Armand Schulthess - J'ai le téléphone
CH 1974 53'
When Armand Schulthess died in 1972, almost his entire gesamtkunstwerk (Harald Szeemann) was destroyed. The film takes one last view of the extraordinary universe Schulthess created in a forest of chestnut trees, in his house and in the books he made about sexuality and astrology. This wilful Art Brut artist was also an astrologist, a natural scientist and a philosopher: Do you mull over how things are and what will happen?
"Although it concerns the life and work of an extreme individualist, the eccentric Armand Schulthess, Hans-Ulrich Schlumpf has suceeded in transposing an individual apparition into general - indeed into the historical - without forced interpretations and programmatic compulsion... Of the five most important documentary films in recent times presented here, ARMAND SCHULTHESS probably embodies most palpaply the accomplishments of the avantgarde film. The method of the film corresponds almost imperceptibly to the methods of Armand Schulthess."
Martin Schaub, TAGES-ANZEIGER, 8.2.74
"The film of Hans-Ulrich Schlumpf about, or to be more precise regarding Alfred Fernand Armand Schulthess does not mirror, as does a documentary in the conventional sense, facts; it does not document but is a document, a fact that fuses with the facts described, embodies them, attributes to them and is to be ascribed to them. From the first moment of its creation, the film was an inalienable primary Schulthessianum. A rare stroke of luck in non-fiction films, in the media, that functions as a real capital fund of memory, not only describing the past but preserving it.
Schlumpf does not portray Schulthess but brings him to life. What was filmed was not public - was indeed the opposite of public - something that Schulthess kept for himself and which, through and for those who survived him has disappeared from consciousness, memory and usage.
That is what would happen with Schulthess today, were Schlumpf's film to be lost, or had it never been made: it would be as though the man had never existed, as though along with his bequests he himself had been delivered to the rubbish-cart.
With a shyness and respect bordering on a fear of contact, Schlumpf never attempted to force the facts: ranged them cumulatively, non-didactically, without ultimate object. Only one thing emerges as idea from that which is presented without frills: hat Schulthess was alone, shyed away in a monumental neurotic incapacity for life, from communication and pretended to seek it. It was necessary to elaborate this presentation for otherwise the uniqueness, or - still more - the right to existence of the film could not be explained. It had firstly and above all to be information, even if incomplete and to a certain extent, to recover much that Schulthess himself had neglected in his life, being incapable of what he wished and again did not wish: that one knew about him. The telephone which Schlumpf rightly underlines in his sub-title may point to the contact that Schulthess perhaps sought with the outside world. This medium of communication after all permits to be in contact with people - at a distance.
There are only two ways to write about Schlumpf's film, and both are again only ways to write about Schulthess, so completely"permeable" is the film, so lacking the possibility to comparison. One can repeat the factual, i.e. give the minutes to the film. Or one can do what Schlumpf wished, or was forced to omit: attempt to interpret Schulthess, his activities and thinking, to transpose the unusual, the disturbing, taboolike into the familiar, trusted categories, in the consciousness that suchlike reductions to the flat "common sense" always have a somewhat shabby and prosaic effect, arouse the sentiment that the world has been returned to the banal through cheap methods".
Pierre Lachat in CINEMA 2/74