Saturday, April 21, 2018 at 8:30pm
Maurice Lemaître's Has the Film Already Started?

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Has the Film Already Started?, Maurice Lemaître, 1951, 16mm, 62 mins

On December 8, 1951, an article published in the popular daily newspaper France-soir noted that the premiere of a work of “three-dimensional cinema” by Lettrist provocateur Maurice Lemaître would take place that evening, supposedly “under the protection of the police.” The anonymous writer described the filmmaker as the “favorite disciple—albeit heretical—of Pope [Isidore] Isou,” and claimed that the 24-year-old Lemaître “has discovered a technique that he considers superior to that of his master Isou’s ‘cinéma discrépant.’” The Lettrist theory of montage discrépant had been promulgated through Isou’s own film Treatise on Venom and Eternity, which screened to furious responses at Cannes earlier that year. Isou had argued for a radical dissociation of sound from image; Lemaître planned to go beyond the film itself by intervening into the physical and social space of the venue.

“Three-dimensional cinema mixes the images projected on the screen with real characters who operate on the scene in the midst of various objects,” the writer continued. "The screen-scene exchanges of this curious cinema-theater combination are limited only by the imagination of the protagonists.” The article concluded by warning any interested moviegoers that Lemaître was preparing to evacuate the audience if it got too rowdy: “All of the ‘actors’ are armed with cap guns and police whistles.”

Though unnamed by the writer, the screening in question would have been of Lemaître’s Le film est déjà commencé? (Has the Film Already Started?), now remembered as one of the key productions of Lettrist cinema. But as scholar Kaira M. Cabañas notes in Off-Screen Cinema, her study of Isou and his circle, Le film est déjà commencé? had already “premiered” twice in Paris: once at the Ciné-Club Avant-Garde at the Musée de l’Homme on November 12, and again on December 7 at the Ciné-Club du Quartier Latin on the Boulevard St. Germain—the evening prior to France-soir’s announcement.

Months later, Lemaître published his screenplay for Le film est déjà commencé?, presented in an unusual three-column format, indicating the film’s soundtrack in the first column and its concurrent images, which are dramatically hand-colored and otherwise obliterated throughout, in the second. The third, marked “room,” provides instructions for actions that will take place at particular moments of the film, instigated by the director, members of the cinema staff, and “paid extras” in the audience, as well as various reworkings of the theater’s typical design.

Whether this tripartite scenario conveys how the film was actually shown is unknown: Cabañas explains that “no reviews, eyewitness testimony, or other documentation” of Lemaître’s original screenings exist. Nevertheless, Light Industry will stage a one-time presentation of Le film est déjà commencé? as outlined in its script, inspired by Lemaître’s interest in reconceiving cinema not merely via the screen, but through the event of exhibition itself.

Tickets - $8, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served.

Special thanks to Bernhard Fasenfest, Keith Sanborn, and Chantal Weinman.