A film by Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet
1982, 100 minutes
No. 136

Inspired by a letter written by Friedrich Engels and a 1974 account of two militant Marxist writers who had been imprisoned by the Nasser regime, Straub-Huillet filmed Too Early/Too Late in France and Egypt during the anxious months of 1980 that followed the Camp David Accords and culminated in Anwar Sadat’s assassination the following year.

The filmmakers reflect on Egypt’s history of peasant struggle and liberation from Western colonization, and link it to class tensions in France shortly before the Revolution of 1789, quoting texts by Friedrich Engels as well as the pioneering nonfiction film Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory.

The film was a major influence on contemporary filmmakers like Harun Farocki, Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucci, and John Gianvito.

"Too Early, Too Late represents the most striking use of 'Straubian shots' in their work. The film has become totemic of Straub-Huillet." - Senses of Cinema

"[Almost] certainly my favorite landscape film. One of the film's formal inspirations is Beethoven's late quartets, and its slow rhythm is central to the experience it yields; what's remarkable about Straub and Huillet's beautiful long takes is how their rigorous attention to both sound and image seems to open up an entire universe, whether in front of a large urban factory or out on a country road. As in Jacques Tati's studio-made Playtime, their subject is the sheer richness of the world we live in." - Jonathan Rosenbaum