The subversive and revolutionary cinema that emerged from Eastern Europe in the sixties and seventies is an incredibly original, bizarre, opaque, bodily and nihilistic cinema. Free of the Maoist and Internationalist errors that haunt much of the Western left in the period, and somewhat removed from the aesthetic battles typified by the Western “new waves”, many of the films of revolt against actually existing socialism, often created under conditions of censorship (direct and indirect), are surreal to the point of unintelligibility.
Among the most haunting and destabilizing works to emerge from the long sixties, these films are not dogmatic nor “political” so much as non- or anti-polemical. Meandering, frightening, and deeply experimental, these films sometimes feel as though they emerge directly out of desire itself, an explosion of flows and forces which attempts to smash the bureaucratic maintenance of survival that called itself life in a worker’s nation.
If capitalism pointed to the individual’s accumulation of things as proof of its success, state-socialism preferred to accumulate reports of collective achievement and productivity. Thus this Eastern European cinema opposes itself both to accumulation and political proclamation, preferring disoriented and ecstatic explorations of subjectivities that refuse official conceptions of the collective and bourgeois notions of the individual.
They also have the distinction of rebelling against a dead regime—while the spectacle transforms itself in order to consume its critics, from which you could argue that every regime which a piece of art fights against is “dead” even if the subversion does not lead to its overthrow, the end of state-socialism has been more thorough and total—throwing the question of their continuing power as revolutionary works into stark relief.
In our monthly series, Film as a Subversive Art, we’ve been looking at films from Amos Vogel’s book of the same name. This month we’ll look at films from the chapter “Eastern European Left and Revolutionary Cinema”. Join us for a night of upended totalities, destroyed symbols, naked desires and total tactical opacity.
Wednesday, May 15
124 S. 3rd st