January 31, 2023

Eliminate the System and the State

Jean-Marie Straub

Still from Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, Too Early, Too Late, 1981.

Originally published bilingually (French, then Italian) as a response to Nedo Ivaldi’s “Inchiesta sulla contestazione giovanile e nello spettacolo” (Survey on the youth protest in the cinema and show business), Bianco e Nero, no. 5–6 (May–June 1969). Republished in French as “Une déclaration de Straub,” Cahiers du cinéma, no. 215 (September 1969).


In the cinema, in being content to oppose the system, we run the risk of strengthening it. In Germany, for example, the Bertelsmann Corporation1 (owner of Constantin Film2) monopolizes, with the Americans, most of the distribution of so-called commercial films, and dreams of a parallel system for films recognized and acknowledged as underground.

The system must be eliminated (like the police, the prisons, and the armies):3 its parasites and its pimps (the ad men, the Chauvets,4 producers, distributors, playwrights, bureaucrats, dubbers, sales reps, traveling salesmen, exporters-importers, Beta,5 Baldi,6 thieves of art house cinema, who despise the public and filmmaking. “Two centuries of depredations and robbery,” said Mirabeau, “have dug the gulf into which the kingdom is about to fall.”7)—and eliminate the State (the current Italian State, for example, supports a film industry with big profits earned from poisoning entire populations around the world).

In the meantime, rather than attacking the Festivals of Cannes or of Venice, New York, or London (Why not Oberhausen?8 And wouldn’t it be better to multiply the festivals—in the suburbs and in the country?), let us refuse contracts that deprive us of all rights to our films, let us prevent the dubbing of our films throughout the world (even for television), let us demand better screenings and better copies (a fortiori in Italy, where the sound is nearly everywhere inaudible, and where the labs are even more careless than in Germany or in Brazil), and let us tackle our own aesthetic and moral clichés.

Translated by Sally Shafto in Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, Writings, ed. Shafto (Sequence Press, 2016). Republished by permission of Sequence Press.

This text is published in conjunction with the film series Aesthetics of Resistance: Straub-Huillet and Contemporary Moving-Image Art, taking place at e-flux Screening Room.


In 1964, the powerful German press group Bertelsmann invested in the film industry by buying the UFA production company. —Ed.


Founded in 1950 and based in Munich, Constantin Film was one of the most important German production companies. In the 1960s Constantin Film produced three of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns. —Ed.


Straub’s call to arms here resonates with the speech delivered by Alain Jouffroy in Serge Bard’s Détruisez-vous (1968). —Ed.


Louis Chauvet (1906–1981) was a film critic at the conservative Figaro newspaper and the president of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI). —Ed.


After having begun his career in marketing some recordings by Herbert von Karajan, with whom he had an exclusive contract, Leo Kirch consolidated his empire (Beta Taurus) with the purchase of film and programming rights for television. —Ed.


Director and producer Gian Vittorio Baldi (IDI Cinematografica—Rome) was one of the coproducers of Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach. According to Straub, in 1969 he “had already swindled Pasolini, Bertolucci, Bellocchio … ” —Ed.


Excerpt from Mirabeau’s speech before the Chamber of Deputies in 1789. See Etienne Dumont, Recollections of Mirabeau, and of the First Legislative Assemblies of France (London: Edward Bull, 1832), 154. —Ed.


Machorka-Muff was presented—out of competition—at the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen in February 1963. Not Reconciled was presented at the New York Film Festival on September 18, 1965, and at the London Film Festival on November 15, 1965, where three years later Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach received the Sutherland Trophy. —Ed.

Experimental Film, Film Notes

Jean-Marie Straub (1933–2022) was a French-born filmmaker. Along with Danièle Huillet (1936–2006), he made two dozen films known for their rigorous style and radical politics.


e-flux announcements are emailed press releases for art exhibitions from all over the world.

Agenda delivers news from galleries, art spaces, and publications, while Criticism publishes reviews of exhibitions and books.

Architecture announcements cover current architecture and design projects, symposia, exhibitions, and publications from all over the world.

Film announcements are newsletters about screenings, film festivals, and exhibitions of moving image.

Education announces academic employment opportunities, calls for applications, symposia, publications, exhibitions, and educational programs.

Sign up to receive information about events organized by e-flux at e-flux Screening Room, Bar Laika, or elsewhere.

I have read e-flux’s privacy policy and agree that e-flux may send me announcements to the email address entered above and that my data will be processed for this purpose in accordance with e-flux’s privacy policy*

Thank you for your interest in e-flux. Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.