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Straub-Huillet: Odes to Loss and Love

Straub-Huillet: Odes to Loss and Love

Itinerary of Jean Bricard

Los Angeles Filmforum presents

Straub-Huillet: Odes to Loss and Love

At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90028

LA premieres! Sally Shafto in person.

Filmforum continues the multi-venue retrospective of the works of Straub-Huillet with three late films, along with a special presentation by guest Sally Shafto, editor of the recently published Writings of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet.  Alongside the films Le genou d’Artémide (Artemide’s Knee) (2007), Itinéraire de Jean Bricard (Itinerary of Jean Bricard) (2007), and O somma luce (2009), Shafto has translated a 1984 interview with the filmmakers from the Locarno Film Festival.

Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet formed one of the most intense, challenging and controversial collaborations in the history of cinema.  Straub (French, b. 1933) and Huillet (French, 1936–2006) were inseparable partners from 1954 until Huillet’s death, working intimately on every aspect of film production, from scriptwriting to direction to editing.  Straub-Huillet created highly personal film interpretations of profoundly ambitious art: stories by Böll, Kafka, Duras and Pavese; poems by Dante, Mallarmé and Hölderlin; a long-forgotten Corneille play, an essay by Montaigne, a film by D. W. Griffith, a painting by Cézanne, an unfinished opera by Schöenberg; and the biography of Johann Sebastian Bach as told through the (fictionalized) letters of his wife Anna Magdalena.  They sought to make what Straub called “an abstract-pictorial dream” while remaining rigorously sensitive to the letter and spirit of the text, and to the relationship between sound and image.  At the same time, all of Straub-Huillet’s films are political, whether obliquely, in reflecting on the lessons of history and advancing a Marxist analysis of capitalism and class struggle; or overtly, in considering ancient and contemporary forms of imperialism, militarism and resistance, from Ancient Rome to colonial Egypt to wartime Germany.  They aspire to nothing short of a revolution in political consciousness, especially among workers and peasants, the colonized and the exploited.  

At 83, Straub continues to make films that never waver from his commitment to the subversion of all forms of cinematic convention, whether through the use of direct sound, disjunctive editing, amateur actors and a foregrounding of the natural landscape; fragmentary and elliptical narratives spoken in various languages; Brechtian estrangement; on-location shooting of ancient texts in contemporary, anachronistic settings (for example, on the ground where the Circus Maximus once stood); and a privileging of musical and poetic rhythms and structures over the decorative, the spectacular, the psychological and the satirical.  Dialogue is shorn of emotion, and images are deliberately unflashy.  “The work we have to do,” Straub insists, “is to make films which radically eliminate art, so that there is no equivocation.”

This program is adapted from the 2016 retrospective organized by Joshua Siegel, Curator of Film, Museum of Modern Art.  Program notes by Joshua Siegel.

Special thanks: Barbara Ulrich; Joshua Siegel—MoMA; Thomas Beard—Light Industry; Sally Shafto; Paul Malcolm & KJ Reith, UCLA Film & Television Archive; ; Bruce Hainley—Art Center College of Design; Alan Longino,  Miguel Abreu Gallery.

Tickets: $10 general admission; $6 students (with ID)/seniors; free for Filmforum members.

Tickets available at or at the door

For more event information:, or 323-377-7238


More Straub-Huillet on the previous day!

Saturday March 25, 2017, 3:00 pm and 7:30 pm – at Art Center College of Design – Free admission

3:00 pm “Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet in Their Own Words”

7:30 pm Too Early/Too Late (1981, 100 min.). Special guest Sally Shafto

Sally Shafto is a widely published interdisciplinary film scholar and translator. Following her dissertation on Jean-Luc Godard, in 2007 she published the first monograph on the Zanzibar Films with Paris Expérimental. In Paris she worked as a translator for several years for the online edition of Cahiers du cinéma. From 2010-15 she taught in Morocco where she also actively covered developments in Maghrebi and African cinema for Senses of Cinema and Framework. Most recently, she edited and largely translated the Writings of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet into English for Sequence Press in New York. Currently she is a Research Associate at Williams College.

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Le genou d’Artémide (Artemide’s Knee

Le genou d’Artémide (Artemide’s Knee)

2007, Italy/France, 26 min., 35mm

Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub. Based on Dialogues with Leucò, by Cesare Pavese. With Andrea Bacci, Dario Marconcini. 35mm. In Italian; English subtitles. 26 min.

“Mourning the death of his partner and collaborator Danièle Huillet, Straub finds tender mercy in music and nature. Out of the abyss, Kathleen Ferrier sings Gustav Mahler’s Songs of the Earth: The Farewell (which the composer wrote in 1909 after the death of his daughter) and Heinrich Schutz’s Lament on the Death of His Wife (1625). The landscape also provides solace: the mountain grove where Endymion pines for his beloved Artemis, “a wild thing, untouchable, mortal,” appears to embody the Japanese concept of mono no aware—a wistful acceptance of the fleeting beauty of things.” – Josh Siegel, MOMA

Artemide’s Knee is a further adaptation of Pavese’s Dialogues with Leucò, as are three other recent shorts…Artemide’s Knee is an ode to love, sacrifice, and death, a topic Straub highlights further through the two musical pieces he includes in the film.  Mahler’s “Abschied” (“Farewell” from Das Lied von der Erde) is heard over a few minutes of black at the very beginning, and a song of mourning by the Renaissance composer Heinrich Schütz accompanies the final shot: a tomb or memorial stone on a clearing in the forest around Buti.” 

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Itinéraire de Jean Bricard (Itinerary of Jean Bricard)

Itinéraire de Jean Bricard (Itinerary of Jean Bricard)

(2007, 40 min., 35mm)

“Itinerary of Jean Bricard” returns to the ethnographic-documentary aspects in Straub-Huillet’s work.  The black and white film is based on two interviews with Bricard, recorded by Jean-Yves Petiteau in 1994, and composed of landscape shots filmed on Coton Island and on the Loire.  In the voice-over narration, Bricard remembers his childhood on the island, growing up during the German occupation, and then goes on to recall how the island slowly transformed and disappeared following various industrial and environmental changes in the decades after the war.  Like the French segments in Too Early, Too Late, the landscape here attests only indirectly to any human presence.  We see a few houses, cars, sheep grazing, and someone must be operating the boat driving down the Loire on which the camera sits to film the almost 15-inute long opening shot around the island.  Danièle Huillet is credited as co-author of the film which had been in preparation for a while before filming was finally scheduled for the end of September 2006.  However, plans changed when Huillet died in the following month and the project was postponed until December 2007.”  - Claudia Pummer, “(Not Only) for Children and Cavemen: The Films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet”, in Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, edited by Ted Fendt, p.. 90-91

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O somma luce

O somma luce

(2009, 16 min., HD)

Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub. Based on The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri. With Giorgio Passerone. In Italian; English subtitles. 18 min.

In darkness, we hear a recording of the scandalous 1954 debut performance of Edgar Varèse’s revolutionary Déserts at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Then, in a different sort of Elysian Field, we hear a recitation of Canto XXXIII from The Inferno, a final vision of the Divine Light, in which Dante apprehends the will and desire of man in perfect harmony with the love of God. – Josh Siegel, MOMA


“Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet in Their Own Words”

“Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet in Their Own Words”

(1984, video, 8 minutes)

Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet interviewed by François Albera, following the screening of Class Relations (1984) at the Locarno Film Festival, August 1984.

Filmed by Bertrand Theubet for Swiss Romande TV.  Subtitles by Sally Shafto.

A rare, filmed document, made available by French film scholar François Albera, giving insight into the philosophy and working methods of the filmmaking duo, Jean-Marie Straub (b. 1933) and Danièle Huillet (1936-2006), perhaps the most rigorous filmmakers of our time. The interviews touch on a number of important topics, including why Straub and Huillet nearly always worked with pre-existing texts, often by artistic giants (Böll, Kafka, Pavese, Hölderlin, Schönberg, et al.) rather than original screenplays; their singular approach to diction based on line breaks rather than poetic enjambment; their creation of multi-colored scripts that look like musical scores; the clairvoyance of the German poet, Hölderlin, on the predicament of contemporary humanity; and the meaning, for them, of a communist utopia. In addition, Jean-Marie Straub and particularly Danièle Huillet offer insight into their approach as translators and sub-titlers.