STRAUB. Nationality: French, German. Born: Metz, France, 8 January 1933. Education: Studied literature at the Universities of Strasbourg and Nancy, 1950–54. Family: Married Danièle Huillet, 1959. Career: Organized a film society in his hometown, late 1940s; moved to Paris and began collaboration with Huillet, 1954; worked as assistant to French directors Abel Gance, Jean Renoir, Jacques Rivette, Robert Bresson, and Alexandre Astruc, 1954–58; left France to avoid military service in the Algerian conflict, 1958 (received amnesty, 1971); Straub and Huillet moved to Munich, 1959; collaborated on their first film, Machorka-Muff , 1963; moved to Italy, 1969.
HUILLET. Nationality: French. Born: France, 1 May 1936. Education: Studied film at the Universities of Nancy and Strasbourg. Family: Married the director Jean-Marie Straub, 1959. Career: Began collaboration with Jean-Marie Straub,1954; Straub and Huillet moved to Munich, 1959; Collaborated on their first film, Machorka-Muff , 1963; moved to Italy, 1969. Address: c/o French Film Office, 745 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10151, U.S.A.
Machorka-Muff (Straub: d, co-ed, co-sound; Huillet: sc, co-ed, co-sound)
Nicht versöhnt oder Es hilft nur Gewalt, wo Gewalt herrscht ( Es hilft nicht, wo Gewalt herrscht ; Not Reconciled ) (Straub: d, co-ed, co-ph; Huillet: sc, co-ed, co-ph)
Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach ( Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach ) (Straub: d; Huillet: sc); Der Bräutigam , die Komödiantin und der Zuhälter ( The Bridegroom , the Comedienne, and the Pimp ) (Straub: d, co-ed; Huillet: sc, co-ed)
Othon ( Les Yeux ne veulent pas en tout temps se fermer ou Peut-être qu'un jour Rome se permettra de choisir à son tour ; Die Augen wollen sich nicht zu jeder Zeit schliessen oder Vielleicht eines Tages wird Rom sich erlauben, seinerseits zu wählen ; Eyes Do Not Want to Close at All Times or Perhaps One Day Rome Will Permit Herself to Choose in Her Turn, Othon ) (co-d, co-ed; Huillet + sc, Straub + role under pseudonym Jubarithe Semaran); Einleitung zu Arnold Schoenberg Begleit Musik zu einer Lichtspielscene ( Introduction to Arnold Schoenberg's Accompaniment for a Cinematographic Scene ) (+ co-pr, co-ed; Huillet + sc) (for TV)
Geschichtsunterricht ( History Lessons ) (+ co-pr, co-ed; Huillet + sc)
Moses und Aron ( Moses and Aaron ) (+ co-ed; Huillet + sc)
Fortini/Cani ( I cani del Sinai ) (+ co-ed; Huillet + sc)
Toute révolution est un coup de dés ( Every Revolution Is a Throw of the Dice ) (Huillet + sc)
Della nube alla resistenza ( From the Cloud to the Resistance ) (Huillet + sc)
Trop tot, trop tard ( Too Early , Too Late )
Klassenverhältnisse ( Class Relations )
Tod des Empedokles ( The Death of Empedocles )
Schwarze Sunde ( Black Sin ); Cézanne
Antigone (Straub d, sc; Huillet, sc)
Lothringen! (Huillet, ed)
Von heute auf morgen
Sicilia! (Straub d, sc; Huillet, sc)
La Tour des Nesle (Gance) (asst d)
French Cancan (Renoir) (asst d)
Eléna et les hommes (Renoir) (asst d); Le Coup de Berger (Rivette) (asst d); Un Condamné à mort s'est échappé (Bresson) (asst d)
Une Vie (Astruc) (asst d)
Klassenverhältnisse , edited by Wolfram Schütte, Frankfurt, 1984.
"Frustration of Violence," in Cahiers du Cinéma in English (New York), January 1967.
" Moses und Aron as an Object of Marxist Reflection," interview with J. Rogers, in Jump Cut (Chicago), no. 12–13, 1976.
"Decoupage di Fortini/Cani," in Filmcritica (Rome), November/December 1976.
Interview with R. Gansera, in Filmkritik (Munich), September 1978.
Interview with Serge Daney and J. Narboni, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), November 1979.
Interview with H. Hurch and B. Brewster, in Undercut (London), Spring 1983.
Interview with H. Farocki, in Filmkritik (Munich), May 1983.
Interview with S. Blum and J. Prieur, in Camera/Stylo (Paris), September 1983.
Interview with E. Bruno and R. Rosetti, in Filmcritica (Rome), September 1984.
Interview with M. Blank and others, in Filmkritik (Munich), September/October 1984.
Interview with A. Bengala and others, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), October 1984.
Interview with P. Toulemonde, in Cinématographe (Paris), November 1984.
Interview with E. Szekely, in Filmvilag (Budapest), vol. 28, no. 8, 1985.
Interview with G. Baratta and G. Latini, in Filmcritica (Rome), January/February 1987.
Straub. J.M., article in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), October supplement 1987.
Rossellini, R., and J.M. Straub, "Rapporto tra film e conoscenza," in Filmcritica (Rome), December 1987.
Interview with C. Desbarats, in Cinéma 88 (Paris), 6/13 January 1988.
Interview with H. Hurch, in Andere Sinema (Antwerp), September/October 1989.
Interview with P. Willemsen, in Andere Sinema (Antwerp), September/October 1989.
Straub, J.M., "Senza titolo," in Filmcritica (Rome), December 1989.
Interview with Mart Dominicus and Jos de Putter, in Skrien (Amsterdam), February-March 1990.
Interview with Christian Bosséno, in Vertigo (Paris), January 1996.
Bramkamp, Robert, "Eine Hexe, die eine Menge Energie verbraucht," in Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), vol. 25, no. 5–6, 1997.
Roud, Richard, Jean-Marie Straub , London, 1971.
Walsh, Martin, The Brechtian Aspect of Radical Cinema , London, 1981.
Franklin, James, New German Cinema: From Oberhausen to Hamburg , Boston, 1983.
Phillips, Klaus, New German Filmmakers: From Oberhausen through the 1970s , New York, 1984.
Rosetti, Riccardo, editor, Straub-Huillet Film , Rome, 1984.
Elsaesser, Thomas, New German Cinema: A History , London, 1989.
Byg, Barton, Landscapes of Resistance: The German Films of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub , Berkeley, 1995.
Foster, Gwendolyn Audrey, Women Film Directors : An International Bio-Critical Dictionary , Westport, Connecticut, 1995.
Byg, Barton, Landscapes of Resistance: The German Films of Daniele Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub , Berkeley, 1996.
Baxter, B., "Jean-Marie Struab," in Film (London), Spring 1969.
Engel, Andi, "Jean-Marie Straub," in Second Wave , New York, 1970.
Walsh, M., "Political Formations in the Cinema of Jean-Marie Straub," in Jump Cut (Chicago), November/December 1974.
" Moses und Aron Issue" of Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), October/November 1975.
"Straub and Huillet Issue" of Enthusiasm (London), December 1975.
Bonitzer, P., "J.-M.S. et J.-L.G.," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), February 1976.
Dermody, S., "Straub/Huillet: The Politics of Film Practice," in Cinema Papers (Melbourne), September/October 1976.
"Danièle Huillet Jean-Marie Straub's Fortini/Cani ," special issue of Filmkritik (Munich), January 1977.
Simsolo, Noel, "Jean-Marie Straub et Danièle Huillet," in Cinéma (Paris), March 1977.
Bennett, E., "The Films of Straub Are Not 'Theoretical'," in Afterimage (Rochester), Summer 1978.
Rosenbaum, Jonathan, "Jean-Luc, Chantal, Danielle, Jean-Marie and the Others," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), February 1979.
Daney, Serge, "Le Plan Straubien," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), November 1979.
Magisos, M., "Not Reconciled: The Destruction of Narrative Pleasure," in Wide Angle (Athins, Ohio), vol. 3, no. 4, 1980.
Sauvaget, D., article in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), April 1980.
Blank, R., article in Skrien (Amsterdam), Summer 1981.
Durgnat, Raymond, "From Caligari to Hitler," in Film Comment (New York), Summer 1981.
Graziani, G. and others, article in Filmcritica (Rome), September/October 1981.
Goldschmidt, D., article in Cinematographe (Paris), March 1982.
Mitry, Jean, article in Cinematographe (Paris), September 1982.
Simons, J., article in Skrien (Amsterdam), September 1982.
Lange, M., and others, article in Filmkritik (Munich), January 1983.
Ranieri, N., article in Cinema Nuovo (Torino), August-October 1983.
Maderna, M., article in Segnocinema (Vicenza), January 1984.
Hoberman, J., "Once upon a Time in Amerika," in Artforum (New York), September 1984.
Bergala, A., article in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), October 1984.
Ehrenstein, D., and others, "Reagan at Bitburg: Spectacle and Memory," in On Film (Los Angeles), Spring 1985.
Rosetti, R., article in Filmcritica (Rome), October 1985.
Kamiah, J., article in Filmcritica (Rome), January-February 1987.
Chevrie, M., article in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), April 1989.
Dominicus, M., and J. de Putter, article in Skrien (Amsterdam), February-March 1990.
Petley, Julian, "Straub/Huillet's Empedocles ," in Sight and Sound (London) Summer 1990.
"Jean-Marie Straub wird 60," in EPD Film (Frankfurt), January 1993.
* * *
The films of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet are best understood in the context of contemporary developments in radical, materialist cinema. They offer what many people see as a genuine alternative to both dominant narrative cinema and conventional art movies. Their work is formally austere and demands attentive, intellectual participation from audiences. However, it must be acknowledged that many people find their films nearly impenetrable and absolutely boring. This is explained in part by the fact that the films do not rely on standard narrative construction or conventional characters. While the films of Straub and Huillet are by no means "abstract" it is nearly impossible to (re)construct a unified, imaginary, referential "world" through them.
In a sense their work might be explained in terms of strategies of displeasure, a wilful refusal to captivate audiences with a coherent fictional world. Instead they promote a distanced, intellectual interaction between viewer and film. Because of this insistence on critical distance, audiences must work with the film in a dialectical process of meaning construction. (In fact, Straub is notoriously critical of "lazy" viewers who are unwilling to engage in this activity.)
Straub and Huillet's films directly address the nature of cinematic signification and its political implications. This includes breaking away from conventional assumptions and practices of dominant narrative cinema. Their films exploit all channels of the medium—music, sounds, words, and images—as equivalent carriers of meaning, rather than privileging the "visual" or relegating music and sound effects to the task of support material. Thus, there are times when extremely long, static shots accompany lengthy, complex verbal passages (a singularly "uncinematic" practice according to conventional canons of film aesthetics). Sequences may be developed along the lines of montage construction, juxtaposing graphic material, verbal material, and moving images. Both of these strategies are used in Introduction to Schoenberg's "Accompaniment for a Cinematographic Scene" ; and the starting point for this short film was a piece of music written by the composer. The major texts, read on-screen (though interrupted at intervals by black frames), are a letter from Schoenberg to Kandinsky explaining his reasons for not participating in the Bauhaus, and a text by Brecht elaborating the relationship between fascism and capitalism. The readings of these texts take up most of the film, which includes Straub and Huillet as on-camera narrators "placing" the texts. The film then concludes with a montage sequence. The political aspect of the film derives not only from the logical argument advanced, the Brecht analysis standing as a critique of Schoenberg's "liberal" position, but also from the film's rejection of documentary norms. At the same time it has been pointed out that Schoenberg's music stands in relation to classical rules of harmonic composition in the same manner that Straub and Huillet films stand in relation to the conventions of dominant cinema.
The incorporation of musical works and verbal texts, as both a source for and signifying material within their films, is an important aspect of their work. The figure of Bertolt Brecht is perhaps the most pervasive presence in Straub and Huillet's films. His writing is included in Introduction to Schoenberg and provided the source for History Lessons. More crucially, the strategies of deconstruction and distanciation in their films derive from principles advanced in Brechtian theory. These include concepts of alienation and anti-illusionism elaborated in Brecht's theory of epic theater. Straub and Huillet have developed these ideas in the context of their films and their persistent concern with the politics of cinematic expression.
Straub and Huillet will probably never be as well known to cineastes as fellow New German filmmakers Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Volker Schlondorff, Werner Herzog, or Wim Wenders. But their minimalist films remain important contributions to the New German cinema, and they have been a meaningful voice for the art crowd in Germany. As with all gifted and dedicated film artists whose works are unconventionally structured, their cinematic output remains worthy of study by serious film students and equally worthy of viewing by discerning audiences.
—M.B. White, updated by Rob Edelman