from Guy Debord

To Gianfranco Sanguinetti
Saturday 10 August [1974]
Dear Gianfranco:

Today I received your letter of the 7th: a rapidity that proves that things improve in Italy after several years of disorganization that have even sometimes been touched by disorder.

I greatly admire the scenario for our comic film (and you too modestly call it "comic," because it carries a touching dimension, one even instructive to a certain point: the extreme sobriety of the argument, the rigorous economy of the intrigue, a certain asceticism that prohibits facile effects, etc., already suggesting a classic).

I want to be the first to congratulate you and I predict a success comparable to that of The Lost Weekend,[1] thirty years later. You know that this film, which exposed the ravages of alcoholism with a very strong degree of realism, caused the greatest stupor among the sociologists and psychologists who were led to ascertain a significant elevation of the number of serious cases everywhere that the film was screened.

I have only one reservation. It seems to me that your young hero (a beautiful figure of neurosis) is a perfectly coherent person, and worthy of taking his place among the heroes of Dostoevsky and Shakespeare's Richard III, due to the sole fact of his neurosis (and the psychoanalytic consequences of such an excessive life -- which makes a masterful contrast with the radical purity of his intentions). Thus I would like to draw your attention to this point: is it [really] desirable, aesthetically and "functionally," to sometimes make him go as far as dementia properly speaking, notably by attributing to him the famous syndrome of Doctor [Jean-Jacques] Raspaud? I wonder if this is not superfluous, and even dangerous. The logic of the intrigue would then oblige you to film several brutal scenes at psychiatric hospitals (electro-shock, etc.), which one has seen a hundred times on the screen and with which the public is all the more fatigued because such scenes offend its sensibility and good taste.

It seems to be that such a rich neurosis must be presented by letting the spectators (who have been warned) see all of the probable psychoanalytic implications, but without insisting too much on the pseudo-rationalizations of the subject's behavior, which, if they appear as explicit affirmations of his own "false consciousness," would transport us to the sphere of acute paranoia. This might present two problems: the interest of the hero and the comic value of the film itself.

But this reservation has less weight than the merits of the film, which, it seems to me, must be the painting of the contradictions of an entire era. Despite certain hilarious aspects, which would obviously please a large public, I believe I see in this work the quite serious illustration of Cassius' remark in Julius Caesar: "The fault is not in our stars, my dear Brutus, but in ourselves. . . ."[2]

As you do not, at this moment, have a completely sure idea of the film's ending, nor of the "timing"[3] of the shooting, I allow myself to suggest to you the following directions:

After his adventures, the hero leaves the country in the company of a foreign aristocrat who, despite everything, remains strongly attached to him (this would evoke the theme of Hemingway's famous novel A Farwell to Arms). They go to "i monti d' Alvernia,"[4] where the peaceful decor (filmed in natural exteriors) concludes this story of sound [bruit] and fury on an idyllic note. There, he starts drinking again: because there is an excellent alcoholic drink made from local fruit, and to avoid the banality of a serene end. Finally, he himself becomes a film producer, which permits you to treat the problem of cinematographic art in the same film, a "distantiation" that always thrills the cinephiles.

I await other good news concerning your work.

Best wishes,

P.S. Celeste has written to us and then telephoned. Grazie!

[1] The Lost Weekend (Le Poison) by Billy Wilder made such an impression in 1945 that a grouping of whisky distilleries offered Paramount five million dollars to destroy the film.

[2] Translator's note: from Act I, Scene II, lines 140-141.

[3] Translator's note: English in original.

[4] The mountains of Auvergne.

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 5: Janvier 1973-Decembre 1978 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2005. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! March 2007. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted.)

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