For and Against Cinema

Cinema audience

Short situationist text on cinema, from Internationale Situationniste #1.

Submitted by Fozzie on November 25, 2022


Translated by Ian Thompson, April 2015. Proofread and Edited by Anna O’Meara & Mehdi el H. From

Cinema is the principal art of our society, insofar as its development is sought in the continual integration2 of new mechanical technologies. Hence, [cinema] is the best representation of an era of anarchically juxtaposed inventions (not coherently linked, but simply added together3 ) not only in its anecdotal or formal expression, but also in its material infrastructure. Following the big-screen, the introduction of stereo sound, and attempts [to create] 3D images, the United States showcased a process known as “Circarama”4 at the Brussels World Fair. As reported in “Le Monde” on April 17, through this technique5

“we find ourselves in the centre of the spectacle and we live it – just as if we are an integrated part of it. When cameras mounted inside a car capture images of San Francisco’s Chinatown rushing past6 , we experience the [same] reactions and feelings [as] the car’s passengers.”

Elsewhere an aromatic cinema is being tested through new applications of sprays; it is expected to give undeniably realistic results.

Cinema thus presents itself as a passive substitute for the unitary artistic activity that is now possible. It brings previously unheard of power to the worn-down, reactionary force of the spectacle without participation. One is not afraid to say that we live in the world we recognise by finding ourselves7 without freedom in the centre of a miserable spectacle, “just as if we are an integrated part of it”. But that is not life, and spectators [have] not yet [come into] the world8 . [Indeed] those who wish to build this world must fight cinema’s tendency to represent the anti-construction of situations (the construction of the ambience of the slave, the legacy of cathedrals), while at the same time recognising the inherent value of new technological applications (stereophonics, aromatics).

The lag in the appearance of symptoms of modern art in cinema (e.g. some [self]-destructive9 works, accepted for 20 to 30 years in literature and the plastic arts, are still rejected even in the cinema clubs 10 ) arises not only from its chains of simple economics and masked idealisms (moral censorship), but [also] from the positive importance of cinematic art in modern society. Cinema’s importance is owed to the superior means of influence it applies, which inevitably leads to the increasing control [of cinema] by the dominant class. It is therefore necessary to struggle to seize a truly experimental sector in the cinema.

We can foresee two distinct uses for cinema: firstly, its use as a form of propaganda in the pre-situationist transition period; next, its direct use as a constituent element in a realised situation.

Cinema is therefore comparable to architecture in its current importance in everyone’s life, in the restrictions that hamper“ferment” – literally “close (off)” its renewal, and by the great potential impact such freedom of renewal is bound to have. It is necessary to take advantage of the progressive aspects of mass-produced cinema, and as in the discovery of an architecture based on the psychological employment of ambience, we can remove the pearl hidden in the manure of absolute functionalism.

Translator's Note: As this new translation was being produced, I cross-referenced it to an existing translation made by Reuben Keehan, available on-line here. I would like to acknowledge the work done by Reuben Keehan, and the real assistance his translation provided. However all final decisions (for better or worse – which is for the reader to decide) in this translation are mine alone.

  • 1“Avec” – literally “with”
  • 2“dans un mouvement continu d’integration” – literally “in a continuous motion/action of integration”
  • 3“non articulées, simplement additionnées” – literally “not connected, merely added”
  • 4“Circarama” was developed by Disney Corporation
  • 5“au moyen duquel” – literally “by means of which”
  • 6“prises de vues fonce dans le quartier chinois de San-Francisco” – “have taken pictures hurrying in the Chinese neighborhood of San Francisco”
  • 7“du fait que l’on se trouve” – literally “in fact that in it we find ourselves”
  • 8“ne sont pas encore au monde” – literally “are not yet in/with the world
  • 9“oeuvres formellement destructrices” – literally “absolutely destructive works”
  • 10“sont encore rejectées même dans les ciné-clubs” – literally “are still rejected, even in cinema clubs”. Please note that this entire sentence has been totally restructured to flow better in English.