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This article investigates the Barcelona School related to European leftist cultures of the 1960s, and in particular the intersection of critical theory with the political avant-gardes. Although the School’s films seldom left Spain, the movement offers a crucial exemplar of the European avant-gardes’ aesthetic and political impurity. The Barcelona School certainly lacks stylistic cohesion, but it has also been criticized as apolitical. This article argues that the School demonstrates an essential aspect of the European avant-gardes: by promiscuously combining forms, it speaks to (and from) the contested territories of European film culture. Theoretical debates on Marxism and culture linked the project of engaged cinema to the contested direction of the European left. And avant-gardist forms mixed uneasily with art cinema, exploitation genres and the global claims of Third Cinema. It is this rich mulch that accounts for the incoherence but also the complexity of the European avant-gardes. With its many international and multicultural links, the Barcelona School demonstrates the importance of the transnational to any understanding of European avant-garde film cultures.