, and of the need for some form of collective social Utopia—which WE now need as desperately as dying people need plasma. The notion of a film showing this commitment was thus born.”

63. A 220-minute cut was created by Watkins to better enable theatrical exhibition and increase the chances of a TV screening. A third, 300-minute version was screened on German television. Due to the 2003 DVD release of the full version, and its subsequent availability on YouTube, the long cut is happily most likely to have been seen.

64. Louis Auguste Blanqui was the most famous of the Commune’s radicals, something of a full-time revolutionary who despite living much of his life in jail commanded a large cell-structure organization of followers. Eugene Varlin was another radical socialist, and member of the First International. Louis Charles Delescluze was a radical journalist, revolutionary leader, and key military commander of the Commune. Élisabeth Dmitrieff was a young Russian émigré, feminist, and member of the First International, who spearheaded the Commune’s Woman’s Union. Louise Michel was a central Commune agitator, anarchist and schoolteacher.

65. While this is often implied, the Thiers footage is presented in 1.66:1, not “pillow-boxed” at the old television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 or 4/3, as the Versailles TV studio broadcasts are. It could also be “raw” TV footage, like the on-the-spot interviews by the Versailles TV reporter—also in 1.66:1.

66. Early in The Universal Clock, a Canadian documentary about Watkins and La Commune’s production, we see the latter telling some of his actors: “Don't be afraid to look at the camera. Not looking into it creates a distance, and it's not natural either.” (Bowie, 2001.)

67. There is a long tradition in France (and elsewhere) of using warehouse spaces and other unusual or disused locales for staging theatrical pieces, often with political themes. For example, Ariane Mnouchkine has been influential in staging such productions in these kinds of settings in France since the 1960s. Thanks to Chuck Kleinhans for this detail. Jacques Rivette’s marvelous first film, Paris Paris nous appartient/Paris Belongs to Us (1961)dramatizes often doomed attempts to utilize such out-of-the-way spaces for rehearsal and potential theatrical performance.

68. Lefebvre, 1991, p. 25. [return to text]

69. These and other aspects of the film’s multi-leveled reflexive aesthetic regime that I have been discussing suggest that while Watkins’ approach loosely operates within a cinematic tradition of “political modernism,” his cinema doesn’t quite fit the familiar variants thereof as suggested by András Bálint Kovács in his ambitious and magisterial 2007 book, Screening Modernism: European Art Cinema, 1950–1980. Kovács argues political modernism in the cinema effectively takes two general paths, each with important sub-divisions (which he also maps), giving equal weight to both: the alternatively realist or ornamental long-take approach on the one hand, or a more consistently fragmentary and “Brechtian” style on the other (2007, p. 376). The most influential account of political modernism within film studies remains David Rodowick’s (1988), which stresses especially the more Brecht-influenced reflexive form with special emphasis on verbal and written language for its ability to critique and deconstruct the suspect (because too emotionally and ideologically seductive) image. This argument has been effectively updated and extended by Angelo Restivo (2010).

70. For viewers with experience of activist history, such moments in the film may well be highly resonant for suggesting what Kleinhans called, in first responding to this article, “a kind of transformation of political consciousness through the vehicle of action.” I thank him also for prompting the above comment about collective action.

71. “Today in France, 60 percent of women work in 6 professions which represent only 30 percent of the labour market,” the viewer is informed via text. Following a cut back to the same meeting scene, another screen reads: “In France, 80 percent of all domestic work is done by women. This represents 3hr30 of work each day for a woman with children and a full-time job."

72. Lefebvre, 1991, pp. 166-7.

73. He shouts in response: “It IS negative information! They spent all day trying to decide what to call it.” She retorts: “That's your opinion.” He replies: “You know why? They thought it might scare people. Committee of Public Safety! Of course it scares people! That's Robespierre! Let's start recording again, maybe we can talk about what's going on now!” She insists again: “It’s not our job,” now looking completely away from her colleague with clear disdain.

74. If I am associating the film with recent urban-based activism since 2010 in this article, in 2000-2001 it would have been related to the very large so-called anti-globalisation rallies, most notably those in London and Seattle (both 1999) and Genoa (2001), which saw much-debated destruction of property by some groups and extensive police violence.

75. The more commonly applied phrase, “neo-liberalism,” invokes a return to an earlier, often mythical law-of-the-jungle free market model. But this moniker can serve to mask the crucial ongoing role of the state in ensuring the increasingly unfettered success of corporate capital at the expense of genuine “competition”—supposedly the fundamental value of a market system—often in the form of subsidies, tax loopholes, etc. Nothing demonstrates this better than the unprecedented bailouts of the biggest banks in the United States by the taxpayer, whereby the largest transfer of capital from the state to the private sector in history was undertaken with no strings attached.

76. In its final section, La Commune explicitly compares socioeconomic conditions between the film’s setting and production era: “In 1870, the wealthiest 20 pc of the world population had 7 times the income of the poorest 20 pc. In 1997, this difference was 71 to 1. Today, the richest 20 pc share 86 pc of the world GDP, vs. barely 1 pc for the poorest. The world’s 3 richest persons own more than the total GNP of the world’s 38 least-developed nations, that is to say, 600 million people.”

77. While at first the local priest is supportive of their action, we are told, the following day, “the region’s authorities asked the Home Office to eject them. They justify lifting the inviolability of holy places, on the excuse of a foreign cult practicing in the church.” Thus was born the subsequently familiar and fraught “sans-papier” distinction in France.

78. While there is frequent slippage between 1871 and 1999 throughout the film, the only time we see anybody appear in modern-day clothing is the brief glimpse of Watkins and his crew in the first shot.

79. In many of Watkins’ previous films, his own rather upper-class “British English” speaking voice performs this role, frequently with some auto-critical reflexive function in regards to deconstructing “official” BBC-style objectivity (as happens, for example, in Punishment Park).

80. While a lot more could be said about Watkins’ use of sound in the film, I thank Helen Groth for prompting me to think more about its role through her contribution to discussion following a seminar address in which I presented some of this article’s material. (Research Seminar Series, Centre for Modernism Studies in Australia: University of NSW, 18 November 2015.)

81. Delescluze, cited in Benjamin, 2002, p. 790. Central protagonists of the previous century’s French Revolution at its more radical edge, by 1871 the Jacobins represented this tradition within the Commune, as compared to other Communards seeking more complete, explicitly socialist revolutionary change. The numerical strength of Jacobins would be important as the Commune entered its “crisis” phase, as they pressed for centralization of power in the interests of enhanced “efficiency” and “security.” In France today the term refers less to radicals than republicans in favor of strong central government control of the state (while in the UK, on the other hand, the word is often used as a derogatory term for radical leftists). A text screen from La Commune summarizes the diverse results thrown up by the Commune’s initial elections: “Different political trends try to coexist inside the Council: 1. Supporters of the revolutionary Auguste Blanqui. 2. Autocratic Jacobins, who long for a return to 1789 and centralized power in Paris. 3. Socialists trying to create a network of federated Communes.” There were also, meanwhile, somewhat “in-between” figures such as Georges Clemenceau, representing the most conservative wing of the Commune but seen as a radical by Versailles. A member of the National Assembly, Mayor of the 18th arrondissement, and future French Prime Minister, Clemenceau tried to negotiate compromises between the Commune and the Assembly.

82. Benjamin, 2002, p. 789.

83. Lefebvre, 1991, pp. 289-90.

84. Ross (2015) and Wark (2015), and many others, have charted this impact of the Commune on Marx’s later thinking.

85. Marx, 2009: online.

86. Chomsky, 2013: online.

87. Now more clearly speaking in 1999, they comment that the Commune taught France and beyond “what democracy was about, what it really meant.” According to Watkins’ claims about the film’s casting, these women were chosen due to their conservative political views. Learning about the Commune and its murderous cessation seems to have shaken them—as discovering the horrific costs others have involuntarily paid for one’s own particular, and deeply privileged, version of “civilization” should. The scene concludes with the women citing historical scholarship corroborating and detailing the government-ordered mass slaughter.

88. Fujiwara, 2008: online. [return to page 5]

89. Fujiwara, 2008: online.

90. I refer here not to the immediate threats and problems of the Commune, such as possible Prussian occupation or the desperate need to retain the National Guard cannon, but rather to the ambitions of the Commune program itself as I described near the start of Part II.

91. Louis in Bowie, 2001.

92. Indeed some of the director’s previous films started out as educational projects undertaken within institutional contexts, such as Fritänkaren/The Freethinker, a project about August Strindberg and his historical context made with Swedish high-school students in 1994.

93. Fujiwara, 2008: online.

94. Thanks again to Chuck Kleinhans for prompting these observations.

95. Flitterman-Lewis, 1998.

96. Flitterman-Lewis, 1998, p. 215.

97. Flitterman-Lewis, 1998, p. 211.

98. Williams, 1993, p. 393.

99. Rapfogel, 2007: online.

100. Lefebvre, 1991, pp. 167-8.

101. Lefebvre, 2006, p. 41.

102. Miron, selected and spoken by Ikachamene, speaking in Bowie (2001). The English translation I provide is taken from The Universal Clock’s subtitles.

103. Lefebvre devotes some attention to the information revolution in Critique of Everyday Life, Volume III (at what was then its early 1980s peak), and then the posthumously published work, Rythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life (2004), which many commentators treat as the fourth volume in the Critique of Everyday Life series.

Works cited

Adorno, Theodor (1990) Negative Dialectics (trans. E. B. Ashton), London: Routledge. (Originally published as Negative Dialektik, 1966.)
------ (2008) Lectures on Negative Dialectics: Fragments of a Lecture Course 1965/66 (Rolf Tiedemann, ed.; trans. Rodney Livingstone), Cambridge and Malden, MA: Polity Press.

Aronowitz, Stanley (2007), “The Ignored Philosopher and Social Theorist: On the Work of Henri Lefebvre’, Situations: Project of the Radical Imagination, Vol. 2, no. 1.

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