from Guy Debord

To Gianfranco Sanguinetti
Thursday, 2 May 1974
Dear Gianfranco:

I immediately announce to you that the first day of projection of [The Society of the] Spectacle, yesterday, unfolded in completely triumphant conditions and, as you will see, not only on the economic plane. There was a crowd at all the screenings, a number of people turned away, but also people who all the same demanded a ticket so as to sit on the ground or to remain standing. But the most important phenomenon was that the majority of this public was constituted by young workers and marginal types, the loulous[1] come in from their suburbs. It was May Day, and the Socialist-Stalinist left had itself prohibited all demonstrations and only assembled a great meeting outside of Paris. That morning, five leftist nuances made mediocre processions at different points of the 19th and 20th arrondissements. The film thus became the principal manifestation of the truly extremist ultra-Left of the day. The police came right away. They blocked off the extremists of the rue Git-le-Coeur, charged [at them], arrested people. It is necessary to say that the young proletarians broke several shop windows, looted bottles of wine and -- when they were empty -- threw them at the police officers and cars that sealed off the neighborhood. The assembly -- and the quadrillage of the neighborhood -- extended as far as la Place Saint-Andre-des-Arts. Around evening, many police officers wearing helmets and shields occupied the street and marched through it, trying to intimidate the crowd, but without success. The mobs and discussions recalled May [19]68.

On the other hand, this public listened to the entire film in an extraordinary silence. They demanded silence even if someone opened a package of bon-bons. It was only in the evening that the intelligentsia began to arrive.

Naturally, if the battles in the street continue to repeat themselves, the police could interdict the film for troubling the public order (but during an electoral campaign, they hesitate more than usual). On the other hand, adversaries and perturbers of the film still haven't come, but they won't be lacking.

In any case, it is already an extremely positive experiment. [Gerard] Lebovici and all of the observers that I have talked to were astounded and enthusiastic. I will not elaborate here on the very important conclusions that one could draw on the political and artistic planes. As for the owners of the hall (typical representatives of the Parisian commercial intelligentsia, liberal and behind the times), they were distracted and obviously divided between their profound horror of this genre of anti-cinema and its audience -- an underworld arisen, briefly, from the lower-depths of the society of proletarians -- and on the other hand by their enthusiasm at seeing so much money in their cashboxes! Useless to say that, in all the years that they have projected the works of modernist filmmakers "of quality," they have never seen such a large audience; but they have also never seen anyone in their public with such horrible heads.

Thus I am very satisfied. I thought that it has been twenty-two years, almost to the month, that one hasn't screened a film of mine in Paris. Back then, a hundred imbeciles howled in the theatre against the novelties that hit them in their poor habits.[2] You can see that, in this matter, the method is simple: it suffices to radicalize the critique and wait until a generation capable of comprehending it has replaced the old one.

In his joy yesterday, Lebovici made a self-critique that I didn't ask him for, in which he affirmed that he had been an imbecilic criminal to think that such a film, in such an epoch, had to wait until September for release. I recalled to him that, at this moment, it seems good to have no other solution, since no one offered him anything before 15 May. He retorted that it was because he had not been active enough.

Thus we can see that all goes well on all fronts, except, of course, where the police are concerned.

If Eduardo [Rothe] is in Florence. show him this letter so as to make him regret leaving Paris before this historic date. Then console him with chianti.

Can you also transmit this information to Paolo [Salvadore]? This will encourage him in his translation work.[3] I do not have the time right now to type this letter, and thus cannot send him a [carbon] copy.

Best wishes,

Although the Italian press minimuzes the significance of the most recent decisions of the government, Italy has already virtually left the Common Market. The crisis of capitalism is under way.

[1] Translator's note: the "darlings."

[2] Hurlements en faveur de sade, projected on 30 June 1952 at the Avant-Garde Cinema-Club and almos immediately stopped.

[3] Translator's note: translating Debord's book The Society of the Spectacle into Italian.

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 5: Janvier 1973-Decembre 1978 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2005. Excerpted version published in Autour des Films (Documents), the booklet accompanying Oeuvres Cinematographiques Completes, a three-DVD set released November 2005. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! March 2007. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted.)

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