Please note: The film will not be broadcast during the event, but will be available free to view on this page of our website from 17 – 26 September.
British filmmaker Humphrey Jennings died 70 years ago today. 80 years ago on 26 September Walter Benjamin died. Did they ever meet? Prolific film essayist Adam Kossoff considers this and much more besides in his imaginative film and conversation with acclaimed theorist Esther Leslie.
While British filmmaker Humphrey Jennings died 70 years ago today, 80 years ago, on 26 September, the German Marxist philosopher Walter Benjamin died. They both died tragically on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
On the eve of World War II, did Jennings make a film about the 1937 Paris Exposition? Benjamin seems to think so. Jennings, British filmmaker and Surrealist, and Benjamin, Marxist philosopher, were both in Paris in 1937, although their paths didn’t cross. But some years later they both meet on a cloud in the sky.
As Jennings and Benjamin watch the film of the Paris Exposition in slow motion their conversation (recorded by an anonymous scribe) is jousting and gossipy, exploring their similarities and their differences. Focused on their two great unfinished books, Jennings’s Pandaemonium and Benjamin’s The Arcades Project, they debate Modernism, Surrealism, progress, history, technology, capitalism as spectacle, and the consequences of a divided Europe.
Adam Kossoff is a filmmaker-artist and a Reader in the Moving Image at the University of Wolverhampton. Kossoff’s experimental and essayistic films have been shown at film festivals and galleries and are distributed by Lux and the BFI. His work explores the moving image as a form that situates us historically and spatially.
Professor Esther Leslie is a lecturer in English and Humanities at Birkbeck College, London. Leslie has research interests in Marxist theories of aesthetics and culture, with a particular focus on the work of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno. Other research interests include the poetics of science, the bleeding edge of technologies, European literary and visual modernism and avant gardes, animation, colour and madness, art philosophy and politics.
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