The Society of the Spectacle

Director: Guy Debord
Year Released: 1973
Rating: 3.5

Situationist Debord makes a film of his infamous text, using the process of "detournement" - essentially, a carefully edited pastiche of pre-existing elements (photographs, film strips) to create contradictory points - to critique our society which Debord sees as being ruled by 'the spectacle' (the false consumerist paradise we've crafted for ourselves). Although one of the most important films ever made - and Debord's book is one of the most important philosophical statements of the 20th century - its complexity will no doubt be lost on those not prepared: Debord does nothing to make it easier, with the voice-over done in constant monotone and the images piling up to critical mass (a reflection of TV, perhaps?): snippets from Johnny Guitar and Mr. Arkadin follow footage of Stalin drinking during a speech, tanks, bombs being dropped, cars and nude girls. It's hard to step away from the 21st century and really conceptualize Debord's points - and even harder to pin down what he's saying (I've read Ken Knabb's book and seen the film twice and still not 100% sure what's going on at all times) because we're so 'used to' our own culture of commodities and advertisements that the idea of a world without such things would signify a kind of death. Or are we already 'dead?'