Straub & Huillet’s second film in colour, shot on 16mm, comes with the perfect title History Lessons. Based on an unfinished novel by Bertolt Brecht, The Business Affairs of Mr. Julius Caesar, it opens, magnificently, in a long take showing a young man, wearing modern clothes, driving his Alfa Romeo sports car through modern Rome. We then see him interviewing four ancient Romans, in antique costumes – a banker, a peasant, a jurist and a writer. The subject is the career of Julius Caesar, and the analogies in the histories of both contemporary and ancient Rome.
Nothing is random. Repetitions masterfully reveal how the preceding interviewees' words influence the gaze of the viewer. Somewhere between a literary adaptation and a political documentary, it is a true masterpiece of modern cinema. "As always, just as their films claim the history of European culture, Straub and Huillet also claim the language of cinema."