cinema critique

escape from alcatraz (2005)


pdf: escape from alcatraz
Introductory Notes To The Cinema

(February 2005)

alcatraz-cover copy

” It is the audience who makes the art…. What an audience! Whoever wants to look the twentieth century in the face cannot do better than stand behind the screen in a big cinema…

The audience of the music hall are bright, consciously convivial, aware of their neighbours, and taking their enjoyment in company. The music-hall spreads an invisible festive board. But in the cinema it is a ghostly bed which awaits you. There the audience is as disunited and dim as the guests of an opium den. All those parted lips and staring eyes express no convivial enjoyment, they are lulled out of life, journeying along the moonlit paths of dreamland.”

[Abbreviated from Jack Common’s “Behind the Screen”, (The Sweeper Up), in The Adelphi vol. VIII, December 1933. As reprinted in Revolt Against an ‘Age of Plenty’; see the writings of Jack Common and here also]

What’s there to say about movies that hasn’t been said before, particularly by Jack Common and especially after him – by the Situationists?

Organised within a strict hierarchical division of labour, the endless different stories, the endless different acting, the endless different background music, the organisation of sound, the photography, dialogue, facial expressions, technological graphics, sets and costumes, etc. all hide an essential unity – the commodity form, the repressive form that makes all these vastly different spectacular forms of ‘expression’ attractive, a variety that’s well worth paying for because it seems to compensate and distract from the repressed uniformity of a daily life that has not been worth paying for.

Most people look at movies just as consumers – or fantasy would-be producers; the actual social relations that go into the production line of these cultural commodities – the miseries and boredom of what goes on – is very obviously not the reason they see a flic (French word for cop!). Most people don’t want to know all that – they go to the pictures mainly to ‘escape’. Unlike in daily life, you get excited, surprised, delighted, scared, sad, intrigued, aroused or whatever by something which has been thoroughly rehearsed and cut up and re-organised to produce this effect, something inevitably devoid of all spontaneity and risk. But complete so that one can have a fixed opinion of it. Above all , safe – and a safe topic of conversation.

* * * * * * * * * 

This is not to say that movies don’t have some kind of ‘quality’: as against those who only criticise the social relations of the cinema, it’s also important to analyse their immediate content. In the vastly differing unique interaction of various subjectivities, reduced to the specialism necessary to turn this repressed submissive subjectivity into a means of making money, films represent real desires and real contradictions repressed by the current stupid system. This is regardless of what you think of the final product. For us, questions of taste are secondary – a judgement of a film purely in its own terms. In a sense, even the crappiest movie has some quality, because of the real life, its contradictions and desires, that a film expresses, despite the crap way it expresses them.

The film Titanic, for example, represents a real disgust for the class system that always kills the poor first. And one can argue how well it does this. But let’s look below this superficial question. Despite the fact the film reduces its criticism of class relations to something that happened in the past, with its aesthetically pleasing period costumes, and an object of interest simply because of the assumptions of the epoch, the ‘irony’ is that during the making of this film, 3 Mexican extras were drowned. We don’t know if they had already swum across the Rio Grande to get to be extras but what’s important is that this, of course, isn’t really an ‘irony’: even whilst Leo di Capprio was earning £12m. or whatever, those at the sharp end were paying, as usual. Hollywood was built that way.

Other movies (e.g. that Tim Robbins one whose title I’m not sure of – The Player, I think)) portray the ‘real’ horror of Hollywood. Hollywood knows that being open to criticism makes it appear ‘free’. It has learnt, like the rest of society, to absorb and co-opt criticism all the better to make a profit, pull in the punters. The pretension of the cinema to ‘social criticism’ is not meant to be taken seriously of course, but just followed at a short distance. A guy playing a down and out bum whom we know is getting paid $20million is a crude example of this. Shortly after Kevin Costner made the film “Dancing With Wolves”a sympathetic portrayal of how vicious the whites were to the Native American Indians, he bought a piece of land cheaply off the Indians and transformed it into an exclusive golf course. To accuse him or the makers of Titanic of hypocrisy is not the point: spectacular culture is inevitably hypocritical. Within the logic of economics and cultural commodities, criticism is no criticism at all because, implicitly, the solution that comes to mind is “make another – better – movie/TV programme”; the need for art, for spectacular commodity production and consumption, begets itself – begets the need for art, for spectacular commodity production and consumption, a self-referential vicious circle. This safe representation of the poor usually as purely victims, or even occasionally as winners (e.g. in Total Recall) – accepted in its own terms – inevitably represses the possibility of not just being a victim or of maybe becoming a winner. It’s not usually for this reason that movies are often seen as escapism – but it should be.

For example in the corny or not so corny variations of the cop car chase, from the Keystone Kops onwards to its science fiction versions, we can see a real aspect of reality: we often have fantasies of a confrontation with cops or the State, or of being threatened by someone powerful – only occasionally, usually in moments when we in some way or another confront this world, do these fantasies become reality. In some ways, the chase is somehow a representation of this feeling, and of this real experience (as well as a fantasy that contradicts the misery of driving along motorways or through traffic jams). But like all movies, this representation of critique and desire represses confronting people’s contradictions or of expressing their desires (well, no-one’s going to wreck their car and risk their lives in some crazy rebellion against traffic regulations – except in the South of France). So someone watching a chase scene is far more likely to be inspired to drive a fast car or to make a different movie version of such a scene than actually put themselves in a situation where they really might have to get away quick. This is true for the desires and contradictions of both those who produce movies (particularly those at the bottom end of the production process) and those who consume them. Hence the representation of getting away from the cops or some super powerful crooks really is an ‘escape’, an escape from trying to do something against the real super crooks/cops that dominate our lives. But then that’s true of all movies – the idea that ‘serious’ movies are not also an escape from imaginative activity against this world is never mentioned by the snotty sophisticates who despise ‘normal’ movies as mere ‘escapism’.

Basically most of us watch a movie to ‘unwind’, to empty our heads – sometimes on our own on a DVD or video, sometimes with a couple of others, as an occasion at the cinema – we hope to relax ourselves. ‘Relaxion’ is seen as something like being given a story at bedtime, to lull ourselves to sleep. Being treated like children we like falling into fantasies, sitting back and imagining being him/her on the screen, the hero or heroine in a story…Story-telling has always been a way of sending us to sleep, lulled safely in the belief in happy endings (though of course nowadays there are endless movies without happy endings because it more and more feels like nothing can have a happy ending). And then we try to predict a story line that’s totally out of our control (which also feels like the story of our passivity towards the world hurtling towards disaster). Making predictions of what’s going to happen next is about as far as our passivity gets stretched – we keep our distance by treating the whole scenario as a guessing game, pitting your wits against the scriptwriter, and yet there’s always the thrill of surprise you hadn’t reckoned with. In fact, the aim of most movies is to pack in as many surprises per minute as possible, because in daily life there are so few, and most of them are nasty. And because we like to pretend we are in control over our lives by not being surprised, we try to predict this fictional future so as not to be surprised.

Unlike in purely verbal or written storytelling, nothing is left to the imagination: you just have to suck it in without transforming it even in your head – in your imagination of how the characters look, their voices and tone, what the environment looks like, etc. etc. that you get when there’s nothing visual. So the guessing game – what’s going to happen next? – becomes the narrow and last terrain of the imagination…

* * * * * * * *

It’s within this general framework that we look at films on this site, not from the banal leftist/ultra-leftist differentiation of films with an apparently radical content and those with a reactionary content and those in between, or whether they provide positive role models for women, gays, blacks etc. Whilst the immediate content of a story and dialogue, etc. might be more or less interesting, this content is certainly not something that should be purely assessed in an uncritically positive manner, within the corny everyday dialogue that gets everyone into playing the amateur critic.

* * * * * * * *

The use of technology – a cassette, video or CD, for example, – can be against this world but one has to be very wary of not fetishising forms (e.g. the internet) of communication, and using specialisation in a unilateral manner…Writing, for example, is just one form of contact: its not just a question of criticising content but also one of festishising one particular form.

* * * * * * * *

Most of the above, though, is essentially ahistorical: much of it could have been written any time over the last 40 years. But the immediate content of a film is almost invariably dependent on social changes, on changing attitudes in different epochs, as are the precise social relations that go into producing a film: there’s a world of difference between Un Chien Andalou, Guy Debord’s early movies and anything produced nowadays, for example. All this is very general and meandering as usual – and the two texts on the site so far don’t concretise these ideas very much further, but so far we haven’t had time to get down to this. Give us a reason why it might be useful, and maybe we’ll continue this train of thought…For example, we could look at how story-telling has changed through epochs – from Aesop to Dickens to Eastenders to Reality TV; how the social occasion of storytelling has changed from sitting round in a circle to Dickens read out in public places to Sherlock Holmes serialised in a magazine to the Theatre to Music Hall to radio drama to movies to TV to increasingly just watching a movie on your own. And we could examine more about the contents of movies representation of real proletarian desires, whilst looking at some ideas for a practical attack on the more tactically useful movies worth subverting…

But maybe you should.

hello movie goerssticker mid-1970s

alcatraz-cover copy2
Feb. 2005

“The cinematic spectacle has its rules, its reliable methods for producing satisfactory products. But the reality that must be taken as a point of departure is dissatisfaction. The function of the cinema, whether dramatic or documentary, is to present a false and isolated coherence as a substitute for a communication and activity that are absent….Regardless of its subject matter, the cinema presents heroes and exemplary conduct modeled on the same old pattern as the rulers….The events that occur in our individual existence as it is now organized, the events that really concern us and require our participation, generally merit nothing more than our indifference as distant and bored spectators. In contrast, the situations presented in artistic works are often attractive, situations that would merit our active participation. This is a paradox to reverse, to put back on its feet.”

–   Guy Debord, Critique of Separation

P.S. :
The following snippets about films and cinema are from other texts on this site:
From “Notes on the secondary school movement in France, spring 2005”:
“The recent popular French film Les Choristes depicts a pion from an earlier period – early 50s. The film takes place in a vicious boarding school for ‘difficult’ kids, often in trouble, orphaned or just a burden to their parents, where the ‘pion’ is a middle-aged classic sympathetic authority role. The clichéd, oft repeated, nice authority role in a nasty dictatorial sadistic environment, enforcing a milder form of discipline whilst reluctantly going along with many of the heavier aspects but also ‘revolting’ against it, is the main character. This revolt takes the form of secretly (against the tyrannical headmaster’s wishes) conducting and helping the boys sing as a choir, which of course gives most of these previously ignored and often brutally suppressed kids a way of ‘expressing themselves’, at least two of whom later become world famous musicians themselves.
And they ‘express themselves’ so beautifully too: the record of the film is a top seller. The (unpaid) teenage choir is followed by fans singing the classical-style tunes. The real choirmaster who teaches this choir to perform in the film and now in concert halls is not at all sympathetic – but a typical rude humiliating bossy choirmaster openly displaying his nasty manner to the documentary cameras. But the kids seem to like producing a beautiful product despite the heavy social relations, which aren’t even based on wage slavery – just slavery straight. Perhaps part of this is their parents’ pressure, but undoubtedly the biggest seduction for enduring this is the fact of becoming celebrities, the compensation for miserable social relations. The tautological nature of this society is thus well affirmed by this well-made film: culture, the production of ‘beauty’, appears as the way out, though the hierarchical relations involved in producing culture are just as ugly and bad as the misery for which culture appears to be the way out.
This film comes 80 years after another, far more innovative and – for its time – subversive, film which also portrays a sympathetic pion – Zero de Conduite (“Zero for Conduct”) by the French anarchist Jean Vigo, a silent movie from the 20s which influenced the recuperative movie “If” in the late 60s; Vigo is now accepted within the mainstream of French culture, with media libraries named after him – but that’s down to the enormously recuperative power of French capitalism, in particular its culture (mind you, what, worldwide, isn’t co-opted into the system in some way or another over half a century, and often a lot less, afterwards?) “

From “You make plans – we make history”:
A sector of Hollywood continually sells catastrophe back to us, with its endless digitalised graphic presentations of Earth-crashing asteroids, gigantic floods, colossal fires and deadly epidemics, etc…Initially, the terrorist attack on the twin towers caused a terrible disaster…for Hollywood: “real life” had surpassed the endless catastrophe movies, previously seen as unrealistic, so this sector was temporariliy seen as no longer profitable – for that moment at least. Spielberg was one of the first to rectify this in his crass War of the Worlds movie, which very obviously evoked 9/11, complete with happy ending – the defeat of the alien baddies. Another recent Hollywood movie – The Day After Tomorrow – depicts ecological catastrophe but in such a ridiculously over-dramatised way (events which would take a few years to develop happen over a few days) that it somehow trivialises the ecological horror creeping up on us, since it comes over as so unbelievable. This is not an appeal for ‘realistic’ catastrophe movies – apart from the fact that movies almost invariably reinforce passivity, the ideology of catastrophe tends to breed a petrified fatalism. (very slightly altered from original text)

From “Aspects of a history of the British miners”:
“The pits were closed not with a bang but a whimper: each individual pit was subject to a review procedure, there was a media blackout and each pit was closed one by one in isolation. The film Brassed Off illustrates this defeat: oh how the culture industry love tragedies – a real victory of proletarians in struggle would be beyond them, partly because it would have to take on the culture industry. And of course, the content of the film reveals the circular tautological nature of culture: in the form of a musically exquisite brass band, culture is seen as the consolation for, the one redeeming result of, tragic defeat (with a very different – partly feminist, partly gay liberationist – content, there’s a similar underlying thread in the film Billy Elliott, most of which takes place during the miners strike; and also one could mention The Full Monty, with its backdrop of the decimation of the steel industry, in this vein – the culture in this instance involving humiliating yourself as a male stripper).”
“Despite the image perpetuated by the media of misery for striking miners’ families at Christmas, and in particular by the well-known film Billy Elliott which presented the father and Billy as alone, cold, presentless and almost foodless, many if not most strikers had a good communal Christmas – and for many it was better than the usual nuclear family-round-the table watching telly, having a traditional Christmas row, with the kids complaining that they haven’t got what they wanted or wanting more…Though undoubtedly there were far less presents for the kids, the excited collective atmosphere and sense of support from others made it, for some at least ”The best Christmas I had”, ”Everyone banded together”, ”Lots of cheap wine flying about – brilliant – really good atmosphere” as various miners put it on the BBC’s 20th anniversary programme.”

From “Theme pubs…”:
“On January 3, 1914, in the city of Juarez, [Pancho] Villa signed an exclusive contract with Mutual for the sum of $25,000. It was also contractually agreed that Villa would do his best to win all his battles in sunlight and to forbid the presence of any other rival cameramen on the battlefield! Aitken also stipulated that in case Mutual did not succeed in shooting enough suitable material during the actual battle, Villa would guarantee to re-enact it the next day before the cameras.” (Quoted in ‘Spectacular Times; Cities of Illusions.)
A pathetic parody of … repressed desire was recently played out on the 15th anniversary of perhaps the bloodiest picket line conflict of the Miners Strike; the Battle of Orgreave was re-enacted near to the original site. Filmed for Channel 4 TV by a Hollywood director, and with ex-pickets and cops from the original battle as extras (but ‘real’ actors playing the ‘heroes’ of the event such as Arthur Scargill – typically bourgeois history as the history of leaders), the event was painstakingly reconstructed from media footage of the time. As always, once the event is safely far enough in the past, the media that acted in its own class interests by lying and distorting the truth in the real time of the class struggle, feels confident enough to now reveal a somewhat more truthful version of events; now that it no longer has any consequences. This is a sure sign of the ruling class’s confidence that these are dead issues, definitively resolved in their favour. They want us to believe that class struggle is a thing of the past. Again, the colonisation process at work; get the defeated to dramatise their defeat as entertainment for the victors. Despite a bit of temporary flattering attention and extra pocket money for the locals, who really gains from this farce? No one but the ruling class and their media. The claims that the event was therapeutic (or “healing”) for some are predictable – but what does it help them come to terms with? Only the acceptance of their defeat and all its consequences since.
This filmed re-enactment follows in the footsteps of other Northern films like ‘The Full Monty’ and ‘Brassed Off’ which (although quite funny) are really just hymns of praise to the new entrepreneurial economy that smashed the miners and others and replaced their solidarity with the Thatcherite ‘get on your bike’ selfish individualism. The sermon is that redundant industrial workers should move with the times and reinvent themselves as cultural entrepreneurs, giving a positive, if unrealistic, inspirational message to the post-industrial workforce.”

From “The End Of Music As We Know It”:
“The Wall On The Screen Guarantees The Walls In Your Life: That the film of the song of the actually lived reality, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, presents the riots as macho, racist and fascist-inspired, even to the point of subtly suggesting a comparison between the anti-hierarchical violence of the riots and the hierarchical violence of World War II, shows how the more sophisticated purveyors of culture are shit-scared of any real and direct attacks on the walls of the prison. They only articulate the rebellions and frustrations of their possible consumers in order to preserve their lucrative niche; a niche threatened by any genuine rebellion from those whose consumption habits they are financially and socially dependent on. When the film first went on release, Top Shop in London’s shopping concentration camp, Brent X, advertised school uniforms placed on sexy plastic models who stood in front of a polystyrene brick wall with the words “We don’t want no education” on it. The blatant nature of this contradiction reveals in a crude form the contradictions of all spectacular pseudo-rebellion, ‘rebellion’ which tolerates the commodity system whose misery engenders rebellion. Disgust with this world (in this case, school, the conditioning factory which prepares kids for the boredom-inducing sacrifices of the commodity system) is used to sell commodities (school uniforms) which can only reinforce this disgust…But the contradictions of being insulted by mere rebel images all too often explode into reality: like the kids who tore up the cinema seats in the fifties after watching Presley’s Jailhouse Rock.”

And “Moore is less” is about Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 movie.

Note added 8/9/13: The film « Traité de bave et d’éternité »  by the Lettriste Isidore Isou is interesting, and one can see the influence it had on Guy Debord’s first film “Hurlements en faveur de Sade” (

graffiti cinemagraffiti on cinema, 1970s


SamFanto was born, and then he lived a bit but never enough.

the films of jean-luc hitchcock – the 1st 200 years (1823 – 2023)


Interpretation of movies by film reviewers, regardless of whether they’re anarchist/marxist/whateverist or  merely conventional professional cineastes, make me think of the comment on “The Cadre” in the situ-influenced movie “Call It Sleep”:

“The more that silence surrounds the worker and his alienation, the more the intellectual feels obliged to provide meaningful social commentaries. The intellectual is the spectator who can’t bear to simply stand and watch a spectacle with his hands in his pockets. He has to write something down.”

So I shan’t bother to take my hands out of my pockets, except to type this:

The long-lost movies of the largely forgotten Jean-Luc Hitchcock deserve to be rescued from the archives buried deep in some cobweb-filled internet glory hole. Enjoy!

cinema empty

The Ghosts of Theories Past (1947)

Le Fantôme De Théories Passés (1947)

A Tedious Waste Of Time (1948)

No Longer Strangers On A Train (1966)

Escape From Alcatraz (1968)

Sleepless In Sete (1972)

The Lost Weekend (1995)

A party political broadcast on behalf of a future Lib-Lab-Con Coalition (2009)

Runaway train (2010)

Trouble At Millbank (2010)

(this was filmed a couple of weeks after the attack on the UK Tory party HQ in Millbank, an event which now seems like 100 years ago, such is the memory and repression that ensures the continuation of a very brutal class society there)

The Passivity Before The Storm (2013)

(perhaps Jean-Luc’s most boring film, but maybe “The Storm” will prove to be a great improvement)

Further Adventures In Vicarious… (1823)

The End (part 1) (2013)

The return of anti-deutsch! (2015)

Anarchists Go To The Movies (2015) – Jean-Luc’s entry for the Anarchist Film Festival (rather frivolous and certainly not amongst his best movies)

charles adams cinema

A version of the following spoof film review (of a non-existent version of the previously mentioned  film, “Further Adventures in Vicarious…”)  by the Great Man was initially written in the 70s with the hope of being put into ‘Time Out’ by the lay-out artist there, but he objected to it being ‘too intellectual’ – unlike the usual film reviews in that rag, no doubt. It was slightly changed in the early 80s and distributed outside a cinema showing ‘Reds’, based on John Reed’s “10 days that shook the world”. The leaflet was titled “One leaflet that shook the cinema”. We were too few to storm the Picture Palace, the security eyeing us nervously, so we just handed the leaflets out. Yet another subversive project that never got off the ground.

 ABC Spectacle

Picadilly Circus Wl (836 5131) ‘Further Adventures In Vicarious Compensation’ (U). (Jean-Luc Hitchcock, 1984 Br.) Jane Fonda, Norman Wisdom, Barbara Windsor, Robert de Nero. 131 mins.

In the same genre as his previous ‘You Pathetic Passive Consumer Morons’, this extraordinary tour-de-force by the Master pulls all the stops out in it’s painful confrontation of the audience with their own impoverished situation. From the opening shot of a couple scanning Time Out and arguing over what movie to see, to it’s final scenes of mayhem and festivity, we are bombarded with the agonising truth. The pathos of the cinema-lover, whose life is dominated and mediated by images and the repression and lies that justify them, is revealed in character after character. One, played excruciatingly and embarassingly by Norman Wisdom (once more at his best) goes to watch an adventure he dare not, or cannot, live in the real world: the film is exposed as the alienated form of both his real and his colonised aspirations. Another (stereotypically played by Barbara Windsor) specialises in interpretations of Bunuel’s symbolism, with which useless expertise she attempts to impress her so-called friends. Another (Fonda) examines the twitches and fixed gestures of the actors in order to emulate them: the rigidities and falsity of the characters are used to reinforce the spectator’s role-bound life, in which all creativity is seen in terms of appearance. A fourth (de Nero) knows all this, but sees this as cynically inevitable, and goes to the flicks to analyse this so-called inevitabiity. What happens, when they understand thé com­mon basis of their miserable escàpe from the possibiity of conscious creativity against that which suffocates their lives, is when the plot really hots up. This really is the film to end all films – and I mean that literally. And that’s no joke – at the World Premiere at the Berlin film festival last March the film sparked off riots. The audience took its message at face value & turned the auditorium into a vast spontaneous seminar, much to the irritation of the management. At first they tried the softly softly approach – “You can stay – just as long as you leave by 11.30. We’ve all got to have a good night’s rest so we can return refreshed to work in the morning.” However, the discussion – on how and why to transform all social space – quickly lost some of its abstract wanderings because of the arrival of squatters who’d just been evicted by the cops: they wanted to use the cinema as shelter for the nlght, and had sleeping bags to provide them with a bit of comfort. At this point the cops were called and the audience was forced to either take them on – or suffer the usual indignity of submitting. Some people seized the projector and the film and smuggled them out, whilst others taking their cue from the “Jailhouse Rock” movie riots of the fifties – tore up whole rows of cinema seats. One guy beat off the cops with the emergency fire hose, whilst others raided the cash desk. Outside in the streets, barricades of cars went up and the cops were forced into a position of retreat until suddenly the rioters disappeared, only to be discovered later in the night to have occupied one of the buildings of the University. News of this got round some other cities in Europe, so that when the film was shown in Paris, for example, no less than 17 film critics resigned their jobs, whilst in Rome the film incited the occupation of at least 3 cinemas. An extraordinary (contd. P.97)…

The following was written in the early 80s but unpublished. The fantasy was to get loads of people down to the South Bank in London who were ready for some creative trouble. But no-one else apart from me was into it, understandably, because it was a little pretentious and over-complicated and not very likely to inspire people to go down there. A weird form of voluntarism. Nevertheless, it has some good bits and presents an imaginative dream of a post-revolutionary society virtually absent nowadays (sure, the ability to imagine another society is not the essential inspiration for social movements: the different relations people create in opposing this one is far more fundamental)….

Jean-Luc Hitchcock’s Latest Astonishing Venture!

J-L has just announced that he’s going to start filming his latest movie, based in London – and YOU – yes, YOU – are invited to star in this, his very latest movie! J-L H is looking for thousands of young and old people to star in his very latest contribution to the streets of London:


  • the only entertainment without an audience. Starring: YOU!

… the gushing Big Dippers of orgastic reason overflow into every corner of life, so the masses of individuals discover their truth in the practical confrontation with all frozen reference points….

Yes, you too can star in the following magical opening scene:

The words ‘”Everything possible to be believed is an image of the truth”- William Blake’ are printed on the screen over these stunning shots:

A valley of labyrinthine blues and greens, intertwining writhing streets, ladders and bridges changing direction slowly but surely, throbbing transparent glass sheets and controlled winds and mists, and the houses rotating and trampoulines tramping their trampish ways along soft rubber gulleys filled with life belts.. ..and in the distance a man waves his arms around in corn-fields on a hiIl screaming to the mainly naked crowd on the passing train-city, screaming in a cracked mad voice, “And now – now that we’ve abolished capitalism – now – now what do we do?”. The camera pans up the vast multi-track carrying the vast mobile train-city to what looks like a ruin of London, with the post office tower transformed into a vast helter-skelter, and everything else higgledy-piggledy, vast stoves and fires and musical instruments, round which people sit and eat and dance and argue and kiss and suck and lick and fuck and laugh and play-fight and cry and swim and sing and stroke and massage and drink and swing and drum and think and talk and walk and wank and run and poke and joke and endlessly communicate. Over the swirling, singing, screaming and grunting of the crowds a voice blares: “The train now arriving at platforms 9 to 2,117 will be calling on the magnificent refrigerated sea between the white cliffs & Calais, overland to the wild animal complex based round the old Eiffel Tower, down south to the underwater city of Mediterranis, through the firework fogs of Corsica, past Sardinia and its town of Clearplasticglass, onto the smouldering ruins of Rome, into Venice, the Ghost Town of risk-free Terror-Shock, then chugging past some truly explosive sunsets almost consistently indulged in nowadays by the anti-workers of Trieste….Aaaah!… Trieste!…..I’ve never been so intensely in love as when I was there last year…and with so many people! Benny, Sensartilia, Jess, Li, Melody, Shatter, Pounce, Earthquake, Ned… but the greatest old flame of all? – Lou Syd – her eyes of fire, her words of fire, her lips of fire. I looked into her flaming pupils and said, “You’re just burning me up, baby”…yeah, it’s a cliche a minute here in the work-shy council of London, and, as usual, I’m digressing into my own narcissistic memories away from the here and now and what a here and now it is today on the Train Journey Show…” Suddenly the announcer’s voice breaks off in mid-sentence and the film pans from the crowd to his surprised face in a little room at the top of the Post Office Tower. In the background in the distance a few people can be heard shouting “We’ve cut the announcer’s wire! No more monologue!”, which is then followed by a lowly augmenting drum-roll climaxing into an ecstatically soaring and euphoric “Hooooooooorayyyyyy!” .The announcer turns to a boy and girl, about seven, who are laughing at him. “Oh well, I suppose I better give up these narcisistic habits or I’ll end up like the looney on the hill….I suppose I must have sounded a bit like those old power mad smug slimy manipulators of the olden days – disc jockeys….but you’re lucky, you never knew the old world…it‘s hard to get rid of these tiny jabs of regret and envy, regret for those years wasted creating fantasies of the future, near and far without any effort to realise them, regret for those years weighed down by coins, imprisoned by locks, chained to keys, envy that I can’t be like you who missed those years of impotence and separation, and have thus, amongst a billion other discoveries, been able to cultivate a system of communication no longer subject to the laws of property – telepathy, whereas I can only use the five traditional senses.. .and that does reinforce old habits. Old habits, like the desire to have a following…Did I ever tell you of those revolutionary times when I did have a following?” ….The scene fades into what becomes the central theme of the film: London, June 1989. The announcer is seen speaking on the platform of the ‘Libertarian Communist Party’, “Comrades! I have called this internal meeting to work out our strategy in spreading our ideas and demands in the present crisis. Since some of you may be poorly informed due to various unforeseeable circumstances, it falls upon me to summarise the major events of the week. As most of you know, the Bennite government has been forced into further retreat, now holding only Devon and Cornwall. The remnants of the army and police here have been forced to withdraw completely from the capital, as they have from Birmingham and Coventry, who, this week, joined the other 13 police-free cities. In relation to the partial nuking of Glasgow, the Bennites claim to have soundproof evidence of American involvement, whilst the old supporters of the dead Thatcher claim they have proof of Russian involvement. But these lies haven‘t worked, since the Cheltenham Assembly decided to broadcast their findings that, in fact, the British, American and Russian ruling class collaborated in the bombing in order to distract from the international class struggle. The General Strike in Russia is now in its 4th week, and the system of immediately revocable mandated delegates has been organising lîfe in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Argentina and Chile have joined the other 14 countries where there are massive occupation movements. In San Francisco and Detroit workers and unemployed have just taken over large areas of the city, whilst in 18 other American cities rioters are confronting the National Guard. In fact, at the moment, we are witnessing revolutionary crises in 25 countries spanning every continent. Yet still the mas­ses have failed to raise their consciousness to a libertarian communist level….”

The rest of the film is a development of this situation supposedly taking place in London in June 1989. The main focus of the film is, on the one hand, the BBC, which has been taken over and is run by men and women delegated from various groups based in different buildings and streets round the city. And, on the other hand, the old Savoy Hotel, which is one of the buildings under occupation. Cameras record, and broadcast, all meetings at all times, with the exception of the secret meetings of the political parties. The task of the BBC delegates is to organise the coordination of communication between various groups and to make all their own discussions broadcast publicly, as well as being a centre for information regarding what is happening in the rest of the world. The plot centres on the attempts of the Libertarian Communist Party to manipulate and undermine the public democratic use of this co-ordinating system, and their defeat by the intervention of the masses, exemplified by the occupants of the Savoy.

You – yes, YOU! – are personally invited to bring your imagination and talent along to a screen test for this astonishing movie! Bring whatever costumes, props, ideas, scenery, masks, etc. to Jubilee Gardens on………………


In an astonishing interview, Jean-Luc’s ex-secretary, apparently the brains behind J-L, revealed why she had resigned her top-status job, “After the riots provoked by the last movie, I thought making this latest one was just a backward step into the safety of a mere spectacle of audacity. What’s the point in getting into the tedious and timid compensation of making another film, when the dignified pleasure of courageously struggling in practice to bring about the conditions desired as described in the script will be infinitely more rewarding and elucidating, not just in the long term, but also in a relatively immediate way?? Fuck the cinema! I wanna live – not work to produce an image of what I’m prevented from living. I want ta emphasise that I didn’t resign from this latest venture simply because it wasn’t “for me” but because it’s definitely against me. That’s why I’m going down to the so-called film test to fuck it up. Me and my friends are gonna smash the cameras or, better still, hurl them at the GLC or the Hayward Gallery or the Festival Hall. Why? Because the film‘s not just a cop-out, an excuse for lack of action, but completely hypocritical. In not talking about any precise and general problems and contradictions in the present it can only present us with an image of a possible future, an image produced in the present by people who need the money hanging around bored in the studios, waiting to perform someone else’s words so as to keep a cinema full of spectators happy to juggle with clever clever ideas. It’s an excuse for challengîng fuck-all in the present. J-L ‘s just a cop in rebel’s clothing. Instead of trying to film “Voluptuous Palaces 0f Riot City” we should be trying to seize those voluptuous palaces, starting, say, with The National Theatre like when they seized the Opera in France, in May ‘68 or when bikers in 1981 wrecked Keswick’s theatre. It might not pay as much as becoming a cog in someone else‘s fantasy but it ‘s infinitely more exhilirating…”

“But surely” ,I asked her, “If there ‘s a riot – people will get hurt’“.

“Fuck Off!”, she rudely replied. “People are getting hurt every second that business proceeds as usual. Anyway, we’ll abviously do our best to make sure that only the defenders of the status quo get hurt. As far as I’m concerned, J-L is one of them. He only seeks a contemplative and self-valorising use of film. And he can’t elucidate on any real problems whilst the production of the film remains a hierarchically organised activity, and whilst he resisists all attempts at a concrete anti-capitalist use of the imagination. He wants to hedge his bets, selling back at a profit the revolution to those who make it, and pretending it as his own initiative. Turd!”

Later I spoke to a man, a former associate of J-L, who was going down to the South Bank screen-test, and asked him why he was going. “It could be a bit of a laugh, something to do on a Saturday. Mind you, I don’t think there’ll really be a screen-test. I don’t even believe this Hitchcock guy exists, anymore than I do. But I’m sure there’ll be a lot of people hanging around – and a lot of fun and aggro and games. Maybe we’ll storm the GLC or whatever or maybe nothing’ll happen. Certainly nothing’ll happen unless everyone who turns up is prepared to make it happen, that’s for sure. I’ll be there with my spray-cans, boots, rotten eggs and lucidity – you can count on that.” Well, whatever happens on Saturday, one can be sure that it’ll be a day to remember for anyone who joins in. Me? I won’t be there – I’d rather watch it on TV….and besides, I’m going to my aunts for tea and, anyway, I need to keep out of trouble because my job could be at stake……


charles adams cinemacinema empty

For more stuff on the cinema, see “Escape From Alcatraz”.

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SamFanto was born, and then he lived a bit but never enough.