Concentrated Nonsense (cinema edition)

Postcards from Zagreb (2) / Notes on Zanzibar Films

May 23, 2008

(1: Dusan Makavejev)

(2: Dusan Makavejev)

(3: Dusan Makavejev & Jackie Raynal)

(4: Dusan Makavejev & Jackie Raynal)

(5: Jackie Raynal)

Jackie Raynal:

[Introducing Le lit da le vierge (Philippe Garrel, 1969)]

How can I describe ’68 and the group Zanzibar? Well, an informal group of people, it all happened really in a very small room in St.Germaine du Prix. The painter Olivier Mosset, some of you may know him, he came back from New York and he was involved with Andy Warhol and The Factory. He just brought back some Super 8 film from The Factory, and he was showing this in a small studio. They were films where we could see all the people, all the superstars, and we were so amazed. When I say we, we were an informal group. Pierre Clémenti was really the first one to do underground films at the time, ’68, he had 16mm film, one of them [La Revolution N’est Qu’un Debut, Continuons Le Combat] you will see tomorrow, which is very beautiful. And Philippe Garrel, who was 20 years old already; he was already a filmmaker as he had done two films by that time. We met through an extraordinary woman, Sylvina Boissonnas, and she was a patron of the arts. She inherited a lot of money and she didn’t know what to do with it. So we said, we are here, and we artists, or whatever. Really it was very incredible, because we were not asked for a screenplay, we were not asked for any star to play in it, we were not asked for a commercial release. And whenever we were asked for money, we were given. So– the ideal freedom, in this petty world now where everything is counted.

Anyhow, this film, Le lit da le vierge, was shot I think a little after ’69 or ’70, it was shot over a few months actually, because Philippe shot it in Morroco and in Brittany. I must say that to watch the first Philippe Garrel film Marie pour mémoire, changed completely my attitude towards film. I wanted to make films like him. Because his visuals — the way he used the camera, the way he used traveling — the way he used, non-prepared, but at the same time its not improvised, its very, controlled, because the films of Zanzibar were shot mostly on 35mm and you can’t always be improvising with [it].

The place was Morroco but it was also like a happening in a way. Pierre believed he was Jesus Christ… I don’t want to tell you too much about the film because it’s so spontaneous to discover, and you will discover it.


[Introducing La Revolution N’est Qu’un Debut, Continuons Le Combat (Pierre Clementi, 1968), Vite (Daniel Pommereulle, 1969), Deux Fois (Jackie Raynal, 1969)]

We start making films, and wow! We got a sponsor that was a multi-millionaire. A great opportunity for artists who want freedom. The film you will see now, Pierre Clémenti film. Pierre was really a filmmaker who worked in 16mm, at the time there was very little 16mm [films] show in the theater, because they were all equipped with 35mm. He was making the first really psychedelic films because he overexposed the camera, he double exposed the film, and they are wonderful, they are a little bit ahead of its time. We were showing them at Olivier Mosset’s, at Jean Pierre Kalfon, an actor who was also an actor from Zanzibar. So that was the first film of Pierre Clémenti.

And then what I consider to be a masterpiece of cinema, because its a very unusual film, its the film Vite! by Daniel Pommereulle, who you might have seen in Weekend at the end in Weekend, he’s playing the role of the destroying angel, or something like that. Unfortunately Daniel passed away in 2004, he was a very close friend of mine, because I cut films with him in them, not this one, but La Collectioneuse. And his film, Vite, was the most expensive of the Zanzibar, because when Daniel was in America he saw film, he was at the house of Marlon Brando, and Marlon Brando showed him some film or something about NASA. Daniel always wanted to make films without a script or a scenario, but to shoot the stars, and to shoot, actually, Neptune. So Sylvina Boissannas, our sponsor, bought a telescope from NASA, which was worth like 300,000 dollars. So he shot in the desert in Morroco. It’s like a happening film, there’s very little dialogue, a few commentaries that you will see, I think that you have people telling you what’s going on in the film. I saw Daniel as a painter or a sculptor, he thought, and we thought also, that subtitles would be bad on the screen, that it will damage the framing of the picture and the color and what not. That for me is really an incredible film; it’s only 37 minutes.

And then there’s my film. I’m really not good at talking about my own film. I was cutting one of the first films of Zanzibar, Destroy YourselfDetruisez-Vous – which was slogan of School of Architecture and Artist in ’68, and I met Sylvina Boissannas at a private screening. She said “why don’t you make a film?”, good enough that I am the cutter of this film, “I’ll give you all the money you need to make the film”, and I saw that she was a bit exploited, so I said “twice the footage is how much?”, and I saw we were feminists and I said “instead of once upon a time”, I said “I will make twice upon a time!”. This was the premise with which I made the film. I had already cut – without credit, but because it was no cutting just really splicing the film together – La Concentration and Le Révélateur – and I participated in my boyfriend’s film Acephale. You know ’68 we were all free and in love, and I was very in love with my boyfriend but he was cheating on me [laughs], and I couldn’t… so I said [to myself] “oh you’re full of jealousy, it’s no good”, so I said “okay, I take a plane, I go away from you and I go to Barcelona and I pick up a guy and I make a film.” And this is my film.



– Sally Shafto’s Zanzibar: The Zanzibar Films and the Dandies of ’68, published by Paris Experimental (256 pages, 89 illustrations, bilingual French-English).

– A review of Shafto’s Zanzibar book by Keith Reader is on Senses of Cinema.

– “No Wave”: Sally Shafto on the Zanzibar Group, downloadable as a pdf on the Paris Experimental website.

– “why sometimes images begin to tremble”, Mubarak Ali’s post at Supposed Aura that touches on Vite and Acephale.

Re:Voir distribution in France has released DVDs of Jackie Raynal’s Deux Fois and Philippe Garrel’s Le Révélateur and Le lit da le vierge. I have copies of the two Garrel’s, and must say they are beautiful editions with superb transfers. The former includes a 32-page bilingual booklet (by Philippe Azoury), the latter a 36-page bilingual booklet by (Shafto and Emeric de Lastens) as well as Home Movie: On the Set of Philippe Garrel’s “Le Lit de la Vierge”, a 30-minute, silent, psychedelic film directed by Frédéric Pardo, naturally, on the set of Garrel’s film.

Interestingly, both DVDs come with this piece of paper below, with the following warning:

(original size)

[Introductions to films took place at the Subversive Film Festival in Zagreb, Croatia May 18-24, 2008. Unfortunately I was not at the festival during the screening of Makavejev’s WR: Mysteries of the Organism]

1 Comment so far
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Thank you for these wonderful photos and introductions. I didn’t know that about DEUX FOIS being a kind of response to romantic disillusionment! Makes it a richer and even more interesting work…

Comment by Mubarak Ali

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