The untranslatable French title is a play on words suggesting that revolution was in the air but not on the ground. The English title, "A Grin without a Cat", has a similar meaning. Director Chris Marker has given it the subtitle "Scenes from the Third World War 1967-1977". See more »
This is a film montage, a sweeping documentary of the political movements and personages in the 1960's and 1970's, a stirring and engrossing narrative of those turbulent times. Many of the faces and persons in this film will be unfamiliar to American viewers. This should not be a deterrent to purchasing and viewing this documentary. The film documents events of a very important time politically and socially. 1968 represented the fulcrum of when the post-WWII structure crumbled and fell apart. New political alliances were being made, and many of the post-WWII leaders -- de Gaulle, Nixon, Mao -- either fell from grace or were on the downward path. On one side were the new generation of students, on the other were the establishment political leaders. The urgency of the student leaders are clearly apparent in the film, as is the paralysis of the Old Guard. Stuck in the middle is the working class, divided to whom they should support. In this respect, it does not matter that the student revolts are given a French perspective. The dilemma faced by the world at that time was truly universal.
Chris March -- who passed away recently in July 2012 -- allows the newsreels and the events and persons in the footage speak more or less for themselves. March adopts the approach taken in an earlier film about the Senate McCarthy Hearings of letting the newsreels tell the story. Here, while there is narrative it is kept to a minimum. The effect is dramatic.
The film is long, 180 minutes, but the viewer will not notice the time passing. The film is divided into two parts. Part I is entitled, "The Fragile Hands." It contains archival images from the following: 1. Che Guevara, including interviews from American operatives responsible for assisting the Bolivian government to track and kill Che and his followers.
2. Student demonstrations from Paris, London, Germany, the United States (including images from the Columbia University student demonstrations), but primarily French civil unrest; 3. Vietnam (definitely unembedded); 4. Chicago Democratic Convention demonstrations.
These events are intermixed with the passionate political debate and commentary from French intellectuals, political leaders, and working class members.
The historical figures depicted include momentary images of Salvador Allende; Pinochet; the Shah of Iran; Rudi Dutschke, a leader in the German student movement; Daniel Cohn-Bendit; and Fidel Castro.
Part II is entitled "The Severed Hands." It contains archival footage of the following events: 1. The Russian invasion of Prague. The prominent features of this treatment are the poignant images of young Prague students pleading with their equally young Soviet soldiers to leave the city and a filmed statement of Fidel Castro, who, while giving lip service to his political support of the invasion followed with a vehement denunciation of the illegality of the act.
2. The Mexican Student riots of 1968.
3. The Olympics, Mexico, 1968.
4. China, the Cultural Revolution.
5. The Watergate Hearings.
6. The 1967 March on the Pentagon and subsequent police riot.
7. Paris Student street demonstrations of May 1977.
The historical figures shown include Salvador Allende (prolonged footage of his speeches); Richard Nixon; Jacques Mitterand; George Pompidou; Fidel Castro; For those unfamiliar with the faces and events, this film should be considered a historical document, an accurate recordation of political events from across the world.
While there were cultural differences, the revolutionary furvor, both in Continental Europe was the same and very evident in this film.
For those who lived during those times or in those events, it will doubtless bring back memories. In either case, it is required viewing.
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