Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Debord on the Left Bank

Here's an excerpt from a biography of Guy Debord titled The Game of War, by Andrew Hussey: "It was the privilege of the group at Chez Moineau that, in the words of Vali, 'we lived like a pack of bastard dogs'. By this Vali meant, quite simply, that much of their time was spent avoiding police raids, living without papers, scrounging money, chasing drugs. However, in the photographs taken by Van der Elsken, as he himself puts it, the description takes on a more powerful resonance: the youth of Chez Moineau were vagabonds who were 'passive, dark, melancholy'; as they had nothing of the fey allure of the gilded youth who fluttered around Sartre at Cafe de Flore or Les Deux Magots; their faces were tight, impassive, frozen in space and time. They were, he says, a future generation whose youth had marked them forever.
. . . .
"Guy Debord was extremely protective of the closed world of Chez Moineau. He never mentioned in his letters home the nature of the crowd he had fallen in with and was careful to describe his activities in the most circumspect manner. Having abandoned Cannes, family and, as he saw it then, all prospect of making a respectable way in the world, the cloistered environment of the Letterist headquarters at Chez Moineau provided Debord with the language and style of negation."
. . . .
"Although Debord and the other regulars at Chez Moineau had initially been amused by the attention given by the French and then the international press to youth activities on the Left Bank, they were soon bored and disgusted by the way in which the spontaneous life of the Left Bank had become a staple of lifestyle magazine articles. . . ." (pp 55-56).

{They would soon strike back, in 1952 disrupting a film festival for excluding Letterist films, and next with a contstructed "situation" in which they drove a theater audience to crazed outrage by showing Debord's avant-garde film Howling in Favor of Sade.}


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