THE ZANZIBAR FILMS
During the volatile late 1960s in Paris, the filmmaking collective known as Zanzibar began creating outsider underground movies, many of which are now lost or neglected. The group (consisting of Philippe Garrel, Jackie Raynal, Serge Bard, Daniel Pommereulle, Olivier Mosset, Frédéric Pardo, Patrick Deval, Caroline de Bendern, Zouzou, and one or two others) resembled a clique of Warhol Factoryesque characters — artists, writers, actors, and models, a few of whom had actually worked at the Factory. Though all were cinephiles, jointly they had only modest movie-making experience. Yet the Zanzibar films, with their refreshing lack of regard for revenue, are infused with the countercultural energy and restlessness of May 1968. Zanzibar’s benefactor, hippie heiress Sylvina Boissonnas, generously funded many of these works in expensive 35mm format. Within two years’ time, however, Boissonnas had moved on to other projects. Similarly, most members of the group eventually abandoned filmmaking, though Jackie Raynal made a few more films and Patrick Deval worked for French TV. Only Philippe Garrel — the group’s nominal leader — achieved notable fame as an arthouse director.
Patrick Deval (France, 1968)
“The film’s title is lifted from Bataille and means literally the headless man, prefiguring director Patrick Deval’s desire to push beyond rational ways of thinking through a combination of Eastern religion and revolutionary symbolism. The opening image of a head being shaved accompanied by the sound of a saw suggests the violence this may entail but also evokes the anger and desire for change in post-68 Paris. The film documents a ‘headless’ group of young people living in the woods and an abandoned subway station, their marginalized status detailed through direct camera address and obscure theatrics. The sentiments expressed can feel dated but the oneiric imagery is often unforgettable.” – Kieron Corless
Serge Bard (France, 1968)
"DÉTRUISEZ-VOUS (with it’s implacable subtitle, The Silent Gun) was shot between March and April 1968. The title - A film shot in April 1968 - is written on a piece of cardboard, with well-deserved pride: Bard was one of the few at the time to exhibit such clairvoyance. (...) DÉTRUISEZ-VOUS is, moreover, a ‘primitive’ film which breaks all the rules of film-making. It’s the first Zanzibar film (and predates the very naming of the movement), an attempt to make a film which defies the rules of production, the production line of commerce.)" – Philippe Azoury
Jackie Raynal (France, 1969)
Jackie Raynal is perhaps best known as the former programmer of two of New York’s premiere art cinemas – the Carnegie Hall and the Bleecker Street – who began her career in the 1960s as the film editor for New Wave directors such as Eric Rohmer, Jean-Daniel Pollet and Jean Eustache. Challenged by Zanzibar patroness Sylvina Boissonnas to stop editing other people’s films and make her own, Raynal traveled to Barcelona, where she completed DEUX FOIS (1969) in a single week.
Serge Bard (France, 1968)
“One of the major revelations to emerge from the resurgence of the Zanzibar films is Bard's FUN AND GAMES FOR EVERYONE, a velveteen, chiaroscuro boogie-woogie chess match of a film, which documents a vernissage for an Olivier Mosset exhibition. The new print practically drips inky blacks and blinding whites as art circle dandies dissolve in and out of view, as if melting into the background and morphing into a Mosset diachromatic tableau.” – Andréa Picard
Serge Bard (France, 1968)
Shot primarily in long takes on the Pointe du Raz in Brittany, ICI ET MAINTENANT (HERE AND NOW), according to fellow filmmaker Patrick Deval, “consists of the dreams of the solitary rambler, post-revolution... The moralist has given up on chaos; he takes his own pulse; he listens to the world, perhaps vibrating with it; he is in sympathetic ecstasy. The filmmaker holds his position, stiff as the statue of the commander, on alert for the phenomena which approach him; he resembles the lighthouse whose rectitude Bard captures magnificently, on an ink-dark night, with its hallucinatory lamp set against a background of winds and tides."
Philippe Garrel (France, 1969)
“I believe my point of view on the Christian myth is quite clear in LE LIT DE LA VIERGE (THE VIRGIN’S BED). It is a non-violent parable in which Zouzou incarnates both Mary and Mary Magdalene, while Pierre Clémenti incarnates a discouraged Christ who throws down his arms in face of world cruelty. In spite of its allegorical nature, the film contains a denunciation of the police repression of 1968, which was generally well understood by viewers at the time.” – Philippe Garrel
Philippe Garrel (France, 1968)
"For me, it was an absolute pleasure, at the time when Philippe Garrel had perfectly assimilated the importance of the cinematic image to the point of baptizing his film LE RÉVÉLATEUR (The Developer), allowing me the greatest liberty to improvise and to invent, with voluntarily minimal lighting in order to stimulate our imagination and an extremely sensitive film stock in order to capture the faintest glimmers or the strongest apparitions. If the photography of this little silent film borders on the amateurish, it is nonetheless one of the most beautiful in the history of cinema with its luminous and charming dreamlike manner and its reasonably fantastic narration, of remembering or of suggesting a wealth of sentiments, poetic and profound." – Michel Fournier, cinematographer