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Can Dialectics Break Bricks?

René Viénet/Tu Guangqi (Keith Sanborn edit/subtitles) (US, 1995, Video, 01:22:19)

I stumbled upon Can Dialectics Break Bricks? while diving into the archive of films shown at IMPAKT before. Sometimes one comes across a movie that is a bit of a mystery. The search is no longer about the movie itself, but about its context. That story turned out to fit with the theme of this programme very well. So while it is impossible to show the (cut of the) movie that we screened at the festival (which was a five-minute version), there is an intriguing background story to be told.

Can Dialectics Break Bricks? is a 1973 movie by René Viénet in the vein of the situationist movement. For this movie Viénet took the visuals of The Crush (1972), made by Hong Kong filmmaker Tu Guangqi and dubbed it. The original movie told the story of an anti-colonialist revolt in Korea. Viénet’s dub (which is not a translation, but a form of détournement, completely changing the meaning) turned the film into a critique of capitalism and a metacommentary on the process of making movies.

The film caught the attention of American media artist and theorist Keith Sanborn. He wrote several notes about it and also made an English subtitled version of the film. Film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote an extensive essay about the movie’s complicated history, Viénet and the dubbing, the situationist movement and Sanborn’s translation called Dubbed and Dubber (CAN DIALECTICS BREAK BRICKS?).

The full movie (translated by Sanborn) can be watched here: Can Dialectics Break Bricks? (Full Version) – YouTube

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