Jean-Marie Straub | My Key Dates

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I’m older than Baudelaire when he said he was a thousand
years old, so:

1842. The German forest is forbidden to the poor (dead
wood, mushrooms, chestnuts, etc.); it becomes a place for indus-
trial exploitation. A young Karl Marx protests, costing him his
position as a journalist at the Rheinische Zeitung.

Winter 1942. I go ice-skating on the frozen Moselle.
STALINGRAD! “Finally, the beginning of the end,” says my father.

1945. A few days before the end of the war, just to impress
Stalin, American B17s bomb Dresden, one of the most beautiful
German cities, twice, destroying it and causing more (civilian)
victims than the (atomic) bombs dropped on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki to liberate us from the “yellow peril.”

Until 1948.  HOPE! Antitrust laws. Nationalizations, expro-
priations (the Renault family, for example). The French (econom-
ic) PLAN is more audacious than Walter Ulbricht’s will ever be
in the German DEMOCRATIC Republic. The 1948 Rent Act:
a utopian masterpiece that they’re trying to ransack nowadays …

From 1948. McCarthy, witch hunt, the beginning of the black
tide that ended up covering all of Europe freed from Communism,
except for Romania and Yugoslavia, where a few thugs still need
to be liquidated beyond the Ural Mountains. Following the ban on
the German Communist Party: enslavement to the Marshall Plan
and NATO (the “machine,” in the words of de Gaulle who refused
them both), free exchange, monopolization, savage capitalism,
barbarism, and the mafia. In France, as in Germany and Italy, the
victory of the economic miracle, pauperization, and misery.

In the British occupation zone, Churchill anticipates McCarthy
by dismissing members of the German resistance who survived the
concentration camps. He prefers former Nazis to them.

De Gaulle did not resist much, but still played a nice trick on
the masters of the world by, one fine day, recognizing Communist
China. French management dismisses him, sending him away by
a referendum to Colombey because of his insistence on what he
called the “capital-labor association”!

The Fourth Republic (I almost forgot) strongly occupied my
high school and university years in Metz, Nancy, and Strasbourg.
The long, major strikes at the SNCF, at Renault where Dreyfus
refused Guy Mollet’s CRS more than once. The debates in the
National Assembly where insults rang out made me rejoice; I read
them in the official paper and I even found myself a few times
in the henhouse of the Palais Bourbon. The ineffable Georges
Bidault, Bao Dai, the Piastres Trade.

1950-1953. Bloody, grotesques comedy around the 42nd
Parallel. MacArthur dreams of dropping a few atomic bombs on
Korea? And why not also on China.

1953-1954. A DAY OF GLORY AT LAST: a bright young
man, Ho Chi Minh!, succeeds in surrounding at Dien Bien Phu
how many French armies and how many generals?!

November 1954. I arrive in Paris, hitchhiking, to see certain
films: Diary of a Country Priest, The Young and the Damned, The 
Quiet Man, The River, The Golden Coach, The Big Sleep, To Have
and Have Not, Monkey Business, The African Queen, Beat the Devil,
The Big Heat, The Blue Angel, Mexican Bus Ride …).

I meet Danièle Huillet and ask her to work on what will be-
come, in 1967, Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach. The first Algerian
grenades explodes in Paris, on the sidewalks and terraces of upscale
cafès; “Péguy, Péguy, here are our men,” exclaims Joan of Arc.

Eleven years of exile in Munich for refusing to join the
armed services in Algeria and with it a direct complicity in “in-
stitutionalized” torture (Massu is the only one to have had the
courage to declare it how many years later?).

Before leaving France, I run into SHAREHOLDERS ev-
erywhere who bark because:

In 1956. Colonel Nasser dared, hurrah!, to nationalize the
Suez Canal.

In 1961. An uplifting parenthesis: the BAY OF PIGS, the
U.S. counter-revolutionaries defeated by the Cubans.

Early 1968. Chronicle exists at last! During its screening in
Munich, I dedicate the film to the peasants of the Bavarian forest
and to the Vietcong (B52s were bombing Hanoi every day). A
young student from the Berlin film school, Holger Meins¹, who
has just seen the film in Frankfurt, declares it the most important
film in the history of cinema.

1973. A slaughter in Chile.

Early 1975. We’ve just left our editing room, and on the front
page of Paese Sera in Rome is the photo of a cadaver coming out
of a concentration camp (the Hamburg prison): Holger Meins.
We dedicate Moses and Aaron to him. Twenty-four frames in the
opening credits that attract the censorship of the directors of the
third German television channel, the film’s co-producer. Didn’t
Moses—who, as Paul Verlaine wrote (born in Metz in a house
next to my parents), “is still the greatest prophet“—begin his “career”
as a terrorist by killing a tax collector? He took refuge in the desert.

1986. Discovery, with The Death of Empedocles (1790), of the
sublime utopia of a young man against the threat of the Industrial
Revolution and the myth of progress: a Communist utopia that
could (still? If it is not too late now!) save those who Hölderlin
calls “the children of the earth.” “Mother Earth, oh earth, my cradle,” says
the greatest European poet.

1988. I see Moravia for the last time. I’m sitting next to him
in the backseat of a car driving along the Tiber toward the Porta
Portese. Who is driving the car? Who is seated next to them?
Danièle? Where are we going? I don’t know anymore. After a mo-
ment of silence, Moravia turns toward me: “Straub, the next war will
be in the Gulf.” Me: “Alberto!?” Him: “A planned, programmed war. I
questioned five NATO generals, American and German. They told me.

SINCE, HENCEFORTH, FROM NOW ON the cup is
full, let’s not throw anymore away! Brecht has his Tiresias say;
MORE needs MORE and becomes in the end NOTHINGNESS:”
CANAL PLUS is getting close!

FORMALIZED LIE (Schoenberg), steamroller of propaganda:
our poor brain shuts itself off to the truth.

 

P.S. ACHTUNG GLOBALE ENT-ARTUNG
(P.S. BEWARE, GLOBAL DEGENERACY!)

 

(Ferry Ministry of Motoculture and Propaganda.)

 

 

¹ STRAUB AND HUILLET DEDICATED MOSES AND 
AARON TO HOLGER MEINS, WHO, AFTER STUDYING
CINEMATOGRAPHY, FAMOUSLY JOINED THE ROTE
ARMEE FRAKTION (RED ARMY FACTION), A WEST
GERMAN TERRORIST CELL. HE DIED ON A HUNGER
STRIKE IN PRISON ON NOVEMBER 9, 1974. THIS
DEDICATION WAS CENSORED WHEN THE FILM WAS
SHOWN ON GERMAN TV IN 1975.

 

 

DANIÈLE HUILLET
JEAN-MARIE STRAUB
WRITINGS
EDITED AND TRANSLATED BY SALLY SHAFTO 
WITH KATHERINE PICKARD
SEQUENCE PRESS
NEW YORK 2016

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