Guy Debord, 1959.
The spoken commentary includes a large portion of detourned phrases, drawn indiscriminately from classic thinkers, a science-fiction novel, and the worst pop sociologists. In order to go against the usual documentary practice regarding spectacular scenery, each time that the camera is on the verge of coming upon a monument this has been avoided by shooting in the opposite direction, from the viewpoint of the monument (just as the young Abel Gance shot a passage from the viewpoint of a snowball). The initial plan for this documentary envisaged more détournements from other films, particularly recent ones (for example, during the passage on the failure of revolutionary efforts of the 1950s, this sequence of two different scenes: a worried young woman, in the luxurious decor of a detective film, telephones someone to urge him to wait; the Russian general in For Whom the Bell Tolls, seeing planes pass overhead, replies to a telephone that it is unfortunately too late, that the offensive is already launched and that it will fail like so many others). These extensive film-quotations were ultimately prevented because several distributors refused to sell reproduction rights for at least half of the scenes selected, which refusal destroyed the montage envisaged. Instead, more extensive use was made of the Monsavon soap ad, whose star was to have a brighter future.
André Mrugalski is responsible for the sequence of detail photos detourning the style of “art documentaries.”
This short film can be considered as notes on the origins of the situationist movement; notes which thus naturally include a reflection on their own language.
Technical Notes on “The Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Moment in Time,” Guy Debord