The Zanzibar Films - Visa de censure n° X + Vite
The Zanzibar Films
Aug 10 – 31
At Cinefamily, 611 N Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90036
In the storied tradition of French cinema, the New Wave may be the most famous break with tradition – but there were also the underseen, so-called Zanzibar films, named for a 1969 voyage to that then-Maoist country, and made in and around the student protests of May ‘68 by a long-haired, Parisian Warhol’s factory-esque cast of painters, models, artists, amateurs, dandies, and film techs – everyone but established filmmakers. The loose constellation of films they produced were unified by a mystical, hippie kind of avant-garde – one that rubbed up against, but didn’t define itself by, the political – instead the group’s greatest interventions were formal: long takes, drug-fueled improvisation, and purely counter-cultural amateurism. The filmmakers weren’t the only ones making a radical intervention in the world of French cinema – their patroness was too. French heiress Sylvina Boissonnas financed twelve of these films, apparently holding court at the Coupole restaurant, ready to sign checks for virtually anyone with an idea – making rather costly 35mm film stock available to a fascinating crowd. Still underseen today, the Zanzibar films, more than anything, are the products of a group that undertook filmmaking without traditional credentials, and without any intention to distribute, release, or capitalize on the work.
Special thanks to Jackie Raynal, Jacob Perlin, and Zanzibar scholar Sally Shafto.
Tickets $14 general, free for Cinefamily and Filmforum members.
Visa de censure n° X
Dir. Pierre Clementi, 1968, digital presentation, 44 min.
Best known for his roles in Belle de jour, Sweet Movie, and many more, Pierre Clementi was also the architect behind a transgressive, high-minded, and disorienting cinema. Like an acid-soaked freefall, Visa de censure n° X is a rush of nudity and color from one of France’s most seductively watchable actors, set to an album’s worth of psychedelic prog rock (performed by the Delired Cameleon Family, a group featuring members of French band Clearlight).
Dir. Daniel Pommereulle, 1969, digital presentation, 37 min.
In 1969, the painter-sculptor Daniel Pommereulle made his third film, this one financed by Sylvina Boissonnas. Although only a short, Vite was one of the most costly of all the Zanzibar productions. It features, for instance, shots of the moon taken by a state-of-the-art telescope, the Questar, that Pommereulle first saw while visiting Marlon Brando in southern California in 1968. In Rohmer’s La collectionneuse, Pommereulle and his friend Adrien philosophize on how best to achieve le vide (emptiness) during their summer holidays. Three years later, Pommereulle would transform the word “vide” to “vite” (quickly), signifying his profound disenchantment with the aftermath of the revolution of May ’68. —Sally Shafto