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when it was shown on PBS back in the 1970s?
Do you still have the tapes?
Is there a TIME LIFE logo at the end?
If so, please write to me. Thank you!

Click here to learn the story.


Ça ira, il fiume della rivolta


Lorenzo Nistri’s poster design
(Reproduced courtesy of the Painted Cinema)

After a wait of 33 long years I have finally been able to see this movie. It’s quite difficult to sum up. It uses an enormous amount of footage from other films, mostly newsreels, to make a point about civilization, namely, that civilization is based upon violence, and that we need to rethink everything if in the future we decide to be helpful rather than destructive. It opens with a space flight, with the narrator saying that it is easier for humans to go to the moon than to overcome injustice. That’s a sad statement, but arguably true. It accords with anthropologist Stanley Diamond’s assessment that “Civilization begins with conquest abroad and repression at home.” It accords with Oriani Fallaci’s statement that “Whether it comes from a despotic sovereign or an elected president, from a murderous general or a beloved leader, I see power as an inhuman and hateful phenomenon.... I have always looked on disobedience toward the oppressive as the only way to use the miracle of having been born.” And now that, after a 33-year-long wait, I have finally been able to watch this movie multiple times, I can at last understand why some critics reacted in their off-handed way, dismissing the movie’s arguments as simplistic, glib, pompous polemics. Their jobs depend upon maintaining the status quo, and to sing praises to arguments such as the ones this movie makes would jeopardize their positions. So they were required to misrepresent it as Communist bombast or as pro-revolutionary propaganda, even though the movie was exactly the opposite. The critics succeeded in their goal of discouraging people from attending. Some who tried to appear to be fair put on a show of being courteous while giving the movie backhanded compliments. Yes, it is true, as they said, that the movie’s arguments are simplistic: Violence is wrong. Killing is wrong. Murder is wrong. War is wrong. Political power is wrong. Obedience to authority is wrong. Those are simplistic arguments. And I agree with them wholeheartedly. I don’t think that in my entire life so far I have met even a dozen people who agree with any of those simplistic arguments. Almost everyone I have ever met would laugh off such statements as silly, facetious, and unrealistic.

I must say that this movie contains more harrowing images than I wish to count. The executions and mutilated corpses that fill half the running time can be too much for many people to take. What makes it even more disturbing is that it borrows Abel Gance’s editing style, which was a double-edged sword. The editing is so beautiful, enrapturing, compelling, exciting, and downright entertaining that we find ourselves enjoying it, even as the images that are being edited are of atrocities. It makes the film easier to watch, because it dilutes the horrific impact of the images, but it makes it harder to watch, because we feel guilty for enjoying the rhythms. I could not have handled this movie in my teens or twenties. I would have given up after a few minutes and then suffered years of nightmares. Now, though, I can take it. On a personal note, I may also say that this movie contains one particular image that has haunted me since 1983 when I first saw it reprinted in Salon Kitty. It is from Spain, it is surely a newsreel, and it occurred seemingly during the mass exile after the destruction of the International Brigade’s Knights of Zero. To my dying day I shall never forget this image, for it is heartbreaking:

This movie began while Tinto Brass was working on Roberto Rossellini’s Il Generale della Rovere. Rossellini had hired Tinto as an assistant director, but tempers on set were so volatile that Tinto offered instead to do research at the Cinémathèque Française to locate suitable archival footage for intercuts and optical backgrounds. He was surprised to discover that the Cinémathèque had a wealth of footage on numerous wars from 1900 on, most of it unknown and unseen. He approached producer Moris Ergas about making a feature on twentieth-century revolutions. Ergas agreed, and Brass hired the well-known Giancarlo Fusco to write the commentary. They finished the film, Ça ira, il fiume della rivolta (Ça ira, the River of Revolt) in 1962, but complications kept it on the shelf for years. While Ça ira was collecting dust, Brass made another film for Ergas, In capo al mondo (a.k.a. Chi lavora è perduto). After this and several other films, the way was cleared to screen Ça ira, which had already been booked for the first New York Film Festival even prior to its world-première screening at the Venice Film Festival on Sunday, 6 September 1964. It got a mixed but mostly positive reception. Let’s follow the scrambled story as best we can:

“Current Credits of Italo Directors,” Variety, Wednesday, 29 April 1964, p 82:

The New York Times (Friday, 28 August 1964, p 19):

The New York Times, Sunday, 30 August 1964, Drama p 7:

Vincent Canby, “Lincoln Center’s ‘Love Fest’: Industry Roots N.Y. Conclave,” Variety, Wednesday, 2 September 1964, pp 3, 16:

Variety, Wednesday, 16 September 1964, p 22:

(I’m compelled to say that “Hawk” was probably too overwhelmed by the ferocious images to pay sufficient attention to the commentary. There is no attempt to justify any violence. To explain, yes, but never to justify. Ça ira is clearly opposed to all violence, whether from the right or from the left or from any faction. The new government is inevitably a Xerox copy of the old, utilizing the same brutality all over again. That’s the point of the movie. You’re probably wondering what “w.k. pix” means, yes? It’s typical Variety slang that means — hold your breath — “well-known motion pictures.”)

The New York Times (Sunday, 20 September 1964, p X11):

The New York Times (Tuesday, 22 September 1964, p 45):

“Venice 1964,” Films in Review, October 1964, p 462:

September 6. This was supposed to be a “day of rest” — there are no official screenings — but by eleven this morning an enormous crowd had queued in front of one of the Lido’s shoddier cinemas to see a feature-length documentary by the would-be Italian avantgardist, Tinto Bras, called Ca ira, il Fiume della Rivolta (River of Revolt).
   It is a skillful assemblage of newsreel and other stock footage, and clips from fiction films (e.g., Eisenstein’s), about the revolutions of the last 250 years. Some of the footage has not often been seen, and some of it is quite interesting. But the end result is spoiled by pro-Communist bias, excessive length, and a facetious commentary.

(A “pro-Communist bias”? Where? Anyway, despite frequent claims, Ça ira is anything but a documentary. It uses archival footage, but that doesn’t make it a documentary at all. It’s an editorial. When you see it, you’ll know what I mean.)

Daily Variety, Tuesday, 6 October 1964, p. 6:

“Inside Stuff — Pictures,” Variety, Wednesday, 14 October 1964, p 15:

Esquire (February 1965):
Ça Ira (Tinto Brass) : this two-hour mélange of stills, newsreel clips and excerpts from movies by Eisenstein and others was subtitled when I saw it last fall in Venice, “Il Fiume della Rivolta,” and it pretends to be a documentary about revolutions. In fact it is a sensationalistic exploitation of Congo massacres, Chinese butcheries, Algerian tortures, Nazi death camps, Latin-American executions and other horrors of our century, all botched together with a few stabs at arty montage and all very tedious unless one is a necrophile. The Mondo Cane of revolution.

The movie seems finally to have been released in Italy on 3 December 1964, maybe with some censor cuts, but I’m not sure. I have not seen the boxoffice figures, but I am led to understand that it earned its money back and made a small profit. It played at only a few venues, as far as I know, and only briefly. This was clearly a source of deep frustration for Tinto. I suspect that of all his films, this is probably his favorite. And yet almost nobody ever saw it. In later films he would re-use clips from Ça ira, as if he were desperate for audiences to see at least little glimpses of it. Ça ira is the defining work in Tinto’s opus. It is his strongest and most vociferous statement in favor of personal freedom and against all authority figures. Every film he would make afterwards would use the sentiments of this first feature as a foundation, and that includes even his silliest and fluffiest sex comedies, which he made partly for the money, partly to reach a broader audience, and partly as an erotic antidote to instinctual violence. Nowadays Ça ira is occasionally broadcast on Italian television. Next time it airs, please record it for me and I’ll buy it from you! Thanks! (The copy I found on the Internet is very low quality. I’d like something at a higher resolution.)

The story gets even more interesting in 1969 :

Variety, 26 March 1969, p 35:

Variety, 10 September 1969, p 6:

“New York Sound Track,” Variety (weekly, 16 September 1970):

This calls for some comment. Altura was an independent New York-based film distributor founded by Clem Perry, who had been enamored of Brass’s film. Perry himself was an interesting character, who had released numerous foreign films, notably those of Luis Buñuél, but only after modifying them for American tastes. A friend of his emailed me and said that what many critics praised as Buñuél’s distinctive artistry was actually the work of Perry.

Though the proposed US title was Tell It Like Is Is, it was released as Thermidor. It was a slightly modified edition of the movie. The narration was translated into English, with only the smallest changes here and there. Normally I resent it when producers and distributors modify movies (an exception to that rule, of course, is what Woody Allen did with International Secret Police: Key of Keys, which he converted into What’s Up, Tiger Lily? — which I understand has been considerably sanitized in recent years, unfortunately). But I think I’d make an exception for Thermidor. Clem Perry put a lot of love into making a US version. Tinto is apparently not impressed with it, but I don’t think he’s upset either. Anyway, just look at the folks who participated in making it: French novelist/playwright Ursule Molinaro, professor of Italian literature Letizia Brod, poet and New York Quarterly founder William Packard, publisher/reviewer/translator Harold Salemson, actor/director Ben Gazzara, actor/co-founder of the American Place Theater Michael Tolan, prominent stage actress Irene Worth, and actor/director/professor Al Freeman Jr. This is not a typical producer/distributor’s botched rescue job. There are a few other names in the credits too. For instance, Bernard Sznycer must be the Bernard W. Sznycer who translated a Chekhoff play. He was the husband of musical performer Katharine Sergava. There’s also Lou Burdi. I couldn’t learn anything about him for the longest time, but now his credits are on IMDb. He did sound effects for the US-release editions of the softcore Greek Hot Month of August and Cambist’s chopped-down sexed-up version of The Minx. His later movies seem all to be sex stuff. Very strange. Well, it’s a job, I guess, and it pays, I hope. If you want to judge him on it, well, think a moment: Do you like your job? Do you want people to judge you by your job?

Interestingly, Thermidor was possibly the only one of Brass’s films that the Catholic Church ever praised, calling it “a powerful message on the side of peace” (Catholic Film Newsletter 36, no. 17, 15 September 1971, p 86).

Thermidor premièred on 24 August 1971 at the 5th Avenue Cinema in Manhattan, and the advertisement was never more detailed than the one below. As you will see, it played at a Rugoff cinema, surely because Clem Perry was a Rugoff executive. It played for only one week and I know of no other commerical venues that presented it, ever. As with the original version, this new edition also received mixed comments.

The New York Times (Wednesday, 25 August 1971, p 45):

Cue (28 August 1971):
THERMIDOR (Altura) At the Fifth Avenue Cinema. Care to take a look at the devastation man has wrought in the 20th century? I find historical film clips fascinating even when they turn my stomach. Tinto Brass created a documentary in Italy stressing the unremitting violence of the last 70 years, and Clem Perry has produced an American version. You can watch history speed by, punctuated by executions, wars, extermination, assassinations, and atomic bombing. You may find brighter horizons at seeing Man shake his environment by landing on the moon. The narration is a glib, pompous concoction of commentary and poetry. Ben Gazzara, Irene Worth, Al Freeman, Jr., and Michael Tolan try to make it come to life, but the talk, straining to be profound, is merely precious. However, the sights and sounds are there, and so are the people — Villa, Rosa Luxemberg [sic], Franco, Hitler, Roosevelt, Einstein, Mao, et al. Thermidor is an intriguing cauldron of the world’s preoccupation with destruction.

It’s amazing that Thermidor was so instantly forgotten, considering who narrated it!

As we can see from the credit listing, Altura was associated with Fleetwood Films:

Film Facts (1971, p 515):

Altura has long been defunct, but its associated company, Fleetwood Films, which took presentation credit, was owned by Crowell Collier and Macmillan, as we learn from this article:

The New York Times (Monday, 15 July 1968, p 45):

Hence the license for Thermidor went to Macmillan/Audio-Brandon:

A photocopy of a page from an undated Macmillan/Audio-Brandon 16mm Film Catalogue:

A page from the 1978/1979 Audio-Brandon 16mm Film Catalogue:

When Macmillan/Audio-Brandon closed shop, its library went to Films Incorporated (5547 N Ravenswood Ave, Chicago IL 60640; defunct URL: http://www.publicmedia.com/fientertainment/index.html):

This is one of those invaluable resources that would bore the skin off your teeth: James L. Limbacher, compiler, Feature Films: A Directory of Feature Films on 16mm and Videotape Available for Rental, Sale, and Lease, 8th ed (New York &: London: R R Bowker Company, 1985):

In 1997 Films Inc got out of the film business and switched exclusively to video, and all of its remaining film materials went to Kit Parker, but by that time Films Inc no longer retained its license to Thermidor. (Kit Parker shortly afterwards likewise abandoned film in favor of video, and many of the remaining prints ended up at the New York Public Library, where, last I heard, the massive job of cataloguing the collection had years yet to go.)

What must have happened is that the film was never even once rented to anybody. The prints were discarded or misplaced, and the listings continued only because the proofreaders never caught the discrepancy. Once the US license expired, whenever that was, and it could have been any time between 1972 and 1997, all the known materials were packed up back to Italy. But where in Italy?

We are offering a bounty for a good video of Thermidor. If you know where we can get one, or if you know where the prints and/or materials are located, write to us. Thanks!

Incidentally, clips from Ça ira are included in several subsequent Brass films: In capo al mondo, Il tempo lavorativo and Il tempo libero, NEROSUBIANCO, L’urlo, and Salon Kitty.

GIANCARLO FUSCO, the noted author and boxer, wrote the commentary for the film. He and Brass would team up five more times over the next 17 years. Once their collaborations ended, Brass’s films would never be the same again.

Once upon a time, a site called Il pacifico, located at http://www.memoriale.com/1974mem.htm, posted this photo of Giancarlo Fusco, who looks rather like a certain American president, yes? But I don’t think this is our Giancarlo Fusco. (If you know who this really is, and/or if you know who owns the rights to this photo, please contact me. Thanks!)

On the other hand, I think this is truly the Giancarlo Fusco in question.
The unreleased soundtrack LP, RCA SP 8004.
It seems that only a few were pressed for a select few VIPs. Nonetheless, tracks from this LP reappeared on other LPs, as we can see from this interesting web site: http://masasaruyoppitako.web.infoseek.co.jp/RCA_SP10000.html.

Modern History Sourcebook

Here’s “La ninna nanna de la guerra” sung by Edmonda Aldini (I have trouble enough with standard Italian; this is, I presume, the Roman dialect, which makes my head spin):

Ninna nanna, pija sonno
ché se dormi nun vedrai
tante infamie e tanti guai
che succedeno ner monno
fra le spade e li fucili
de li popoli civili
de la gente che se scanna
per un matto che commanna;

che se scanna e che s’ammazza
a vantaggio de la razza
e a profitto de una fede
per un Dio che nun se vede,
ma che serve da riparo
ar Sovrano macellaro.
Ché quer covo dassassini
che c’insanguina la terra
sa benone che la guerra
è un gran giro de quatrini
che prepara le risorse
pe li ladri de le Borse.

Fa la ninna, cocco bello,
finché dura sto macello:
fa la ninna, ché domani
rivedremo li sovrani
che se scambieno la stima
boni amichi come prima.
So cuggini e fra parenti
nun se fanno comprimenti:
torneranno più cordiali
li rapporti personali.

E riuniti fra de loro
senza l’ombra del rimorso,
ce faranno un bel discorso
su la Pace e sul Lavoro
pe quer popolo cojone
risparmiato dar cannone!
Sleep my little one and I will sleep
and then we will not see
all the evil and the violence
that is sweeping across our world
Sharp cold bayonets on rifles
which civilised people stick
into their choking victims
at the whim of their mad leaders

Those who choke and those who kill
have sold out on their rich past
they profit from a blind fate
a god whom no one sees
why try to fight back
why try to resist
what these assassins are doing
spilling our blood on our soil
Everyone knows that war
is a game played with money
all our precious possessions
are wasted by these pickpockets

Be still my little one
while all this killing goes on
be still and we may wake
to a saner world tomorrow
And if things get better
and we still have our friends
among cousins and parents
one can always be kind
Then everything will be happier
friendships will be warmer

There will be love among people
there will be no more sadness
That is a good plan for life
to live in peace and decent work
and as for the evil leaders
we will take away their guns

Marcel Mouloudji’s adaptation of Boris Vian’s lyrics of Arthur Rimbaud’s poem,
“Le déserteur” with music by Harold Berg (1954):
Messieurs qu’on nomme Grands
Je vous fais une lettre
Que vous lirez peut-être
Si vous avez le temps
You men with great names!
This is a letter
That maybe you will read
If you can spare the time.
Signori dai grandi nomi
Vi scrivo una lettera
Che forse leggerete
Se ne avrete il tempo
You men with great names!
this is a letter
to you which maybe you will read
If you can spare the time.
Je viens de recevoir
Mes papiers militaires
Pour aller à la guerre
Avant mercredi soir
I’ve just received
My call-up papers
To leave for the front
Before Wednesday night.
Messieurs qu’on nomme Grands
Je ne veux pas la faire
Je ne suis pas sur terre
Pour tuer des pauvres gens
You men with great names!
I do not want to go
I am not on this earth
To kill poor people.
C’est pas pour vous fâcher
Il faut que je vous dise
Les guerres sont des bêtises
Le monde en a assez
I do not wish to offend you,
But I must tell you
Your wars are criminal
And the world has had enough.
Non per offendervi
ma bisogna che vi dica
La guerre son bestialità
il mondo ne ha abbastanza
I do not wish to offend you,
but I must tell you
your wars are criminal
and the world has had enough.
Depuis que je suis né
J’ai vu mourir des pères
J’ai vu partir des frères
Et pleurer des enfants
Since I was born
I have seen brothers die,
I have seen fathers leave,
I have seen children cry.
Da quando sono nato
ho visto morire dei fratelli
ho visto partire dei padri
e piangere dei bambini
Since I was born
I have seen some brothers die,
I have seen some fathers live [sic],
I have seen some children cry —
Des mères ont tant souffert
Et d’autres se gobergent
Et vivent à leur aise
Malgré la boue le sang
Mothers have suffered so much
And others are mocking
And living at ease
Despite the mud the blood
Il y a des prisonniers
On a vole leur âme
On a vole leur femme
Et tout leur cher passé
There are prisoners
We steal their souls
We steal their wives
And all their cherished past
Ci sono i prigionieri
son state rubate le loro anime
son state rubate le loro donne
e tutto il loro caro passato
and I have seen the prisoners,
you have taken away their souls,
you have taken away their women,
you have taken away their birthright.
Demain de bon matin
Je fermerai ma porte
Au nez des années mortes
J’irai par les chemins
Tomorrow at daybreak
I will lock my door.
In the face of the dead years.
I will go onto the roads.
Domani di primo mattino
chiuderò la mia porta
siamo delle anime morte
e me ne andrò per le strade
Tomorrow at daybreak
I will lock my door.
Our souls are all dead.
I will go out onto the roads
Je mendirai ma vie
Sur la terre et sur l’onde
Du Vieux au Nouveau Monde
Et je dirai aux gens:
I shall beg for the rest of my life,
Through the earth and over the waves,
From the old world to the new,
And I will tell all the people
Mendicherò la mia vita
Sulla terra e sulle onde
dal vecchio al nuovo mondo
e dirò alla gente
and beg for the rest of my life,
through the earth and over the waves,
from the old to the new world,
and I will tell all the people
Profitez de la vie
Éloignez la misère
Nous sommes tous des frères
Gens de tous les pays
Enjoy Life
Stay away from misery
We are all brothers
People from all countries
approfiattate delle vite
allontanate la miseria
siamo tutti dei fratelli
genti di tutti i paesi

you are destroying their lives,
we are all of us brothers,
the people of all countries.
S’il faut verser le sang
Allez verser le vôtre
Messieurs les bon apôtres
Messieurs qu’on nomme Grands
If someone has to shed his blood,
Why don’t you shed yours —
Yes, all you great good apostles,
Yes, all you men with great names.
Se bisogna versare il sangue
andate a versare il vostro
signori buoni apostoli
signori dai grandi nomi
If someone has to shed his blood,
why don’t you shed yours —
yes, all you great good apostles,
yes, all you men with great names.
Si vous me poursuivez
Prévenez vos gendarmes
Que je n’aurai pas d’armes
Et qu’ils pourront tirer
Et qu’ils pourront tirer...
And if you chase me,
Tell all your policemen
That I do not have any weapons,
And so they can shoot me,
And so they can shoot me.
se voi mi inseguite
avvisate il vostri gendarmi
che io non avrò armi
e che essi potranno spararmi
e che essi potranno spararmi
And if you chase me,
tell all your policemen
that I do not have any weapons,
and so they can kill me,
and so they can kill me.

There are several other archival songs included, such as “The Rising of the Moon,” and “Giovinezza,” but I can’t find the particular recordings used in the movie. The recording of “Inno dei giovanni fascisti” is on the Internet, though. There’s also a Spanish fandango that I haven’t a clue how to identify. Ditto for other archival recordings, such as a nationalist hymn that seems to be Spanish and another that seems to be Spanish Communist. Okay, call me a dunce, but I really don’t recognize them, except, of course, for “Le chant des partisans.”

DVD probably not forthcoming from

The announcement was quietly made at Forum Raro Video — Tinto Brass “d’Epoca”

ANICA — Associazione Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche Audiovisive e Multimediali

Ça ira, il fiume della rivolta

Completed in 1962
World première Sunday, 6 September 1964, out of competition at the Venice Film Festival
Italian release scheduled for Thursday, 3 December 1964
Distributed by Dear-Fox

Claimed running time of Venice Film Festival version: 110 minutes
Claimed length of version approved by ANICA on Tuesday, 15 September 1964: 2,652m = 8,700'+13frames = 96min41sec (censor visa # 43676)
Claimed running time of release version: 94 minutes
Confirmed running time of TV version: 92 ½ minutes (24fps) or 89 minutes (25fps),
but it begins and ends abruptly, indicating that it was at least several seconds longer originally;
the TV version is also missing the part titles (FINE PRIMA TEMPO and SECONDO TEMPO),
which would have occupied another ten seconds or so

Needs to be shown at 1:1.375, but the Italian subtitles for the non-Italian portions were high enough that they would fit at a 1:1.85 crop.
So I strongly suspect that this film was always and only shown at 1:1.85 at cinemas, which would have been disastrous, to say the least.
I wouldn’t even be surprised if the prints came with instructions to the projectionists to run it at 1:1.85.
Does anybody know for sure? If you do, please contact me. Thanks!

You know, people get so mad at me — fuming, shouting, screaming mad — when I gripe about cropping. They have no idea what I’m talking about, they don’t see anything wrong, and they just want me to shut up already, for crying out loud. Cinema owners and managers evict me from their establishments when I mention the problem, and they threaten to call the police. Well, okay, once and for all, observe the table below. The original film image is on the left, and the result when shown at “widescreen” at a cinema is on the right. Look at it, and if you still don’t see anything wrong, please never talk to me as long as you live:

Directed and edited by Tinto Brass (26 Mar 1933 –         )
Commentary by Giancarlo Fusco (18 Jun 1915 – 17 Sep 1984)
Produced by Moris Ergas (10 Jul 1922 – 8 Feb 1995) for
Debora Film and Zebra Film
Music Romolo Grano (14 Aug 1929 –         )
Research Carla Cipriani (30 Mar 1930 – 11 Aug 2006)
Assistant director Franco [“Kim”] Arcalli (18 Jul 1929 – 24 Feb 1978)
Assistant editor Nadia Bonifazi (???? – ????)
Narrators Sandra Milo (producer Ergas’s mistress at the time — if you want to increase your movie’s chances of success, you must hire the producer’s mistress, always) (11 Mar 1935 –         )
Tino Buazzelli (13 Sep 1922 – 20 Oct 1980)
Enrico Maria Salerno (18 Sep 1926 – 28 Feb 1924)
Poems read by Paul Éluard (14 Dec 1895  –  18 Nov 1952)
Archival recordings of Edith Piaf (19 Dec 1915 – 11 Oct 1963)
Edmonda Aldini (15 Mar 1934 –         )

Though I have never seen the US version, I have learned some things about it, and these are the most significant differences between the Italian TV version and the US version that I know about:

• The US edition has an added prologue, in which Marianne Moore’s poem “In Distrust of Merits” is spoken. I don’t know if any visuals accompanied this, or if it was done against a blank screen.

• The struck verses below are deleted from the US version:


On my exercise book
On my desk and the trees
On the sand on the snow
I write your name

On all the pages read
On all the white pages
Stone blood paper or ash
I write your name

On the golden images
On the warriors’ arms
On the kings’ crown
I write your name

On the jungle and the desert
On the nest on the broom
On the echo of my childhood
I write your name

On the wonders of the nights
On the white bread of the days
On the seasons engaged
I write your name

On all my rags of azure
On the pond mildewed sun
On the lake live moon
I write your name

On the fields on the horizon
On the wings of the birds
And on the mill of the shadows
I write your name

On every puff of dawn
On the sea on the boats
On the mad mountain
I write your name

On the moss of the clouds
On the sweat of the storm
On the rain thick and tasteless
I write your name

On the paths awakened
On the roads spread out
On the squares that overflow
I write your name

On the scintillating figure
On the bells of the colors
On the physical truth
I write your name

On the paths awake
On the roads unfurled
On the squares overflowing
I write your name

On the lamp that lights
On the lamp that goes out
On my houses reunited
I write your name

On the fruit cut in halves
Of the mirror and of my room
On my empty shell bed
I write your name

On my dog greedy and gentle
On his ears cocked
On his clumsy paw
I write your name

On the springboard of my door
On the familiar objects
On the flood of the blessed fire
I write your name

On any granted flesh
On my friends’ brow
On every hand held out
I write your name

On the window of the surprises
On the attentive lips
Well above the silence
I write your name

On my destroyed refuges
On my collapsed lighthouses
On the walls of my boredom
I write your name

On the absence without desire
On naked solitude
On the steps of death
I write your name

On health returned
On the risk disappeared
On hope without memory
I write your name

And by the power of a word
I recommence my life
I am born to know you
To name you...


• Beginning at about 1:03 (video speed) or 1:06 (cinema speed) an archival recording of a Jewish lament about the extermination camps is replaced (or overlaid?) by William Packard’s poem, “The Warsaw Ghetto.” (If you can identify the original lament, please write to me. Thanks!)

• A few phrases of the final lines of commentary are altered. “Free even physiologically” is changed to “Free even psychologically.” The following verse is shortened, as per the strike-through:

Science travels relative but infinite roads.
Which go from the visible to the invisible.
They rise up from the guts of man.
From the heart.
They rise up from the red blood globules,
they rise up from the cells.

   To compensate for the loss, a superimposed title is added at the end:


• The end credits are no longer white letters against a black background, but are instead against a split-screen montage. Or, possibly, they are on a neutral background, while a montage occupies the other half of the screen.

• There seems to be an epilogue, possibly during the closing credits, or possibly afterwards, consisting of brief quotations from Ralph Waldo Emerson, John B. Watson, Aristotle, H.G. Wells, Benjamin Franklin, and Booker T. Washington.

Clem Perry and Fleetwood Films present


Distributed by Altura Films International, Inc.
Released on Tuesday, 24 August 1971
Claimed running time that I entirely fail to believe: 97 minutes

English adaptation and postproduction Clem Perry and Fleetwood Films
English translation Ursule Molinaro (18 Apr 1916 – 10 Jul 2000)
Text contributors Letizia Brod (1916 – 4 Sep 2006)
William Packard (2 Sep 1933 – 3 Nov 2002)
Jean-Paul Renoir
Harold Jason Salemson (30 Sep 1910 – 25 Aug 1988)
Bernard Sznycer (1904 – 1970)
Poems The Warsaw Ghetto” by William Packard (2 Sep 1933 – 3 Nov 2002)
In Distrust of Merits” by Marianne Moore (15 Nov 1887 – 5 Feb 1972)
Editor Lou Burdi
Narrators Ben Gazzara (28 Aug 1930 – 3 Feb 2012),
Michael Tolan (17 Nov 1925 – 31 Jan 2011),
Irene Worth (23 Jun 1916 – 9 Mar 2002),
Al Freeman, Jr. (21 Mar 1934 – 9 Aug 2012)

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