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The Construction of Testimony: Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah and Its Outtakes (Contemporary Approaches to Film and Media Series) Paperback – Illustrated, April 21, 2020

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Editorial Reviews


There were some 220 hours of 'outtakes' that never made it into the 9 1/2 hours of Lanzmann's monumental film. Lanzmann stated that he was tempted to destroy this filmic material because such a drastic gesture 'would prove that Shoah is not a documentary.' This was a bizarre tribute to 'art' along with the supposed control over it by the 'auteur.' It was also an insistence on a misleading binary logic that obscured the documentary and referential dimensions along with the role of many co-makers (notably, women and disparaged Polish interlocutors), as well as the nature of Lanzmann's and his chief editor Ziva Postec's own at times problematic and extensive editing of a film that disclosed much to its viewers about the genocidal effort of the Nazis and its effects on victims and survivors. The archive of what the editors aptly term the 'not-yet-edited' and the 'never-to-be-edited' raises important questions about the bases of Lanzmann's decisions as well as his preferred method of eliciting or provoking traumatic reenactment. Readers may of course disagree about which contributions display the most critical insight, but they are all worth careful study and reveal how the film was not simply Lanzmann's but the product of many human, sometimes all-too-human hands. Construction of Testimony is an extremely valuable book that does not undermine the status of, but does critically analyze and situate dialogically an 'iconic' film whose artistry is evident but whose paths not taken may still stimulate both aesthetic and historical inquiry for its viewers and commentators. (Dominick LaCapra author of Understanding Others: Peoples, Animals, Pasts 2020-02-05)

This superb anthology offers provocative new insights into Claude Lanzmann's pioneering testimonial project. The authors' close studies of the Shoah outtakes provide revelations on nearly every page of their complex, lucidly argued, at times incisively critical essays. Any future assessments of Lanzmann's achievement will depend on this essential collection. (Stuart Liebman editor of Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah: Key Essays and professor emeritus of film studies, CUNY Graduate Center 2020-02-05)

Viewers of Lanzmann's Shoah will find these sharp analyses of its outtakes illuminating, revelatory, and necessary for a re-evaluation of the film, of its director, and of the work of witness testimony more broadly. This book signals a new phase in the visual history of the Holocaust. (Marianne Hirsch author of The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust 2020-02-05)

Until the publication of The Construction of Testimony we couldn't have known that Lanzmann's monumental nine-and-a-half-hour film is but the tip of the iceberg. Readers can for the first time learn about the 220 additional hours of footage shot and the films Lanzmann made from them. The book shows that the very notion of 'outtake' for a documentary opus such as Shoah is a misnomer; more accurately these 220 hours, now held by the National Holocaust Memorial Museum, constitute the 'not yet used.' This is an indispensable book for all those who watch, teach, or hope to comprehend Lanzmann's landmark achievement. (Michael Renov Haskell Wexler Chair in Documentary at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and author of The Subject of Documentary 2020-02-05)

[This] incisive analy[sis] of the outtakes do much more than to give us insights into the changing goals, complex choices, and momentous omissions that determine this landmark film. [ . . . ] [It] carefully demonstrate, the outtakes contest the vision of the Holocaust, of testimony, and of the act of witness that Shoah, through these and other iconic moments, has been influential in shaping over the last 35 years. (Marianne Hirsch Los Angeles Review of Books 2020-05-22)

Book Description

Groundbreaking analyses of the vast archive of newly digitized and released outtakes from Lanzmann's masterwork.

Product details

  • Item Weight : 1.47 pounds
  • Paperback : 504 pages
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0814347348
  • Product dimensions : 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Publisher : Wayne State University Press; Illustrated edition (April 21, 2020)
  • Language: : English

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