Guy Debord’s film THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE will be shown

Saturday, March 4, 7:00 p.m., at Pro Arts Gallery

Doors 6:30 p.m. Admission is free.


Guy Debord (1931-­1994) was the most influential figure in the Situationist International, the notorious subversive group that played a key role in provoking the May 1968 revolt in France. The Society of the Spectacle (1973, 90 minutes) is Debord’s film adaptation of his own 1967 book of the same name.

As passages from the book are read in voiceover the text is illuminated, via direct illustration or various types of ironic contrast, by clips from Russian and Hollywood features (Potemkin, Ten Days That Shook the World, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Shanghai Gesture, Johnny Guitar, Mr. Arkadin, etc.), TV commercials, softcore porn, and news and documentary footage, including glimpses of Spain ’36, Hungary ’56, Watts ’65, France ’68, and other revolts of the past. Inter-title quotes from Marx, Machiavelli, Clausewitz, Tocqueville, and Debord himself occasionally break the flow, challenging the viewers to question their own relation to the film — and to the society as a whole.

In 2007, San Francisco filmmaker Konrad Steiner produced a dubbed version of the film using Ken Knabb’s English translation as read by artist/scholar Dore Bowen. Konrad also located and reinserted the original English-language clips from the many quoted films (which in Debord’s film were mostly dubbed into French.) This enables English-speaking viewers to pay full attention to the images instead of trying to follow subtitles, and thus better appreciate the complex interplay between montage, image, and language with which Debord lays out his theses.

Ken will introduce the film, and he and Konrad [and Dore] will be on hand afterwards for questions and discussion.

For more information on Debord’s films, see

Two weeks later — Saturday, March 18, at the same time and location — we will be showing Debord’s final film, In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (1978, 105 minutes), which has also been dubbed by Konrad and Dore using Ken’s translation.

This event is part of Pro Arts’ The New Situationists exhibition, made possible with a generous grant from The Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation.