Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Film Studies

First Advisor

Rabinovitz, Lauren

First Committee Member

Galt, Rosalind

Second Committee Member

Durovicova, Natasa

Third Committee Member

Oesmann, Astrid

Fourth Committee Member

Lewis, Tom


This study examines the collaborative work of the filmmakers Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub (1962-2006) in respect to current and future formations of political avant-garde filmmaking. Throughout their joint career the Marxist filmmakers understood their work as part of an ongoing effort to participate in the class struggle, despite of an overall decline in faith regarding revolutionary politics. Straub-Huillet pursued this desire for radical, social and political change not simply on the level of filmic content, but rather by employing distinct cinematic practices. This study is, at the same time, an effort to combat the political inertia that affected film theory as part of larger disciplinary shifts in the humanities. In order to do so, I am engaging, first and foremost, in poststructuralist discourses that will be discussed on the basis of traditional forms of Marxist-oriented critical theories. Reason for this is an attempt to replace metaphysical paradigms with an aporetic structure that is affirmative of difference, rather than identity.

Based on the notion of an elective affinity Straub-Huillet's film adaptations challenged traditional forms of cinematic authorship and collaboration. Instead of simply referencing other authors, Straub-Huillet allow the author as an other to enter and intervene with the film-text. This creative relationship is as much characterized by an act of resistance that is maintained through an overt formal use of direct quotations. This introduces a principle of repetition and reproduction into the films that defines the couple's filmmaking process as a practice of creative labor. The textual figure of the border draws out further how this practice gives rise to new understandings of cinema in regard to nation, culture, and history. Figurations of ruins outline, in addition, how these issues pertain at once to necessity and the limits of representation. This points, in conclusion, to a central dilemma affecting all political film practices: the difficulty of reinventing images that are not already clichés or corporate entities. Straub-Huillet address this problem in a specific way; they aim at the production of an image that pertains to a (future) revolutionary event on the basis of an already existing classical genealogy.


vi, 209 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 197-209).


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Copyright © 2011 Claudia Pummer