Kinopraxis and Jean-Luc Godard at Berkeley: An Interview with Bertrand Augst

Jean-Luc Godard first visited the University of California Berkeley in 1968 with Two or Three Things I Know About Her and La Chinoise….Godard returned to Berkeley in 1970 with British Sounds, and this second visit coincided with the publication of the first (and only) issue of Kinopraxis, devoted exclusively to Godard.

Kinopraxis is a 16-page foldout which bears an unusual issue number, No. 0. [1] The foldout is also described as a “news & text broadside”, composed of a series of interviews and talks delivered by Godard in the three years prior to his second appearance at Berkeley. It was published “under a rubric dating to May ’68 – liberez l’expression” – and the publisher is identified as Jack Flash, who is also credited for the selection and translation of Godard’s texts.

Obviously a pseudonym, it was eventually made known that Jack Flash were David Deneger and Bertand Augst. Deneger, now deceased, was a Berkeley student at the time, and Augst was on staff in the Department of Comparative Literature. But what is perhaps not so well known is that Deneger and Augst had originally intended Kinopraxis to be a 38-page publication, rather than the 16-page foldout that appeared at the Berkeley screening of British Sounds in 1970. The original 38-page Kinopraxis is published here in full for the first time.

Screening the Past spoke with Bertrand Augst about how Kinopraxis came to be, the development of film studies at Berkeley and what was happening around the campus more generally. He also spoke at some length on one of his favourite films by Godard, Le Gai savoir(1968), a film he continues to research.

Augst is currently an Emeritus Professor (he retired from Berkley in 1991) and now lives in Alexandria, Virginia. Aside from teaching film, Augst was also co-founder and part of the editorial collective of the journals Camera Obscura and Discourse, to which he contributed translations of and articles on a number of significant works of film analysis by Christian Metz, Thierry Kuntzel, Jean-Louis Baudry and Raymond Bellour. [2] In 1992, he was made an Officier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication.

The following interview was conducted via email over the course of July and August in 2019.

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Can you recall why you and David Deneger decided on putting together Kinopraxis as a special issue on Godard?

David and I decided to do something for Godard’s visit because the Pacific Film Archive (PFA), which sponsored the event, didn’t have handouts, only monthly programs with brief summaries of the films shown. We spent a couple of hundred dollars to print Kinopraxis and use it a kind of program for the film screening. If I recall correctly it’s the one where Godard was pelted with fruit by a group of feminists. I think the film shown was British Sounds (1969) and it had some nudity. How shocking!

We knew that the PFA would do nothing as they had no money, and the screening was in the local high school because the Museum [Berkeley Art Museum aka BAM] wasn’t ready and, in any case, would not have been big enough. Still, because of the PFA we did get to see a number of interesting people. Langlois showed up in 1969 with L’Age d’or (Luis Bu–uel, 1930), still banned, under his arm. Tom Luddy, who was then the director of the PFA, brought Godard over. I even managed to have Godard teach a seminar. Those were the days!

I remember the first time [Godard came to Berkeley] and local avant-garde filmmakers were invited to show their films to Godard – and remember this was the golden age of American avant-garde. Not a good idea, I thought, but he was very careful not to offend anyone. Unusual for him.

You and David Deneger took the pseudonym of Jack Flash, which, we assume, was taken from the Rolling Stones number “Jumping Jack Flash”. Did you have a particular reason for publishing under that name? Was it to conceal your identities?

David may have had some personal reason to use Jack Flash. I had nothing to do with it. And no, we had no reason to conceal our identities. We liked Godard and I think with Kinopraxis we sort of tried to do something vaguely political and wanted to give some context to the public.

What’s interesting is that an article you referred us to, ‘Godard at Berkeley’, is authored by Lemmy Caution [3] , the character played by Eddie Constantine in Alphaville (1965).

It wasn’t me, although I was teaching Alphaville at the time.

Kinopraxis is called a broadside, which is a naval term for a volley of canons fired from one side of a warship. Did you and David mean to use the term in a similar way, as a kind of cannonade against the detractors of Godard? Or is broadside simply a common description in the US for a publication such as Kinopraxis?

I am sure the term broadside, which is frequent, and especially at the time when there were so many publications in Berkeley, came from the printer. There have always been a sizeable number of anarchists in Berkeley.

Tell us about David Deneger.

David was a student in French and in no hurry to graduate. He did his MA but, in any case, he was very busy being interested in popular music, the Rolling Stones, etc. He was also interested in classical music, and in film, of course, and anything avant-garde.

But his main fascination was Mallarmé’s poetry. He was very good with details, a bit too much for my taste, so we had many arguments about translation. He was very private, so I don’t know much about his background. All I know is that he came from Los Angeles. His day job, so to speak, when he lived in Berkeley, was as a mailman. He certainly wasn’t fit for academia; not very sociable and hated the university. He spent his time doing arcane research.

Why didn’t you and David print the entire 38 pages, or continue with Kinopraxis after that first issue?

I am sure we didn’t print all the pages because we didn’t want to have two or more sheets, which would have been unwieldy. Besides, we didn’t have enough money. Finding funds for Kinopraxis was a non-starter; that period of Godard was not very popular.

I was also very busy with my teaching load and supervising 60 teaching assistants – one of my departments put me in charge of the Lower Division. [4] But that was interesting because we wrote new textbooks to counter the popular approach then based on Monterey’s Army Language School, and the so called structural method; and then being involved in and working with the editors of both Camera Obscura and Discourse. At first I did more translation because I thought some of Raymond Bellour, Thierry Kuntzel and Christian Metz should be translated. And dealing with nine graduates who argued endlessly was enough for me, not to mention the University turmoil while developing new courses. We had been having what The New York Times called “a dome of heat”, so you don’t want to be out.

How did film studies develop at Berkeley? And can you describe your role in its development?

In the 1960s only one campus, University of California Los Angeles, had a film department, mostly for film production and film preservation, and they added a few courses on criticism and history. Needless to say, at UCB [University of California Berkeley] we took advantage of the chaos to create film courses in various departments, mostly Languages, English and Rhetoric. But we didn’t get a Major in Film approved by the college until 1975.

When I arrived in 1958 the PFA didn’t exist and neither did the Museum. I began to build the library, which had nothing. I always made sure I was on good terms with the library acquisitions person not only because we needed the basic texts, but also of course the current periodicals. In ’58 Berkeley was a college town with lots of retirees, and basically a science university, but the Free Speech Movement [5] changed things after ’64. It attracted weird people – anarchists, homeless.

Before the Free Speech Movement, there was no film at UCB. Then some of us began to teach courses underground with fake titles, off campus, in churches, in language labs, where we were gassed by the cops fighting with the students. Berkeley was a mess, even up until 1969. It’s still a mess now because of the yo-yos from Silicon Valley who forced a lot of people in San Francisco to leave. But back then my department left me alone and I could teach anything I wanted, so I began to teach avant-garde theatre and then film.

Since semiology was emerging with Christian Metz and his students, this is what I taught. But we had no budget in the department to rent films, or buy equipment like projectors, and so I depended heavily on the good will of the administrative assistants, and later on the PFA. Tom Luddy took over two little movie theatres from Pauline Kael when she moved to New York. I would help write critical notes for his programs in exchange for his lending me films for my classes. Without Sheldon Renan, Peter Selz and, of course, Tom Luddy, film studies in this country would be very different. [6] I depended a lot on the PFA…especially when the film program at Berkeley didn’t exist. I would like to thank Tom Luddy for his help, lending me films.

Then in 1972 I was appointed director of UCB’s Education Abroad Paris program, then a graduate program for future French teachers as a requirement for the M.A.T. [Master of Arts and Teaching]. The Paris program recruited students from the UC system, and from mid-west and western universities which were members of CIEE [Council on International Educational Exchange]. [7] Which is why it attracted good students. All of the courses had to be approved by each university senate; there was a committee that met once a year. It was abolished by the State, so I said either we go home or we do something else. Let’s start a film program! It was approved by the University of California senates and I was able to hire the best people in Paris, including Metz, and in the first year have special screenings at the Cinémathèque française of what we couldn’t see in the US. Since most students didn’t know French we had to create courses, but amiable to trends of the time. I needed to add psychoanalysis to Literature and History. Students were able to take classes in Paris III’s film courses [8] , and other university film programs with which we had a deal. They actually borrowed several of our courses. The Paris program had a big impact on graduate studies, although I have to say I never understood why my colleagues in the US were critical of French film theory or the so-called ‘continental theory’. They didn’t have anything else to offer. But when I went to Paris I saw Chantal Akerman’s films and films by many others, and later Tom Luddy helped bring them over to the PFA.

You’ve referred to Berkeley as being under “a dome of heat” and in a state of chaos. Can you paint a picture of what was happening at the time?

When I was first hired by UCB, it was very conservative, at least the Humanities and Social Sciences. But Berkeley has a long history of political activism, initially because of the research on the atomic bomb, and then there was the fairly recent McCarthy episode [9] with a number of professors fired because they refused to sign a piece of paper saying that they were not members of the Communist Party.

At the end of the ’50s, Clark Kerr was appointed president of what became a multi-university (nine campuses). Kerr had been previously Chancellor of the Berkeley campus. He told students that they were too apathetic politically regarding the Vietnam War and, of course, the civil rights demonstrations. They didn’t have to be told twice and began to organise demonstrations against various organisations and businesses in Oakland and San Francisco. Naturally, that didn’t go well with the elected officials and the Regents since the students were using the campus as a place to organise. The cops didn’t interfere up to that point. Then, in 1964, the students occupied several administrative buildings. The university called in the army and the National Guard to get them out of there. They arrested over 800 of them and sent them to a local jail. This was a clear provocation and triggered more demonstrations, which actually went on for months.

Mario Savio [10] became the leader as he was very articulate, and so the Free Speech Movement was born. Students demonstrated not only against the war and various forms of segregation, but very soon against the University itself, which had become too big and anonymous with some classes as large as 650 students per course. Students walked with an IBM card taped to their foreheads. The daily demonstrations continued for months. The University and the various departments began to try to deal with the students’ demands for reforms. Unfortunately many undesirables, non-students, what the French call casseurs, joined the demonstrations and would run through buildings and destroy whatever they could.

In 1968 I was appointed to a special committee intended to make curriculum changes, called BED [11] [Board of Educational Development], and we approved new kinds of classes and programs. We had our own budget. But we were not bold enough as we really had full power. We made a major mistake by allowing the leader of the Black Panthers in Oakland to teach a class. That brought the Governor, the Regents and a whole bunch of politicians on our back. But worse, it provided [Ronald] Reagan [12] with a way to use the University as a political football. And at about this same time there were demonstrations at Columbia University in New York.

Do you have a copy of the soundtrack for Le Gai savoir?

Not the soundtrack, why do you ask?

In the last couple of years I decided to update some of my old files and put them on, [13] and among the various projects I want to work on is Le Gai savoir because I think it is a terrific film and a sort of homage to Dziga Vertov. I have a translation of the so-called script. Originally I wanted to make frame enlargements as I did for Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1961), L’Age d’or, The Man With the Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929), Vampyr (Carl T. Dreyer, 1932), La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962) and a few others. [14] But I couldn’t get a good 16mm print. Of course a DVD version has been released since.

It seems to me that what makes Le Gai savoir difficult to analyse is that the image track and the soundtrack are almost autonomous, although the image track often illustrates the text. Since the soundtrack is so detailed one would need an editing table to match sound and image. Transcribing the soundtrack of Le Gai savoir takes time because of the format Godard used. Still, it would not be a shot description. Ideally a ‘transcription’ should be done as some interactive DVD. There is not a lot of work on it; I don’t think L’Avant-scéne cinema [15] published a script, which seems impossible.

Le Gai savoir raises again the issue of the relationship between sounds and images, one of Godard’s favourite topics. Years ago I thought it was interesting even without the image track because of all the issues they talk about while exploring a number of film techniques very different from TV editing, which alternate with the montage illustrating what they are talking about. I paraphrase the last statement from “The Voice” (Godard’s I assume):

“This film did not intend to explain cinema or even its object, but more modestly a few efficient ways to do it. This film is not the film to be made but how, if one has a film to make, one has to borrow some of the pathways used here.”

I am not aware that [a script] was ever published, probably because it was banned. French TV, which had commissioned Le Gai savoir, rejected it of course.

One of these days I’ll go to the Library of Congress, which is a pain to work with, to see if I can find J-LG’s ideas for workers on how to put together a ciné-tract. [16] I was thinking that material that could be related is Godard’s suggestions to edit short films for workers. Godard came a number of times to Berkeley but I don’t know what the PFA has collected. I have no idea if the University of California San Diego has anything, and I have no idea where [Jean-Pierre] Gorin is these days. He must be retired from San Diego. [17] That period is very messy; remember we were in the middle of a small revolution.

When we were first in touch we had no inkling of a much lengthier version of Kinopraxis. We also asked about copyright given that Kinopraxis is composed of extracts from other publications.

What a surprise when you did get in touch … I also thought that you should republish Kinopraxis, and I am glad you are doing this project. And when I was going through my files here, I didn’t find much about Godard but I found the original 38-page manuscript of Kinopraxis that was used to make the broadside.

Theoretically we own the copyright, but as Godard said, libérez l’expression!


[1] No. 0 was perhaps used by the editors of Kinopraxis to imply a kind of ground zero relative to the wave of student protests over the Vietnam War and the issue of civil rights that happened across US campuses at the time. Which often ended in violence instigated by state authorities (the infamous Kent State University massacre in Ohio happened in the week after Godard’s visit), and Berkeley was not immune. It’s worth noting that the screening of British Sounds at Berkeley (billed elsewhere in the US as See You at Mao) falls within a period that has come to be called Godard’s militant or Maoist period (1968-74), particularly with the establishment of the Dziga Vertov Group following the events of May ’68 in France. In that light, Deneger and Augst were also likely referencing an exchange between the characters Patricia Lumumba (Juliet Berto) and …mile Rousseau (Jean-Pierre Léaud) from Godard’s Le Gai savoir.

Patricia: “I want to learn, to teach myself, everyone, to turn back against the enemy that weapon with which it attacks us – language.”
ƒmile: “Yes, we have to start again from zero.”
Patricia: “No, before starting again, we have to go back to zero.”

[2] See, for example, “The Apparatus”, translation of Jean-Louis Baudry’s “Dispositif: Approaches métapyschologiques de l’impression de réalité”, in Camera Obscura No. 1, 1977; “Le Défilement: A View in Close-Up”, translation of Thierry Kuntzel’s “Le Défilement”, and Augst’s article “The Défilement into the Look”, in Camera Obscura No. 2, 1977; “Hitchcock, the Enunciator”, translation (with Hilary Radner) of Raymond Bellour’s “Hitchcock, l’énonciateur”, in Camera Obscura No. 2, 1977; the article “Metz’s Move” in Camera Obscura No. 7, 1981; and the article “The Order of / Cinematographic/ Discourse” in Discourse No. 1, 1979.

[3] Lemmy Caution, “Godard at Berkeley”, published in the Berkeley Barb on 1 May 1970. This article is an account (quite humorous in retrospect) of the Berkeley screening of British Sounds and the Q & A that followed. It describes the chaotic make-up of the event and the temperament of both Godard and the audience. Godard is at times referred to as “brother Godard”, “agent of the Sixth International”, or “chairman Godard”. It also briefly refers to Kinopraxis but mistakenly assumes that Jack Flash is Tom Luddy. Click here to read the article.

[4] The Lower Division was a program titled “Introduction to Film History” within UCB’s Comparative Literature Department, and was in two parts, Part I: The Silent Era and Part II: 1930 to the New Wave(s). It’s Upper Division was titled “Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism”, a program that also included film.

[5] The Free Speech Movement started in 1964 when UCB attempted to impose a ban on political activities happening on campus. UCB students protested the ban demanding their right to free speech and academic freedom, which led to a surge of student activism fuelled by the struggle for civil rights and rising opposition to the Vietnam War.

[6] Click here for an article by Lee Amazonas, “Guerrilla Cinematheque Comes of Age”, a history of the PFA and its role in the development of film studies at

[7] CIEE was formerly known as the Council on Student Travel (CST), an organisation founded in 1947 and dedicated to promoting peaceful co-existence and respect between nations by facilitating student and teacher exchange programs between the US and Europe.

[8] The New University of Sorbonne (aka Paris III) was established in 1970 when the University of Paris was reorganised into thirteen self-governing universities. In the reorganisation, Paris III was one of the universities to acquire the Faculty of Arts and Humanities from the University of Paris.

[9] Between 1950 and 1954, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy led a series of Senate investigations to weed out communist spies or subversives he claimed had infiltrated the US government, military, universities and other institutions. His anti-communist campaign was dubbed “McCarthyism” and basically employed character assassinations of left-wingers and liberals, or anyone merely suspected to have communist sympathies. McCarthy failed to bring a legitimate case against anyone, yet his persecutions drove several thousand people out of their jobs. By 1954 McCarthy was discredited by both Republicans and Democrats as his own investigations came under scrutiny as violations of civil liberties and thus unconstitutional.

[10] Mario Savio was a student at UCB and had participated in a number of civil rights demonstrations prior to becoming a key member of the Free Speech Movement. His most famous speech, the “Bodies Upon the Gears” address, delivered in front of UCB’s Sproul Hall on 2 December 1964, cemented his reputation as an icon of the anti-establishment movement of the 1960s. He died in 1996 at the age of 54.

[11] A seven-member interdepartmental committee created by the Regents of the University of California to initiate reforms on the Berkeley campus following the Free Speech Movement.

[12] Before Ronald Reagan was inaugurated in 1981 as the 40th President of the United States, he was twice elected Governor of California – first in 1966 and then again in 1971. One of Reagan’s promises in his 1966 election campaign was “to clean up the mess at Berkeley”, referring to the anti-war and anti-establishment demonstrations happening at UCB. One such demonstration, the People’s Park protest on 15 May 1969, was a peaceful rally against the university’s plans to turn the park into an athletic field. That day became known as “Bloody Thursday” after Reagan sent police to quash the protest, which left one student dead and almost 60 others injured when police used clubs, tear gas and birdshot against the demonstrators.

[13] Augst recently uploaded the following papers to “Jacques Rivette: Out 1, Translation of an Interview” (first published in La Nouvelle Critique No. 63, April 1973); the translation of Thierry Kuntzel’s “Le Défilement”; the article “Metz’s Move”; the article “No Longer a Shot in the Dark: Engineering a Robust Environment for Film Study (with Brian O’Connor, and first published in Computers and the Humanities No. 33, 1999); and the article “L’Age d’or Part 1″.

[14] At UCB, Augst helped design a teaching aid called Film-Text, a series of monographs that included detailed film analyses with shot-by-shot descriptions accompanied by frame enlargements of each shot.

[15] L’Avant-scéne cinéma is a monthly film publication started in 1961. Each issue is devoted to publishing the script (that is, detailed shot descriptions and dialogue transcribed verbatim after final cut) of a landmark film in the history of cinema. Also included are cast and crew credits, facsimile of the film’s poster, stills, and reviews that appeared at the time of the film’s release.

[16] Ciné-tracts literally translates as film-leaflet. In May-June 1968, Chris Marker initiated the production of ciné-tracts, a project for which Godard, Alain Resnais, Philippe Garrel and other filmmakers participated, collectively and un-credited. The ciné-tracts were generally shot on a single roll of 16mm black and white film, and were edited in camera and without sound. This approach allowed the films to be shot in one day and to be screened the next at student or worker assemblies, and thereby provide an alternative view of events to what was offered by traditional news outlets.

[17] Jean-Pierre Gorin, who was in attendance at the Berkeley event in 1970, met Godard in 1966 and two years later they formed the Dziga Vertov Group. Under the aegis of the Group, they made Pravda (1969), Vent d’est (1969), Luttes en Italie (1969), Jusqu’a la victoire(1970, unreleased) and Vladimir et Rosa (1971), and also co-directed Tout va bien (1972) and Letter to Jane (1972). In 1975, Gorin took up a teaching position with the Visual Arts Department of the University of California San Diego (UCSD), where he taught courses in film history, criticism, editing and scriptwriting. While at USCD, Gorin made the essay films Poto and Cabengo (1978), Routine Pleasures (1986), My Crasy Life (1991), and a feature-length video essay, Letter to Peter (1992). Gorin retired from UCSD in 2013.

About the Author

Bertrand Augst

About the Author

Bertrand Augst

Bertrand Augst is Emeritus Professor, University of California Berkley. He taught film at UCB from 1958 to 1991, during which he co-founded Camera Obscura and Discourse. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.View all posts by Bertrand Augst →