Paul Jones and Paul Jones
A lost treasure from the 1960’s comes out of hiding
As a Pink Floyd fan during the 1970’s, I was always searching for anything that had to do with the band, especially their film work. Barbet Schroeder’s More (1969) and La Vallée (1972), which featured Floyd soundtracks, became accessible on the midnight show circuit; Ian Emes’s animated French Windows (1973) was included in The Fantastic Animation Festival (1975); and Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (1970) was still in limited circulation. But the one movie that eluded me above all the others was The Committee (1968). Reference books and magazines often confused it with A Session with The Committee (1969), a documentary about the comedy troupe The Committee, which had nothing to do with Pink Floyd. Either way, a soundtrack was nonexistent, and The Committee became something of a nagging obsession.
Now, seemingly out of nowhere, The Committee has arrived on DVD. And while the selling point may once have been the soundtrack (Pink Floyd’s background music is rather slim and spare), what we find is an original and often fascinating parable about independence, conformity, free thinking, and orthodoxy at war within the individual and his place in society. Given some time and enough exposure, it could eventually be acknowledged as one of the key films of the Sixties.
Written by Max Steuer, an author and lecturer in economics and social sciences, the script touches on some of the areas explored in films by Antonioni, Resnais, and Peter Watkins’s Privilege (1967). That last film’s star, Paul Jones (the front man of the pop group Manfred Mann) plays the central figure in The Committee. After a surprising episode which illustrates his antisocial impulse, Steuer then transforms the narrative into a hearing on personal desire colliding with what was once called ‘The Establishment.’ He doesn’t limit his vision to critiquing the corporations and corporate-influenced bourgeoisie who control the public through advertising and the economy, but also recognizes the broader spectrum of the committee-minded sensibilities which manipulate us in all phases of life.
Prefacing the film is a quote by economist Joseph Schumpeter (1883—1950), author of Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (New York: Harper & Brothers; 1942). Schumpeter once analyzed the inherent flaws of capitalism and suggested its evolution into a non-Marxist form of socialism. While his words made a superficial connection to the trends and fashions of the 1960’s counterculture—the climate in which The Committee was made—they’re far more fitting today, as imperialist capitalism systematically cuts back civil liberties and threatens the future and existence of democracy: