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Who is Chris Marker? Better to ask "How many Chris Markers have there been?

" Ever since the name Chris. Markel' (that doL patiently waiting for its com) first appeared in the late Forties, the man born Christian Francois BoucheVilleneuve has developed into what Howard Hampton describes in the following pages as "the most unclassifiable of directors." Moving back and forth between book and film, word and image, past and present, here and there, Mmker is an ever-evolving hybrid. That identityconcealing dot was left off some time

ago as Marker became cinema's consummate diversifier: world traveler, film essayist, writer, photographer, politically engaged internationalist.

Why "unclassifiable"? Partly because


The crowd looks up: A Grin Without a Cat

of the multifaceted (and, it has to be said, mostly invisible) nature of the work itself but also because Marker's achievement has been to make himself pretty much invisible, too. No mean feat, given the cult of personality that still dominates cinema. But it's been a lifetime's work, this Cheshire Cat-like vanishing act, this reverse-engineering of an absence. Modesty, or a kind of inverse narcissism? In truth, they matter little, the motives for his self-removal to the status of a recurring footnote, his multiplication uf surrogates and heteronyms (Marker, Krasna, Yameneko, etc.). As a tactical ploy in the wider strategy of keeping moving, evolving, and producing, it's been the work that has mattered most, and his vanishing act has had the beneficial side effect of making the voice, the personality, reside entirely in the work. The Marker non-persona of "The Man Who Was (and Wasn't) There," the Parisian Oz, would have been just a great gag had the films not been quite so unforgettable and behind which, the suspicion grew, there may have been some kind of real wizardry at work.

There have been times when Marker's renown has been little mom than a cinephiles whisper, a rumored sighting of a face said to exist in only a couple of photographic images. But steadily, the whispers have grown in volume, and cine-kids find themselves

discoursing enthusiastically with movie elders about that black pearl at the heart of cinema's crown jewels, La Jellie. Ot; about the "spirals of time" that have encircled them, one generation after the next, in Sans soleil. It seems to me, and evidently to all the other writers in this two-part dossier, that the whispers have now reached such a pitch that the question ''\VllO is Chris Marker?" may well be worth posing anew.

So, what do we know about Marker? '111al he was born in Paris-or Ulan Bator-in 1921. That he was a published writer ill his mid-twenties, producing a novel, a critical essay on the playwright Jean Cirsudoux, and a number of collaborati ve "montage texts" incorporating words and images, as well as regular contributions to the publications Esprit and Cahiers du cinema. That he was a socially engaged leftist whose travels would take him to China, the U5SH, Koren, Cuba, Israel, Japan, and many points in between. That he was a collaborator with other Iilnunakers, notably Alain Resnais, before he began making his own films and that, in the 50-plus years since his first feature, Olympia 52 (52), his output has included films of varying lengths for the cinema, documentaries for rv, collective films, written commentaries for other filmmakers, and multimedia and video work,

It's tempting to reduce the great diversity of Marker's output to a checklist of Ilat thematics, time and memory, word and image, struggle and liberty, etc. Better to let this dossier's contributors guide you through the Mm'ker labyrinth and to proceed by indirection, taking the detours offered through their chosen approaches. In some cases these take the form of explorations of specific films (Le [oli mai; Marker's most recent work, Remembrance a/ThiJlgs to Come; his films of the late Fifties and early Sixties). Elsewhere, the approach is thematic (Howard Hampton's overview of the Marker' "memory zone" and Catherine Lupton on his ever-changing relationship with technology) or geographic (Olaf Moller on the filmmaker's lifelong relationship with Japan in Part lI).

To paraphrase the man himself commenting on Japan: "If you want to gel to know Marker you can as well invent him."-CHRIS DAIlKE

Defining qualities of the peripheral visionury: obliquity, modesty, thoughtfulness, humor, critical engagement, a retrospective appreciation of experience. His peripatetie zigzag mind travels on (what else?) eat feet, sidling through cmwds of refugeelike images. Melling-plot specters come [rom

verywbere=-Moscow, Tokyo, Paris, Havana, Okinawa, Cape Verrle, Vertigo's , an Francisco, Tarkovskys Solan's, cyberspace, Ouija boards. (I keep forgetting: Is La JeltSe the archaic prequel to 12 Monkeys or the science-fiction sequel to Laura?) These shadow couriers carry nomadic geographies with them, imprinted like tattoos: "the map becomes the territory," inscribing the precise latitudes and longitudes of unspoken lives, hidden contradictions, telltale traces, calm, measured voice makes itself heard ahove the white noise of wars, pol i I ieal savage I)" imploded revolutions. 11 draws us in with the confidential, clandestine tone of a tiny ad slipped into the Prood« personals: lucid alertness seeks li ke-rni nded companionship, with eye toward escaping global nightmare of kamikaze ideologies, DOA utopias. domination h)' consumption,

Throughout a serpentine journey int(}-and out of-the past, Chris Mlll·ker has been the most unclassifiable or directors; a whimsical-my, tical-dialectical link between Zen and Marx? A Zone poet stalk i ng I he inn er I if e of history? Nature documentarian tracking that most elusi ve of endangered species-> subjectivity? 15 lurker the late, semilamented 20th century's most pitiless coroner or its last partisan? His body of work meets us on it'; own heretical terms, less a series of discrete motion pictures than so many passionately sketchedout chapters. Call each a "Convolute," using Walter Benjamin's nomenclature and the OED's definition: "Rolled longitudinally upon iLo;eIf, as a lesf in the bud." One by one, piece by piece. a<lding up to a single, lifelong quest memorializing the dreamlile of an epoch that vanished before his eyes. Marker's conversational, ever-evolving cinematic: hybrids (newsr el/Iiction, La Jelee's stills-en-film, the gradual embrace of video's casual plasticity) always seem to be moving in several (I irections at once, full-ci rei ing back


to the same eternal preoooupation-e-our limes as they, and we, have seemingly passed into the dustbin of history.

One Dar in the I iji! <!lAne/rei Jlr!!enevich (00), his lender, elemental panegyric to Tarkovsky, supplies a thumbnail sketch or Marker's own aesthetic: " ... Andrei was raising all imaginary house, a unique house where all the moms open onto one another, and allleud to the same <.:0211dor .... " His work could be considered the cinemati equivalent of Benjamin'S sprawling, saturnine notebooks for his unfinished, literally interminable Arcades Project-« but transposed to a world where the video ar .ade and Internet has replaced the 19lh century's cathedral-like proto-shopping-malls and [laneur-haunts. Thus the p culiar feeling of stately yet frazzled si mui taneity in la [etee (62). Sans soleil (82), and Level Five (97), that dual Corward/backward-looking quallty, the anticipatory and the relros peel i ve scram bl ed together in an overlapping, boundaryblurring way that feels so like what reality has become. As much painstaking editor as auteur (as if the world were a library of outtakes and lost negatives waiting to be found and reo tored 10 life), h has narrators deliver these digressive, intuitive-leaping collages or quotations

and ruminations as if they were letters read aloud to absent or deceased friends (Tarkovsky, Alexander Medvedkin, you 0[' me). Mi ives composed of so many types of footage that are then sent gently pinballing hack into the world, in a language that's as public as a political demonstration, reclusive as a seem! life, and intimate us a love song.

For instance, "Only Love Can Break Your Ileur1"-exeept that Marker substitutes IIi ·tUl), as the source of all doomed

Fidel Castro in Grin

ardor. 11'5 lh sultry air-raid siren seducing and abandoning generations of the unwruyand unrequited: a'S Lenin might have said, you can't make a revolution without breaking a few hearts, not to men Lion wills. ( talin expedited the process: a bullet through the head was a quicker way


ef relegraphing the message.) A Grill Iflh/wlIJ a CUI (77) may be Marker's most I horough, systematic expl orati on of "I he tricks Ihul history plays" on us, but The Lass Bol.,/tcvik (93) traverses a landscape of ashes Crom a steeper, more closely observed Illlgi e. Instead of the downward

ixties arc of intoxicated idealism and ctenched-fis: sol i darit y- in-upheaval, it follows the crushed aspirations or B generation of Soviet dreamers, bridegrooms left waiting at the revolution's altar, or casually sacrificed upon il. Where La, Jette covers "I he vertigo of time," it also evokes the physical spate of hisrory-s-its gaps and aperrures=-as well as an entity you ~~all touch, taste, pursue, desire. Yet where Ulen'l's

Consciousness is net a theme or a trope in this workit's the un .. rarefied air his films breathe, even if they some .. times must don gas masks to wade through the stench of decomposin,g lies.

desire. loss is sure to follow: the memory of impending death al ready present with i tl themoment of deepest bliss,

In the case of II Grill Without (I Cal ami its companions. il isn't the death of the corporeal body Marker is so much coneerneo with (though he makes beautiful funeralmusic for Medvedkin, Tarkovsky, Ch~ Guevara. and others), but the death of hope-that chimera of a beuer, more just, Cheshire-smile of a world in the orcing Ihat was to be strangled by bureaucrats.zealots, cultural conformists, media overload, spiri t u al ex haustion, i miensate venality, apathy. His ceaseless recoiltex t ualizi ng and repositioni ng of image's is a way of reading-and writing -bet ween their lines: reediting a clip from Tarkovsky's 1956 student film adaptation of Hemingway's T1w Killers, Marker t urns its pair of ov rcoated baby-faced assassins into stand-i ns for all the secret policemen who would serve as the century's ex te rrni nators. Cut to A nd rei Al'senevich himself, making a portrait-ofthe-nrtist-us-n-young-men walk-on 111

the bluek-and-white production. He has an incongruously jaunty tune on his lips. which Marker's narrator identifies, with gnlveY"lIu irony that transcends itself, as "Lullaby of Birdland"-the kind of freeze-framing moment thai occurs so often in Marker, where a perfectly rnundune 1~lclfobservi.llionlpunchline becomes supercharged wi.lh crosscurrents of "melancholy and dazzlement," a droll litlie aside impregnated with tragic aware- 11('$S. Here is the unmistakable euphoric[orlom tinge of Marker's sensibility. those plucky, tactile Django- Vel10v chords of thought, "things that quicken the heart" as wP.]1 as rend it

Other notes struck on the same Iret- 1mBI'd: "It was a tim!': of biuerness and madness from which some people would never emerge." "The battle was lost ill advance .... Tile ptupose was to lix the aftermath. ' "'111ey opened the door and he vanished." "Capsizing in a world of signs." "Voyemizing the voyeurs." "The Marien· bad game." "Pick your mask."

Parallels may he drawn with all indelible Marker to l,.or!ard's archly aphoristic FJi.~!o.ire lessons, as well as philosophercum-antifilmmaker Guy Debord's cinemati c negations: li nes of influence, overlap, coincidental-or-not similarities. Aut what The Last Bol~hl?'~'iA: demonstrates through its poignant saber-wit is what is missing fmlll Codanl and Debordthe tricky integration of the aesthetic, tile historic, and the personal. Godard kneejerks the aesthetic above other considerations, while Debord sought 10 dissolve (' i nema like deE ring away so much rubhishy smoke-anrl-mirrors (even as he hauu'!fl his own jf'.gt'Jld in a romantic-nihilist Harry I .ime light). Marker's sell-effacement contrasts with the former's cosmic self-regard (the singular devotion to propagating his aura of sign ificance-e-t'Isn't thai so. Ml: Godard?',) and the latters imperious misanthropy (the would-be revolu t ionary with a n bel Cuneo-size Napoleonic complex, whose ~ ituationist movement boasted more excuuununicared members than ones in good standing). The Lass Bol.she"ik is COIllIII itted 10 both allusive density and plain speaking, 10 the multi-layered, many-faceted. and polyphonic, the superimposed rrame within the frame and the abstract picturein-picture, giving history's witnesses enough breathing space to have their say. Markel' believes in listening. in looking closely (at faces, montages .. con-

cepts), in linking gen~~rali;rEti()ns 10 the pa radoxes of th~~ part icular, and ill queslion ing the virginal certainty I )t-'.h inti so mUIlY assumptions of in nocenee, (lime and again, he shows the most d1'ective oliHtHdes <l~linst last century's stmggles fur liheral ion coming from wi tbin. in those authori larian-totul i tarian impu lses that hilched tlleil" hunger for puwer 10 utopian visions], Debonl and Codanl present u II i.lied narcissist i,t' [ronls, a more (I irlar-lie mode of add ress: the sol:elllll voice or artist ie 01' I heoret ica I alii hority tossing its elegant pearls before swine.

Marker will end The Ius: Holshelilk with a mournful, knock-knock non sequiturof a joke: ;'1 k now what you wou lei call these men," i l says of I he Iinal remnants 01' Soviet cinema's long departed hemic era-"Dinosm.lI1>."' A gel-0l1'l-your-hm1- kerchiefs pallse. "Rut you know what happened to {linosaul1s "-on I y instead of tar pits we get a shot of a smiling lillie girl cradling an inflatable Godzilla in her anns-"Kids love 'ern.' The absurd. foolloo.<;8-i n-quicksand spiri t of McrlvC(lkin's Happiness returns here. as a strange buoyancy amid the Soviet Union:s collapse: the end of the line for along-abandoned train, the tricks history plays coming horne to roosl. There's no either/or in Ma rker, no spl it-level sac red! pro fa IlC segrf)gntion: even in the <lgonizt'fl ecstasies olTarkovsky, he uncovers a latent amusement, the existential ironies perched above t he (I eader-i ha n-dearlpan zone between holiness and nothingness.

A tl i III a Is ha ve 11 speci al, f 01 k -allegori(' place in his heU11: the real and puntomi me horses out of 1edvedkin, Ill(' lone wolves heing hunted hy helicopter in til > last frames of A Grin IVr:rh.ou.t a, eta. And naturally, lhose cryptic cats themselves, a favorite Marker motif: the cut temple i 11 Sans soleil, the eel; Iy dignified parade footage 0(" medieval~costll11led. pupier-rnac he- masked «at-peop] e I hut turns up in Gn'" ( "The cat is never on the side of po wer"), Emblems of watchfulness. patience, self-possession. they arc .1ul'kel"s good-luck charms, warding off the herd instincts nurtured by mushrooming cults of personeliry, rent-a-martyrs, i nformat ion officers. lei evised unreality, Internet gamesmanship. und all the other pressing distractions that loom in ou I' wak i ng and dream i ng m i nels 1 i ke the ki tschy, mocking Japanese blowupdoll of M unchs The Scream t hal flashes before us in Level Fiue.

or (\011.1'5('., I have one sitting in the corner of my living room, too---a Scream someone gave me as 11 fond token of a shared history, though the Red Army cap she got fmlll iOl souvenir stand in Tiananmen Square keeps falling off the pOOl" thing's h~ad. I t, too, is a d i nosaur of sorts, undo a Ia the one Marker's girl grasps like a Leddy hear, if you look at it from a certain perspective, you can just about see A Grin Without a Cat x 4 "the blm·k hole' of history condensed in its :;ilent banshee mouth. (That "0" is also the spyglass-teie cope shape he loves to insert in the frame: zeroing in, as it were.] .'5;) this is the summing up," a Marker narrator would say: a cheap novelty item to show how much meaning can be emptied out or the wOlid in a wave of indilierent mass production. YeL the same inanimate thing may also bl:' filled with personalized meanings, made a beacon for the future, a repository of memory, or a pinata whose illusions are ripe for the bursting. Const-iousnessis not aiheme or a trope in this work-it's the un-rarefiedair hIS films 3

hrealheveven if they sometimes must don g'i.lS masks 10 wade through the stench or I. lecum posi ng lies.

With Marker, the same motion thai weaves layers of evocation also peels them huck: homing in on the beauty of images, he also in terrogates them endlessly. Add one other ineffable quality to this metaphysical-materialist penumbra: the fact that his (jlms aft' so little circulated, so hard to track down .. always something of a chance encounter. Is larker then the greatest living film director (even though he doesn't make "[ilms" exactly, or quire "direct" the-m in the conventional sense or I he term)? I would answer that his work, though uneven by its velY exploratory, Ieeli ng- i! s-way- u nde r-t he-skin natu re, equals the objects or his ardor: Verl.igo, Metlvedkin's Happiness, Tarkovsky's The Mirror. Only not in tum, but all at once, and 4 more I.IS well. There's a headstrong overahunda nee of tangents, i mpressions, sensations .. and idea here that goes against any smooth grain of shrink-wrapped, hoxed-iu, edifying perfection. This is the signature' o[ cinema's last dissident, like a lugged MaJ('vic·h cross found in an ancient Huhlev painting, the future already present in the past and vice versa, the bittersweet

lullaby of "negat i ve signs of li fe." •

In other words, the Marker touch.

Houmrd Hampton resides in tha; suburb of the Zone known as the l/ojave Desert.


One Day in the Life of .Andrei Arsenevich


m m at ~, .. ,o-:=- ••

The Last Bolshevik x 2


::bec1jJ'-rf4t'1 +'- v»:


From the Bellon archives (left to right): Salvador Dali, Henry Miller with Eve McClure, and Marcel Duchamp

If a man ha learned to think," \ rote Andre Breton, "it hardly matters what he is thinking. At bottom, he is always thinking about his own death." Breton is a recurrinz pre - enc in Chris Markr's new vic! a Remembrance ofThing« in Come ( ouuenir d'un alJel1ir) though the [ilrnmak r him-

elf-an e xt re me ly agile think rat8l-idest ps or at least suppr sses, dime!' cooternp lation of his own rnort al ity while searching oUI hi roric gh . ts, clu s, and port nts of tragedy in th work of departed colleagu 0 nise Bellon, French photojournalist and world travel r in the

adorab le daughters, one of whom Yannick Bellon, shares a directing credit on this film. Also, as a member

all but rOl'go1ten Republican attempt to reconquer Franco's Spain.

Remembrance oJThillg.\ to Come is a lovingly opaque tribute to Hel- 1011, a virtual rurnmage sal" of her life's work, but the ['ilm's Iull power and reach have evel)'thing to rio with Nhu-kcr'f; ability to se impending doom in nearly every image in the photograph r' archive-Io conjure connections between Bellon's su bj~cts and the currents of feeling and thought that would

carry the world into W8r. It's mole, r to what ex Lent Marker has leaned 011 hi collaborator since the film's expl icit voic("-the

now of narrated commentaryi. uniquely, familiarly 1arker'. The mode is di . .ursive, descripti ve, C)Ll ick-witt d, den . The tone is at once t snder and stoic. A 'ertain Lough-guy nostalgia is . ornehow enhanced by the fart that Iarkers narrator is a woman (A lexandra tewart) with a calm, lucid vuice. A if mboldened I an air offerninine/feline amusement, intimate asides t lescope into riffs of wide-rangi ng specu lation. And, clothed in this voic . Markel" s s tem aphori: m. be .ome seductive,

On Bellon" vocation: "Being u photographer mans not only 10 look hut to

Thirti s, a lime "when post-v 31' was becoming PI' -war."

Throughout 1J1e Thirties and Forties, Bellon photographed Paris str Is and 'orld's Fair xhibits, made portraits of Breton and other surrealists, and chronicled the childhood of h .1' two


Bellon by Bellon

of the A l l iance PI,oLo ag ncy (PI' - cursor to Magnum), the photographer managed to get ou t of I he hou a good deal, docurn .nting A lrica und r Fren ·h colonial rule, Legionnaire in Megreb, prostituL in 1'0 co, military preparation. in Finland. Being Jel'l'ish (nee Hulrnann), she wail d out th war in L on-"capital ofthe underground, . Marker inform u -but by 1944 she was at large in the Pyrenees, recording an "in ane' and

sustain the gaze of others." On Marcel Duchump: "He wanted 10 reveal the vanity of alt. One day he'll be LI. ed 10 vind icate the art of vanity." On the pomp of ~ orld's Fairs in the Thirties: It seem: that nation on the v rge of war make a po i nt of paradi ng I hei r weal th.' On 0 ne of Bp.llon's last surrealist group portraits:

"The history of the c nturys end wi II he that of its mao ks."

That. aid, there's an engaging, amateurish simplicity to the movie. Th ... filmmakers pan and zoom their way through the photos, with an occasional overlay of fil m [OOlaf,>e-stoek shots of wwn aerial combat, a cl ip from ~'euillade's Les Vo;mp£res-anJ now and then a jarring video cutaway, in color, showing hands flipping through a magazine or hook. A plaintive .. nih scor enforces a mounting en. e of dread.

'J he 111m . er es up a fel imazcr of Denise Bellon herself. glamorou.1 ouna, with a wide, bright smile in ever. shot. But her eagerness. optimi rn, and sense of adventure are attributed to the spirit of the time she was documenting; her personal. story is implied, or buried, in her pictures. (A perfunctory Google search reveals that she raised tier daugh le r s wi th a second husband, later married a third, and died at 97 in 1999. The filmmakers leave out even the: (' bare hiographical facts.)

more awkward omission, and a significant measure of Marker's mao [cry as a conjurer, involves the blunt truth that Bellon was not a particularly remarkable photographer. Her pictures of Dali's 1938 World' Fair show do not compare favorably with the lush and loopy photos by Eric 'chaul recently collected in Salvador Dali's Dream o] Venus, documenting the artist's 1939 exhibition in New York. Tn the massive Modern History 0/ the Surrealist Movement, just issued hy Chicago University Press, totaling some 750 pages, Bellon's I\lork is n it her cited nor seen. Unlike, say, Lee Miller, one of the era's truly gifted camera-carrying icons, arker's muse did not poss s an extraordinary eye. Perhaps thi: makes

Iarker' project more inter sting. Bellon wa. imply and mysterious] ,a solid witness, a reliable observer in rernot location ,a photojournalist \ hose pic lire' become revelatory only when re-cupLioned. nearly 70 ye1.1rS later, hy a poet,

Al I the same, there's cause to concede that Remembrance of Things to Come

regisLers as a retreat from Marb~r's essay/portraits coneerning ~ [low filmmakers Medvedkin (The Lost Rol.~hevik and Tarko sky (One Day ill the LiP~ of Andrei Arsenevich). ou could take these earlier film .. like the nex one. as hrilfiantunorthorlox slide lectures, but they also work as poignant po. thurnnus extensions of lhe lrienrlshipr they recount and the careers the)' review. They're pmhingly personal, searching, playful even quarrelsome. They make their points wilh riskier cinematic conceits and IealUll'! more direct evidence of Mmker'. affec[ion and sense of loss, making this current project seem tame hy comparison. To what extent did Marker know Bellon-e-or Breton, Duchamp, Henri Langlois, or any or thf' ether figures appearing in this film? Hf". self-effacing enough to steer d Ill" of pel. onal admiss ion, .

But a tame arker film i wildb an other standard, and in aluable under any circumstance. nd this late: I happens to weigh in \ ith h .ightened relevance. Depicted as a recordi ng angel, a sidekick to Waller Benjamin's Angel of HisLory blown backward into the future, Deni~ Bellon provides a portrait of a world under the cloud of unseen and i nevi table war. You don't have to look ton closely fiJI dire parallels with the current era, 01 to feel, with Marker, an implicit ache and

screening. "if his shyness protected him [rom close scrutiny, I remember his hands bell r than his Iace. I-Ie v a. clutching his video camera, one of the earliest compact models. which he conrf~ssf!d to love and take with him everywhere. like a cherished pet, tone point he set it on 1.1 table (his knobby knuckles never far away) and, grinning compared the camera Lo a cat. 1 wondered then-and still wonder, up to a pointwhy he cho re Lo entrust the narration of his films to people with calm. neutral voices. The films would be so different if' hf! narrated them himself But maybe he considers his work already hrirnlul with his own personality. Maybe he has a dream of himself as an objective, lucid level-headed observer, Maybe he simply PI' Iers Lo hear hi. words spoken hy

lexandra f lewart. In any case, piainl enough Marker is intent on rejecting the lalse authorit of routine dor-urnentary oiceover, trading standard (ma s - culine) a . iurance for something quieter, deeper, more questioni ng, and, not incidentally, more poetic.

Wh j I e we're somewhere near the subject, I find it curious that Marker, in th is new movie. sal utes Breton all a connoisseur of visual images ("He hart a perfect eye, as some have perfect pitch") and quotes him at length, hut

Bellon was, simply and mysteriously, a solid witness, a reliable observer in remote locations, a photojoU'rna,list whose 'pictures become revelatory only when re.captioned, nearly 70 years later, by a poet.

awe shadowing the spectacle of people anrlthings that no longer exist,

I happened to be in the audience when Marker presented The lasi Bolshevik at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1993. I knew of' his identification with cats and owls=-evasive, predatory creatures-and his aversion to bei ng photographed (the man call he glimpsed in a sake bar. hiding behind a napkin, in Wim Wendel '. Tok '0 Ga). surpri e. then, to see Chri ' Marker in th .... flesh, an impish figure, unaffected ami even comical, with a quick stammering voice and a giddy air of agitation-a al- 1 ic Woody Allen. I hovered in the small crowd gaLhered around him [lCler the

never gets around to confessi ng an appreciation of Breton as a conscience for his generaLion, a voice combining moral imagination with lyrical impulses. a poet pushing the boundaries of everything he undertook. Who other than Chris Markf'r, on his ownidiosyncratic terms, has carried this voice into filmmaking and into the current. perilous centil". ? Taking in ellen hi. simplest movi .... -crammed \ ith inklings, warnings, and recognitions-it's impo '1- hi .... not 10 feel a rus h of gratitude.

M ichael A lmere ydas I at est film, Th is So-Called Disaster, is a documentary portrni: a/Sam Sheperd:


"What interests me is history. and politics only interests me 10 the dearee that it i the mark hi 'tory makes on the preient." The Fren h release or ails soleil and La Je/ie on DVIJ is an ev nt, as is ev ry furtiv apparition in the n ws by hri Marker one of the great cineastes of our Ii m as w 11 as one or th mo. t private.

Marker, 81, has alway preferred to allow his film d images rather than hi image as a filmmak r, to speak for him.

Le s than a doz n photographs of Marker xi t, and his interviews ar ven more rare. Th dir ctor a r ed to an interviei with Liberation via an email do-it-yours If kit: four topics, with t n question each. H did n I r pond Lo ver que tion but th se 12 pa"e , at time. "frankly Dostoev. kian • more than satisfied u .

Cinema, photo-navels, CD-ROMs, video installations-is there an,' medium yOIl haven't. tried?

" gouach .

Why have 'ou agreed to the release of some of your [ilms on DVD, and how did you. make the choice?

Twenty years eparate La [etee from ans soleiL ncl another 20 years. eparate ans soleii from the pre ent. nder the circumstances if! were 10 peak in


Chris Marker "with my beloved cat and collaborator Guillaume-en-Egypte."

the name of the person who mad the e movies it would no longer be an intervi IV but a seance. In fact, I don't think I

ither chose or a eepted: omebody talked about it, and it got done. 11101 III I was a certain r lationship betw nth two'film was sorn thing I was aware of but didn't think I needed to explain---unlil I found a mall anonymous note publish I in a program in Tokyo that ~aj(L" oon the voyage will be at an end, Its only then

that we will know if ,[ he j uxtapoai ti on of images mak any sen. c. ~ e will understand that we have pray d with film, a one must on a pilgrims e. each lim we have been in the presence of death: in the II) cal cemetery, standina in front of the ffi


dead giraffe with the kamikazes at the ~

moment of take-off, in front of the gueril- :;; las killed in the war for indep ndence. ~ ln La [etee the foolhardy experiment to ~ look into the future end in death. By treat- g:


ing the urne subj set 20 years later. Marker has overcome death by prayer," When you read thal. wri uen hy someone

ou don't know, who knows nothing of how the mills carne to he. you rep.I a certain emotion ..• 'omelhing" has happened.

When I III memory, your CD-ROM, was released in 1999, you said tho! yolt had found the ideal medium, IT/hal do you think oJf)I'/J(

Wilh the CD-RUM, il',.; not so much the technology thats important as the an-hitecture, the tree-like branching. the pia)'. We'll mak DVD-ROMs. he DVf) technology I;; obviously superb, hut it isn't always cin lila. Godard nailed it one and for all: at the cinema, YOLI raise your eye, to the screen: in lronr of the television. you lower them, Then there is the role or lilt' 'huller, QUI of lilt' lwo hours YOll spent! in a movie theater, YOll spend one ol th III in the dark. rt',; this noeturnal portion that slays wi th us. that llxe . our memory of a film ina d i ff erent way than the .ame film seei on television or on a monitor, BuL having said that, I t' be hon .. I. I've just watched the ballet from An merican ill Paris on the screen of my iBook, mid J vel)' neatly ret Ii. covered the 1 igh tness that we fe It in London i 11 ] 952. when 1 was there with [AlainJ Hesnais and [GhislainJ Cloquet during the filming of Suuues Also Die. when we start d every day by seeing the 10 a.m, show of An American in. Puris al a theaterin Leicesi r 'quare. I thought l'dlosl that lightnesr forever when I saw it on cassett .

Does the democratization of the means of filmmu.A-ing (Oil, tligual editing, distribiuion via the lnternet} seduce the socially engaged filmmaker I luu )"0[1 are?

Here's <I good opportunity to get rid of a label that's been stuc-k on me. For many p ople, "engaged" means "politieal," ant! politics, th (iI'L of compromise (I hich is a. it should bf'--ifthere is no compromise there is on] hrute [orce, or I, hich w 're seeing an e ample right now) hal' s me deeply. Whal interests me is history, and politi ':; interests me only to Lhe degr e thal it represent the mark historv makes on \ Ilt' present. With an

obsessive curiosity (if 1 identify with any ofKipling's characters, it's the Elephant Boy of the Ju L- 'u tories, ber:ause of hi "insatiable curi 'ity') 1 keep as king: I-low do people manage to Jjvt" in such a world? And that's where my mania comes from, to SCI' "how things are

I feed my hunger for fiction with what is by far the most accomplished source: those great American TV series, like The Practice.

There is a knowledge in them, a sense of story and economy, of ellip-

sis, a science of framing and of cutting, a dramaturgy and an acting style

that has no equal anywhere, and certainly not in Hollywood.

going" in this place OJ that, For a long time. those who were best placed to see "how it's going" didn't have acces to the tools to giv f0l111 1.0 their perceptions-s-and perception without form is tiring. And now, suddenly. these tools exist. lt's t I'll that [or p ople like me it', a dream come true. I wrote about it, in a . mall text in the bo klet or the IWD.

A n c ssary caution: the "dernocratization of tools" entails many financial and te .hnina] con urainu , and does noL save us from the n eeessity of work. Own-

ing H nv camera does not magically confer talent on someone who doesn't have any or who is too lazy to ask himself irJlI:! has any. You can miniaturize as IlILJ(;b a' you want, but a film will always require a gr~al deal of work-und a reason Lu do it. That was the whole story of the Medvedkin "TOUpS, the young workers who. in the post-'68 era, tried to make short [urns aOOul their own lives, and whom we tried 10 help on the technical level. with the means 0(' the time. How they complained' "We come horne hom work and you a k LIS to work some more ... ,'. ]Jut they stu k with it, and you have to b lieve that something happened there, b cause 30 yean; later WI:' saw them pre" III their films al the Bellon festival. in Iroru of an att ntive audience. The means ur the time was 16mm silent. which meant three-minute camera rolls, a laboratory, an editi ng labl e, some way of'adding sound-s-everything that yuu have now rizht in id a little case that Gts in your hand. little lesson in modesty for the spoiled children of today, just like the spoiled ·hildren of 1970 got thei r les on 111 mod sty by puttiu themsel es under the patronage of I xander lvanoviteh Medvedkin and his cin -train, For the benefit 01 the younger genemLion, Medvedkin was u Russian filmmaker who, in 1936 and with the means thtlt were plUper to hi" time (3S1l111lIilrn, ecli Li II" table, and 111m lab install d in the I..rain), essentially invented lelevi ion: shoot d Iring the day. print and edit at night show it the next day to the people you filmed (and who ofien participated in th diting). I think that it's this fabled uncllong forgoUen bit of history (Medvedkin isn't even mentioned in Georges adoul's hook, considered in its day the Soviet inema bible) that underlies a large part of my work-in the end, perhaps, the only coherent part. To try to give the puwer of speech to people who don't have it. and. \ hen it's pos. ible, to help them find their own mans of expression. The work .J'S 1 filmed in 1967 ill Rhodesia, just like the Kosovars I filmed in 2000. had never been II urd on television: everyone was speaking Oil their behalf, but once you 110 lonaer saw


~1 man th road. bloody and sobbing, people lost interest in them .. To my great surprise, I once round mys If explaining th litina of Battleship Paemkin to a gmup of a piring Iilmmakers in Guine<l-Bi " au, LI ina an all print on rusty I els; now rhos filmmakers are having their films sel ct d for «nnpetition in Venice (ke p an eye out for the n L musical by Flora Gomes). I found the Medvecikin syndr me asain in a Bosnian refugee .amp in 19 --a 1)lU1Ch of kids who had leam j all th techniques of television, wi til newsreaders and captions. by pirating sa! llit TV and using equipm nt supplied by an NG (nongovernmental organization . But th )' didn t copy th dominant languag - they just u ed the codes in 01'(1 r to establish credibility and reclaim the new' for other refugees. An e mplary

xp lien' . The. had the tool and they had the neces it . Both are indi pensabl .

Do TOU prefer teleoision. movies on a big screen, or surfing the lnternei?

I have a complet ly schizophr nic relationshi] with television. hen I'm feeling lonely, [adore it, parti .ularly in' tiler's heei cable, It s curious how cabl offers an entire catalog of antidotes to the poi sons of standard TV. If one network shows a ridiculous TV 1110 i abou t J apoleon, you can nip ov rio the Hi - Lory hannel to hear Henri Guillermin's brilliantly mean commentary on it. Jf l:I I iterary program makes us subm it to a parade of currently fa hionahl lerna] 1I10n tel's. we r-an 'hange over to Mezzo to «mtemplat th luminous fa of Hel ne Crimllud urrounded by her

if the others 11 ver ar mom nts I h n I remember ( arn not alon . and that's , h n I fall apart, The expon ntial "ToMIl of tupidity and vulgarity is something that everyone has noticed, but it', not ju til vagLI sen e of disgust-it" a con '1' le quantifiable fuel YOIl can measur it by th volume of the cheers that gre t th talk- how hosts, \ hich have grown by an alarrni ng number of decibels in the last five years) and a crim against humanity. ot to m nLion the perman nt aggres, ion' again t th Fren h lanzuaze ....

tid ince you are exploiting Illy Russian p nchant [or conf ssion.} mu I ay the worst; I am allergic to commercials. In th early ixties, making 'omITI r .ials wa perfect! ace ptahl ; now, ii' ornethin" thai no on I ill own up 10. I can 10 110lh i ng abou t it. TIl is mann r of pi a i ng


the mechanism of the lie in the service of prui e has alway irritated me ... even if I have to U(~11 it that th i diubol ical patron I ras occasional] y fa en us som of the most beautiful imag s you can see Oil the small SCl" en have you seen the David Lynch commercial with the blue lips"). Bul cynics al IVa s betray themselves, and there is a small consolation in the industry's own terminology: they stop short of calling themselves "creators," so they CIlIl themselves "creatives.'

And th~ movies in all this? For the rea'on mentioned abov , and under the orders of,;, I've said for a Ion" tim

t hat films should he seen fi r 51 ill theaters, and thst tele vi ion and video are only there 10 refresh your memory Noll' that I 110 longer have an Lime at all to go to the

Sans soleil

cinema, I've started seeing films by 1011'erinz my eyes. with an ev r increasing sense of sinfulness (this interview is indeed becoming Dostoe« kian). But to tell the truth I no longer latch mun)' films. onl those hy fiienrls, Of curiosities that an American acquaintance tapes for me on TC~1. Then' is too much to see on the new" 011 the music channels or on the indispensubi Animal Channel. A nd I feed 111)' hunser lor [iotion with what is b far the most accomplished ource: tho e great American TV series, like The Practice. There is a knowledge in them, a sense of story and economy, of ellipsis, a science of Iraming and of cutting, a dramaturgy and an acting style that has no equal ,my where, and (: rtainly not in Hollywood.

La Jetee inspired a video by David Bowie arul «[dm. by Terry Gilliam. And there:~ also a bur called "La jetee, , in [apan. How rio -oufeel abou! this .uli? Does Ten . Gilliam ~ imaginal ion intersect wilh yours?

Tetry's imagination i· rich enough [hilt there' 110 ne Ito pia with compari '0115. Certainly. for me 12 Yfonkey i· a magnif .enl film (there ar p sople who think they are flatl ling me by saying otherv ise,

thai 1 .. 0 ./(!{tlf' is much hetter-s-the world is ,I 'Irmlae place). I ts just one of the I Itlppy signs, like Bowie's video. like the bar in

hinjuku (Hello. 'Iomoyo! rib know that for almost 40 years, a group of Iapanes 0.1' gcltin<7 'Ii«htl drunk heneath my images every night-i-that's worth more to me than <lily number Dr 0,,(-31 '1), that I 111 lie accompanied the strange de tiny of' this particular film. It I a' made like a piece of automatic writing. J was Iilmins; I.e loli moi, campi tel immersed in the reality ofParis 1962. and the euphoric discovel)' of "direct cinema" (you will never make me say "cin rna veri Ie") and on the c \'. da, oil I photographed a tor 1 didn't completely understand. It was in the ed i t i llg t hat the piece' or t he puzzle .arn tog ther, and it wa m'I 1111' who de i 'ned U1C puzzle. I'd have a hard time taking .redit for it. It ju t hap] ned .. that' all.

11m am a winlc' . oflll:~lorr re ),011 still interested in world (~Oi:tirs? What makes ),oltjl.Lmp 10 yonr/eel, react shoui?

Risht nov there are orne v l)' obvious reasons to jump, and w know them all so well thai r hav v ry lillie d . 'ire to talk more about them, Whllt remains are the small, per onal resentments. For me. 2002 will be the year of a failur that will nell r (1<1s. , It hegins with a flo. hhack, as in The Bar. ifoot Cotuessa. A Illong our circle in th Forties, the one we all considered to be a future great writer was Francois Verne!. He had already published thr e book s, arul the fourth was to be a collecri nor short : I ories thai he had written during the .cupation, with 11 vigor and an in olence that obviously len him I itt Ie hope with the cell ors, The book wasn't publish ·d untiI194.S. Meanwhile, Fmn~oi,:; had lied in Da hau.I don', mean to label him U' a 111<:1I1yr-Ihal'5 not my lyle. Ev n if thi . death puts a kind or symbolic: ea] on u destiny that was already quit ingular, the texts themselves ar of such a rare [uality lhat there is no n I for 1'P~lSOn;; other than literary in onl r to 1.1)\1' them and introduce th m Lo oihers, Fl'an\oi. Masp ro wa: n't wroug when he aid in an arti .Jf! that they 'transverse lime II ith 0111, an extrern Iightnes of I eing a' ballast." Because la I year a courazeou publi 'her, Mi hel Heynaud (11 reo ias), f II in Iove wi t h th e book a nd took t h ri k of reprinli ns it. I did everythins I .ould to rnobiliz peopl I knew, not ill Old r to rnak it th event of the sea-

on but: imply to g t it talked about. BuL no, there were too many book during

that. 'U,.,011. Exc pi for Maspero.there x a - n't a word in th press. And so-s-Failure.

\' a" Ih'H reaction too personal? By chance, it wa paired with a similar event. to which no line or friendship attach d 111'. The same year, Capriccio R conls released a new re. .ording by Viktor Ullman. Under his name alone, thi time. Previou ly, he and Cidcon Klein had b en recorded as "There. ienstadt compo sers ,. (for you Ilger read rs: Theresi nstadt was the moo I con .entration camp desianed to be visited by the Red Cros : the Nazi. made a film about il called 171e Fuhrer Gives a Cily to the Jews.) With the best int ntions in the world, [calling thern] that was a way of pulling th m both back in the C<lmp. If Messia n had died after he .omposed the "Quartet for the EI d of Time:' would he be th . "prison camp compos r"?

This record i astoundir g: it contains li ,del' based on texts by Holerlin an I Hilke, and one is struck by the vertiginous thought lhaL, at that particular time, 110 one was glorifying the true G erma n cu lture more than th i 5 J ew i sh musician who was soon to die at Auschwitz. This time. there wasn't total

il nce-=just a f II' flattering line 011 the art . pages, Wasn't it worth H bit more? What makes me mad isn't that what we call "media coverage" is g .neral ly reo erved for people 1 personally find rather mediocre-+that's a matter of opinion and I wish then no ill. It'. that the noi e, i 11 the ele .tron it: sense. j usl get louder and loud r and ends up drowning out everything, until it becomes a monopoly just like the way supermarkets force ou t t he corne-r stores. That I he uri known writer and the brilliant rnusician haw' the righllo the same consideratiou a,., the corner stor ke per may be 100 much to ask. An 1 as Ions as . ou've handed me the microphone, 1 would add one more nam to my list of the l1t11 injustir S of the year: no one ha .

aid enough of the most beautiful book I have read for a long lime, short stories ag.lin-La. Fiancee r!'Orlessa. by [filmmaker] F:clgarclo Cozarinsky.

Have your trauels made YOil suspicious of dogma/ism?

r think I was already su picious when T was born. T must have traveled a lot before then.

lamuel Douhaire and Annick Riuoire write/or the Paris da.ily Liberation,

I once found myself explaining the editing of Battleship Potemkin to a group of aspiring filmmakers in Guinea·Bissau, using an old print on rusty reels; now those filmmakers are having their films selected for competition in Venice

La Jetee




] remember discussing CI uis Mmker's last leatur« fi 1m, Level Fiue, wit h. a friend of mine when il firsl curne ouL. he was gt;m~ra.lly enthusiastic, but irritated by what she descri bed as "an 0]1 I man's view uf the lnternet." I did noL share her annoyance, but I could see what she meant. Even at the moment of its release. before the impscr of the accelerated 01 ISl II escenc thal kxlay make>; the film look definitively dated, the computer hardware and digi la I hypermedia eff ,t" both appear in Level Fue as .liaracters, and had heen used to create II-Iuoked distinctly quaint, old-fashioned, and clumsy. TIl!" A pple I" I" cs lila t is seen in t he Ii I m was not .. ~ recent model, with its low-resolution semen and discolored plastic easing. ] admired till" "GalleIY of Ma."ks" sequencf' for its lateral evocation of 'Lam11" (Catherine Belkhodja) as a mise-en-ubyme of receding and ambiguous projection , a nil fill" M arker's eviden t rei ish in <I111USing himselfwith Roger Wagrll:'I"s Hyperstudio: but nevertheless I winced inwardly <It the awkwardness and tack iness of the effeC'[s, their uncomlortabie echo of H late L eventies musi '. video reinJorcl"d hya brashly pounding sound truck .

Upon closer, renewed, or rec-ollected aequaintancewith Markel}s 01 her recent multimedia works, I encountered lurther provoeative ten. ions between my received sense of Marker as a n 'II' media pioneer ani l the jarring shocks of the 0111 or will("Ldl.y archaic. Tbe 1990 installation Zapping Zone" invites random sampling and multilateral exploration ora series of discontinuous vid 0 and digiLal hypermedia sequences; yet physically it fir'~t strikes the eye as a rarnshaok le, junk yard assembluge of elderly televisions and computer monitors. The fluid passage of cinematic fragments ill Silent Mo!!ie (95), controlled by a digital interface lllUl randomly determines (he order in which themed HIm

'" Zappillg Zone is pm1 of the permanent colIection of I he M usee Nul ional (I' A.!1 Moderue (Cenl!"" Georges Pompidou] .. I.'ari.~.


sequence>; and intertitles appear on fiv(:'" vertically stacked televisions, fJulls against I)()~) the nostalgic IlHe of'ihe old movie clips that have been sampled and reenacted, ami the solid weight of thl" crude steel tower designed lo hold th TVs, which Marker describes as his homage to Russian Constru eli vism in bot h f 01111 and 1'0 ugliness of materials, The user-instructions for the CI)!tOM. fmmemory (98) anticipate and counter the l mptation of high-speed processing by finnly advising the user "Don't .zap; lake your Lime." Immemory preserves the early technical limitation of the Cil-RONI with its small QuiekTime video loops in the Cinema zone, ami the processing glitches and lags tj13t give the user no option but to navigate slowly and patiently.

Marker himself offers an explanation of such contraries; his notion of "naive inlorrnatics." He compares his creative Wit' of digital and computer tools to the work of 20t.h-ccnluIY primitive painters like Henri Housseau, describing himself as a "Sunday fJLUgmrmllel~ , .. 11 gentleman amateur of the digital era who rejects professional training and slick production values in favor of means Ihal may be- limited and deemed obsolete but 1 hat allow him 1.0 remain true to his own vision, Marker affirms his desire to work in an ru1 i sana! fashion wi th tools he can master himself, rather than opting fur more soph isticated eqll i pmenl and effects that would recru ire the cooperation and collahora tion of professicual tech n icians, producers, and [inancie rs,

Illu m ina ling as th ese ex plana lions are, they do not account for what interests me most abou: the dialectic of new and outrnoderl mediu in Marker's recent projects: lh i m pact of the "shock or the old" upon myself as 11 viewer or us I' of Marker's works, which man i fests i 15e1 f as awkwardness and embarrassment, a dislocation or my sense of how such ostensihly cutting-edge works ought to appear. I imagine my reaction to be something like that on alter Benjamin, faced with the spectacle of the fading, outmoded arcades of early 20th century Paris. Marker's

casti ng of the novel and the archaic together in his new medi.a works [Lin -tions as a crit ieul gesture recalling the ur-hisLoll' or contemporary technology-c-its obsolete. forgotten, and d isr.arded fossi Is -and break ing tllfl spell of a homogeneous, future-oriented technological present, whose history has heen ither evacuated or selectively manufactured.

Benjamin's sense or history forcibly obliterated and rewritten 10 suit I he ideological interests of" the present is engaged explicitly by Marker in his 1982 film &1I1~ soleil. Hi uory, the commentary tells us, "throws its empty bottles out of the window, blo king memory as you might block you]" car~."S(l,IlS soleil offers itsel r IlS an extended, digressive meditation on the role offilm representations in creating history and memory; indeed in becoming history and memory, as the following passage from the commentary put it:

"j rememberthai month of January in Tokyc-=orrather I remember Ihe images I filmed in that month of Ianuury in Tokyo. They have suhst ituted thnmselves for my memory-they are 'Illy m(nnory. Iwonder how people remember things who don't film, don't photograph, don't tape. How has mankind managed to remember'? 1 knoll'--the Bible. rille new Bible will he the eternal magnetic tape of a lime that will have 10 reread itselfconstantly ju t to know it existed.'

These ofl-quoted lines seem to offer a poetic corroboration of the J~ll11il iar founding princi ple of I he study or memory: namely that memory is always a retrospective represent at i on of past events, never the d ired man iJestation of the past i 11 the present. The work of' meillury is to selectively reshape-the past, and itsexistence depends upon the particular rned iurn in which memories are aruculated->whet her spoken teslimon i es, WI; tlen 1'(\('ollections, photographs, films, or multimedia installations. In Salis soleillllf!lllUries are manifested as film images, with the di):;tinction bel ween subjective memury and visible image erased. The sou ndtra c k uf

Ghosts within and without machines: Level Five (above) and Sans solei! (below and inset)


The new Bible win be the eternal magnetic tape of a time that

the film consist in pari of spoken recollections, but these reach us by at least two removes-they <II" attributed to a fictional cameraman named Sandor Krasna, and presented in the form of letters read and commented upon by an unseen female narrator. Th is d isplacemen t of me rnory's source alerts us to the fact that even the most apparently spontaneous verbal recollections moe s I ted and given shape by established forms of representation.

Sans soleil significantly anticipates the central preoccupations of Markers later film and multimedia projects by suggesting convergences between newer media technologies and memory. It eelebrutes the exaggerated visual mutations wrought upon mimetic film footage by the digital image synthesizer known as "the Zone:' pr isely because they give concrete and graceful visual form to the distorting, transforming operalions of rememluance.The Zone blocks the illusion that mimetic Images of the past give us, which IS that we can have immediate: access Lo that pastIts synthetic image manipulations function both materially and metaphorically to underline the irretrievability of the past, the nature of m!'!mory as selective, transformative, and even aesthetic representation. and the fact that, by virtue of the novel technology adopted, memories are always Conned in and for the present.

Primed by such insights, level Five engages cyberspace as the medium for a concerted historica] inquiry into the Battle of Okinawa, I,h a last conventional battle of WWII. It enfolds a documentary investigation of the battle and its tragic consequences=-the destruction of one third of the island's civilian population and the mass suicides that followed the defeat of the J apancst" army-e-wi I hin a fictional armature that reimagines the battle as an unfinished computer game whose creator has died in mysterious circumstances, leaving his lover .. Laura, with the task of completing it, Laura's historical research into the battle is entirely reliant on the infinite resources of Optional Worlel Link (OWL), an alter ego of the World Wide Web that is able Lo source i nformation Irom every existing and possible database on the planet, whether past, present, or future .. The game itself is programmed with the moral. con .. science that refuses to allow laura to play the ngel of History and alter


tim outcome or tile battle to produce a more palatable result; instead it [orCf'A~ her to confront dreadful testimonies to the full horror of the baule and its deadly aftermath.

Marker's i nsistent use of new technologies as contluits ol hurnan memory and historical representation oITeI~ a challenge to the argument presented by Andreas Huyssen in his 1995 book nuilight1emories: Mar.king Tune in a Culture of America that new media are intrinsically unsuited to the processes of private and collective remembrance. Huyssen accounts for our cu ItU11l I obsession with memory by suggesting that memory and memorial activities funclion as a "reaction lormation" against a temporal c ris.i~ brough L about by the

Level Five

ever-accelerating pace of technologic-al change, and hy the insidious tendency of new media to make all the information that they proeess ttppear of equal value. For Huyssen, memory represents H desire for contern plation and temporal grounding in a worlfl dominated by "puzzling and often threatening heterogeneity, non~syn· chronicity and information overload"

Incontrast (0 Huyssens pessimistic view, the digital media historian Lev Manovich pruPOSfl. a striking affinity between new media and memory that closely echoe

Ilarker's preoccupations. In his essay "What Is Digital Cinema'?" Manovich writes: "The logic of replacement, characleristie of cinema, gives way to the logic oJ addition and coexistence. Time becomes spatialized, distributed over the surface of the screen. Nothing is forgotten, nothing is erased. JlJ~l as we use computers to accumulare endless texts, messages, notes, and data ... ' patial montage' accumulates event. and images as it progresses through its narrati ve, In contrast to cinema's screen, which primarily functioned as a record of

perception, the computer screen functions as a record of memory,"

Level Fiw's Laura anticipates Manovich when she imagines explaining to i.l future ethnographer how, at the close of the 20Lh century, people worshiped household familiars named computers, to whom they would confide all their memorres. The logic or coexistence also underpi. ns t he CD-HOM formassumed by

~urker's lmmemory; through whose zones aile: may navigate in any direction and order, and where one can slip from one zone to another with the click of a mouse. Tn the introductory text to ImmemOf)" Marker contends that the virtual architectures of cyberspace allow much closer approximations or the aleatory, nonlinear drift of actual human recollection than do older media like Iilm. The CPHOM format has allowed M<lrk~r to realize the long-cherished project of creating a topography of his own memOlY, much more effectively than Sa.IJ.~ soled and the earlier photofilm If I Had Four Camels (66), both of which may be regarded as prototype mcmory-maps in which Marker reflects, vi a th e intermediary or alter egos, on a former period of his own history and creative wurk but which remain restricted by the Ii neari ty and fixed temporal rate of film ..

Marker's awareness ~U1d representation or memory is, however more compl x than T have suggested so far. While his works give i ntricate formal recognition to tl J(~ truism that memory is always selective representation, Marker has also written "I claim, for the image, the humility and the powers of a madeleine." The invocation of Prous ti an memoIY acknow ledges 11 n affective experience in which an arbitrary, umvill~d, and trivial experience (famollsly. for Proust. the mouthful of madeleine soaked in hedJal tea) triggers the complete return of the subject into a lived rnornen [ from their past. In proclaiming the image as a madeleine, Marker puts a different cast on the memory-images of Sans soleil:

I f the cameraman's footage becomes his memory, perhaps it has precisely this power to return him involuntarily to that rnoment of his past, outside his habitual. mediated recollections. It is no longer the present that gives shape to the past, but the past that spontaneously and completely reasserts itself in the present.

The access of lTIeJ110lY provoked by the

will have to re-read itself constantly just to know it existed.

madeleine links to my unsettling experience of the archaic within the new technolozies of Marker's recent works. Both experiences disrupt the orderly temporality [l(~xistil1g in what Benjamin would have thought of as the "mythical" present, which if; certain of its own identity in relation to past and future, and wh re progress from the past and intu the future appear. preordained and free 0[' influence from the historical forces of human choice and action.

The mythical present is especially dominant in the realm of discourse about new technologies, although this pml'er is manifested, paradoxically, as an insislent orientation towards the future, Th media historian William Boddy has examined some ofthe mythical dimensions in the d velopment of popular disCOLU~e5 about irtual reality (V[{). Quoting Tom Gunning's observation thai "technology can reveal the dream workl of society as much as its pragmatic realization, and extending it to includ > the ways in which we imagine and discuss new technological developmenls, Boddy reminds us that technological progress is never simply neutral, progressive, and practical, but is actively shaped hy unconscious facets of desire and wish fulfillment as much as consciously formulated instrumental needs. He argues that \ e UI" inclined 01' invited to live so much in th Iantasy world of what we think technology can, shou Id, or might be that we ignore th gap between fantasy potential and pragmatic realization. Put another way, we often don't acknowledge that the technology we have now does not match up to our mythic projection ofits (ruther than our own) capahi lilies. Boddy contrasts blithe, allirmalive claims made hy early advocates 0(" I'll that it would allow users to cornplet ly o ereorne the social and phy ical limitutions of their bodies with more cautionary voices that remind us that the physical body cannot he transcended by VR, only temporarily repressed and forgoLLen.

Marker's works offer an altarnative means of navigating the gulf between th~ real i ty of technological developrnents and their fantasy potential. Their approach is to invoke the memUI)' of the future in or ler to establish a hisrorical, rather than a m thical, persp 'live on the present. The time trav 1 narrative of La [etee is perhap ths most obvious and the most complex exam-

ple.Th pa: t of the film corr ponds to the present in which it was made, It fietional present is both an imagin d luture and a metaphorical displacem nt of traumatic: and tahoo aspects of po itwar Eurupe's historical past and the immediate present. The guards in the underzround prison camp where the hero of the 111m is used for time trav I xperims nts speak in German, awl their acti n also invoke the extensive LIse of torture by the rl'eneh authorities during t 11 lgerian war, The future proper in La J'/,(fe j a. ·ience-Ii lion projection or p rf cte I human capability, which, signif .antly, is offered to the film's hero but which he rejects in favor of annihilation in the past, Sans solei! describes a film tbat, an-

Sans soleil

dor Krasna never made but that h was aoing to call kms soleil. It xmcerru a time tra eler from the year 00 who r turns to his planet's past. He is drawn hy a fragmented memory of the Mussorgs k y song cycle that gave Krasna his film's title, and by a compassionate fascination with the "thi rd-worlders of time," who are doomed to the pain of forgetting, but who, because or this, enjoy emotional exp rienc , fureign 1.0 his own epoch, 2084, D. t 'nminute film made by lark r in 1984, imagines the French trade union c r tenar from another 100 y ar into tile future and explicitly remind vi wers Lhut I he shape that history migb l Lake in th meantime is entirely up (0 them. Level Five projects its vision of Lh .apacity of th . Internet into a science-fiction future borrowed from William Gibson's novel Neuromancer, in which computers LJ iers "jack in," connecting their n 'I"VOUS . ysterns directl to the n twork, Level Five's imaginati el nhanced capa .itie for the ',: arid ide eb make for a striking j uxtaposiuon with the mundane-looking and old-fashioned te .hnologicul

hardware thai appeal'S in the film underlining (rather I han elidi ng) thp. gul r that exists between them.

These science-firt ional conceits are certainly playful, and ll1/]Y eern rather [00 obvious in their neat reversal uf expectations to have much critical impact. Yet they do oOer an insi. tent reminder' uf the PI' sent's hi 'l irical nature, b. invoki ng a pel pecti ve [rom \ hich our present has itself become absorbed by myth: either iconically froz 11 into manufactured no lalgia or sirnpl: '<1.1 into oblivionanother empty ooille los!'. d out of the window.ln borrowing Ihe d vic ,s 0 science fiction, Marker's proj cted r utures may be read as engaged in their own fashion with Boddy's analysis of the way that even our most pr'u"m8lic discussions of technological and sci ntific development are infur ed with a good measure of desire and fantasy projecrion.

Hetuming \0 m}' affective, awkward reo pons to V.wel five, I recognize that its power d pend. not only on my ability to understand Marker's film as having the quality of Benjamin's dialectical image, which can pull fragm nts or past and present (and indeed future) toaether in a constellation that activat historical consciousness. It also rest 011 the way that 1 am involuntarily returned 10 my own forgotten pia e within hi. tOI' • ram ernbarrai ed because I am being r turned to the moment when Level five' quaint-looking graphics wen' nell' and exciting, forced to recall a hi. tori cd time IIi veJ through but whose memory I have rewritten, forgotten, 01' repr . sed in order to subscribe to the myths of the t ch nological present and future, My sense of shock comes [rom an Apple Mac that belongs to thaL ur-histori .al limbo of technology thal is old enough to be ob olcte huL not IlL I old nough to have been recycled as nostaleia, I othing look. '0 old-lash ioned as that which hai only just gone out of fa. hion, In trying 10 understand these responses to some of Marker's works, I am .ompel led to understand myself a, a participant in the myths of the pres nt, an I al the same Lime to grasp an alternative perspective all history that may have the- potential Lo disrupt that mythologizing impul e.

Catherine Lupton is a eruor Lecturer in Film and Television t.udies al Roehampton University of nrrey




[ocaled in the gray area between per~ sonal essay and objective document, Cluis M9I"kenmd Pierre Lhommes ] 96;J film Le [oli mai is both a tender portrait ora cilY and an indictment of a way oflile. 111 addition to being one of the key works about the French reaction to the All!;er~ ian war, thef lm is a1:;0 a Iu'"'reach i ng medi tarion on 111 e relarionshi p hMwt'en individual and society, one that corresponds to the leftist social vision elaborated in much of Marker's work. For a nu mber of reasons (not the least of which heing that till" video currently circularing in the .S. is missing a significant porLion of the original film), none of this might be evident to the casual viewer. Understand i ng Le [oli mai becomes easier once th 111m is placed within the larger currents of French cu I~ ture ill gener<ll and Marker's r-areer in part icular,

When Marker and Lhomme 1"le{-,'RI1 Iilming 011 May 1, 1962, they s\<l11ed out in t he shadow of i II L1S~ rrious predecessors, The previous year had seen the release of a film with exactly the same point of departure. Jean Houch and Ed~ar Il00in's Chronicle ofaSummer was the influent ial portrait or I he Parisian evelJ1day responsi ble for the slow-burning cinema verite revolution or~]e Sixties. Rouch and [orin eJIec'lively transformed French filmmaking by introducing newtechnology (a prototype of the Coutant -Eclair 161ll1l1' sync e-,tU11- era made espec ially for the film) and 11 new [ilmmak i ng styl e (camera ma n M ichel Bnmll was flown 10 France from Canada to shoot some of the most ambitious sc nes). Using a lightweight portable camera, it was now possible to film sound and image simultaneously in practically any local ion. These in novations heralded a new kind of informal, improvised cinema in closer contact with the real world.

Le Joti mai's professed gual was idenlical La that of Chronicle: ilarker and


France at the crossroads: .Le Joli msi Lhomme wanted to use emerging technology to create a portrait of everyday Paris. While recognizing their debtto their precursors (in homage, they even include a brief shot of thf' sell-proc lai metl 1 artin and Lewis of ethnographic cinema). in practicalterms they mad a very dillerent film. Wherea::; Chronic'ie trucks the pel anal Joumeys of a small grou p oJ prolagonisrs over a nu mber of mont hs, Marker and Lhomrne want d to organizr a l:hol"ter lime Spall around a wider scope of events. If Houch and MontI.'::; film focuses on individuals. Le .loli mai is edited around themes.

By the end of Illly, Marker and

Lhornme's team had aceumulated 55 hours of footage. which they r-ut rlown to shorter montages lasting from S("V{'1l to 20 hours. The filtH'S actual running timeis a mutter of some con fusion, Although th French version of Le [oli mai j;:: just over I wo and a half hours long, ! he pri nt circulating in the U .. is more than 30 minutes shorter; a signif] '<lnl amount of material has been removed. Several sc nes have heen trimmed (one of rhe fi lm's key seq uences, an i nterview wi I h a young Algerian, is missing it"! final seg~ merit] and others completely eliminated. Here are some of til th ings .S, audiences have not seen:

sincere and affectionate portrait of life on the Rue Moui:Tcltlnl. one of Paris's rna t tightly knit popular neighborhoods.

Two architects in a vacant lot criticizing the d eh timan izi ng aspec ts of mode rn housing and sharing their dn am projects. One or them. inspired by Bahar the Elephant, imagines an ideal community of ci t iesin the trees.

An interview with Lydia. a costume designer who admits that she> fears others and prefers to spend her time indoors

d signing outfits for her pets. In what is undoubtedly one of the most outlandish cat scenes in Marker's filmography, we s e p811 of her spring collection shown 01T by a surprisingly pal ieni feline n iodel.

Rehearsal for La. Femme sausag«, a play by Algerian writer Kateb Yucine.

An interview regarding the French army's use 01' torture Juring the Algerian war.

A discussion with students frem the prestigious prep school Janson de Sailly thaI takes place during target practice, Marker and a nether i nterv i ewer cri Lie ize the stude n ts' naively el i I ist pol iti ca I s lance.

A folk concert at the Theatre 1oufferard. Agnes arda, rrnand Galli, anrl Alain Hesnais are all in attendance. Gilbert Samson's song of a homesick soldier is inrercut with footage of the prep school students being trained Lo shoot and radio mes.<mges from French sollien; in Algeria to their families,

As the above list demonstrates, the U.S. pri nt is a much less pol itical film. Although the exact reasons 1'01' the cuts r main unclear, they were presumably made to make the film more marketable to foreign audiences, The same issu . that once seemed too French for overseas markets, however, have grown in irnporI ance with each passi ng ye~u. II is a shame that the full version of this invaluable document remains out of reach for Engl is h-s peak i ng s pee lalo rs.

"J;> espi t e ., t" riou s d i spari Lies in (content, the general approach to Pari 5 in both versions is the same. himately.Le lob mai is a film about montage. As many have recognized, Marker is a filmmaker obsessed with editing: in his case, the term must be understood in its broad-

t sense. Not only is he concern d with how shots are linked together, he estub[ishes tension within individual shots through i d i osy ncrat ic com hi nations of sound and image. Le loti mai marks a turning point in his career since it lurth r complicates this intricate relationsh ip, It is a bridge film that simultaneously looks back to the early travelogues and forward to later political verite works like A bienWt" j'espere. If his first films bear the unmistakable stamp of a singular commentary, the lat r ones are often colluborative efforts that move closer La th ir subjects and incorporate a number of distinct voices.

Halfway betwe n these two periods, Le

}oli mai is based <wound ~I principle of limited dialogue.Marker and Thomme wanted to open the cinema to the complexities of spontaneous speech generated by ordinary people. At the SHl11e lime, this h'llueless te;timony ','as not unconditionally accepted. Ruther than naively showing the world' as it is," I.hey insist on retaining a critical approach strongly marked by subjective presence. As critic Hoger Tailleur pelceptively claimed, Le ]uli mai is not cinema verite, it is cine mn verite: not a cinema or truth, but one that expresses a I"wj_sonull~ike on truth, This individual viewpoint is primarily revealed through montage: when a pair of engineering consultants becom insufferably pompous, images of ya wni ng cats interrupt thei r con veTS3- Lion. The 111J1h about Paris is revealed not through single images hut through a Combination of shots. Via editing, the sheen of the everyday is stripped away and the deeper concerns that cornlition conternponu), society are revealed,

It'5 safe to say that inlay 1962, Paris was harboring a great deal of anxiety. Ie loti mai was made as France was nearing the end of a brutal eight-year war with Algeria, which WiLS trying to gain its independence after more than 100 years of French colonization. Till' 111m takes place during "the first springtime of peace," that is, after the signing of Ihe ceasefir accords on larch 19 but before the official referendum for independence on July L It's important to point out that violence continued despite the March ceasefU'e. Owing Ihl" month of May, Len to 50 igerian citizens were killer! every day by pro-French terrorists.

Algeria\; slow and pai n I'lil struggle for independence threw France into a severe crisis of conscience, Hesitant to see the end of a profitable colonial empire. the govemment was unable to resolve the conflict. Not only did its continued indecision bring the country to the verge of political collapse, its tacit sanction of Lhe French army's use of torture duri ng Lhe war seriously calJed into que tion lhe republic's moral foundations. As it realized the extent of the army's oppressive tactics, France's image of' itself was seriously damaged.

In addition to this international crisi. , Paris's domestic situation Ihat May was uneasy at best. The news wasn't all bad: in th first place, growing economic prosperity undercut the pol i tical tension. Oy 1962, France was finally throwing off a

legacy of postwar penury to become a nation of avid consumers. evertheless, as strikes and changes jn government continued, t11l" public's f~lil h in its social institutions dflC"I'l"ased. le loti mai also testifies to another emerging uncertainty. During the fifties. the French government had instigated the most radical attempts to restructure Paris since the 19th century. In an ostensihle attempt to improve the quality of life in the cily .. whole neighborhoods were tom down and their inhabitants forcibly relocated. By 1962, it 's twi~ lent lhat these changes in urban space were beginning 10 produ .e a certain anxiety: the old Pans was disappearing and it was difficult to predict what would come next.

All of thes factors-increased economic prosperity, the A Igerian war, changes in the urban landscape, internal political strif ,-inform Marker and Lhomme's complex portrait of Paris. \' h ile Le loli mru is a rei entlessl y po litical film, politics must be understood here in its widest sense, as the framework through which individuals rel.ate to a larger community. The film d nounces France's apathy to the Algerian war. but. this apathy is also taken as symptomatic of a larger deficiency. Parisians 'cern to ha ve closed themselves off from others: the city has lost its identity as a community. Le loti mai aLtacks Parisians Cor their disengagement, for their racism and classism, for their self-obsession in the face of injustice, and for their silence. This distanced critique, however, is balanced with empathy: th film's harsh conchrsion« are mitigated by unmistakable affection.

Marker and Lhomrnes urban portrait is haunted by th utopian dream of an egalitarian society in which individuals live with rather than against others. The hallmarks of this film-its emphasis on the social, its interest in dialogue. its political conscience-Lbeeame the foundations for Mmler's work throughout the Sixties. From this point on, he drew closer and closer [0 sp cific political st ruggles in France, embracing Ihe local in order to fUrther the larg r cause of global revolution. This idiosyncratic verite portrait of 1962,. then, can be considered a direct springboarJ to the militant c i nema of 1 %8. One May contains the seeds of another,

Sam Dilorio is finishing a Ph. D. ill French at the Uniuersi1y of Pennsyioania:

His dissertation, entitled Evell'day Optics, deals with Marker (uul other filmmakers.


'It's PI' lly rare to be abl to take a walk in an image of childhood." The e words from Chri Marker's 1958 filrn-e ay Letler jimn SiiJeritJ. are echoed lalm; in La feMe, a (jim about "a man marked by an image from hi childhood.' Both of these "images of childhood" are repris d and subtly modular d at the h ginning of ans soleil in the film's opening "image of happiness": three children on a road in Iceland. Between Letter and La Je/4e lies Marker's "lost period"-what one might can the

Is Paris Burning?: La Jetee

Letter from Siberia and Sunday in Peking


childhood f his oeuvr . Maybe 'childhood" is too precious a designation for what is, after all, early work, but il's work that is more 01' less lost to us, orphaned from the back catalogue if not disowned by its creator; When the inematheque Franeaise presented a Marker retrospeetiv in 1997, the director denied practicing any "ret- 1'0 pective self-censorship" in chao ing 1962 (the year of both In Jette and 1.£ foU mai) as hi ear Zero. Hath r, it was the ca that Marker deemed thi work to be merely "rudimentary" compared with later efforts. "Rudimentary" is a carefully chosen word, one thai suggests "primitive" and "fundamental; with thi work reprenting the tyro fforts that contain all th tropes. tricks, and strategie , all the ob essions that will recur lhroughout the filmmaker's career.

If the three long-form films that Markel' made between 1958 and 1962-Leaer from

iberia, Descnpuon. of a Struggle (60) and Cuba Si {61}-have the legendary allure of "lost" works, what of the others? hal of the shorts, such as Sunday in Peking (56)'? What of th collaborations with

lain Re nais, su h as Statues Also Die (59), whi h Marker and Re nai codirected, or Totue La memoire du, monde (56) and Le Mysti!re de l'a.lelWr qltim:e (57), to \ hich Marker contributed commentaries? Th fascination of the films doesn't only resid in their invi ibility. In them, one discovers the elements that remain central to M.ukt"r's activities and that have alway informed and IUn parall 1 to his filmmaking. It's lat sly b come fa hionabl to refer to Mark r as a "multimedia artist, , particularly ince he recently produced an Intemet-themed feature filrn (Level Five), a CD-RO,\1, and a number of video installations. But this misses th fact tl at Mark r was Multiple M dia Man avant la lettre-active in publishing and as a writer and photographer prior to and throughout his film carrel: later-and La [etee are films, of course, but both also exist a books. The text of letter was publi hed in Commenuures 1 (61), which. with its companion volume

Commetuaires 2 (67) colleoted words and i mage from the films Marker had made between 1950 and 1966. Markel" relationship with the publishing company Editions du Seuil dates back further still: to a photography-and-text coli tion called Coreenes (59), a critical monograph on the writer Jean Girardoux (52), a novel, Le Coeur net [Ihe Tidy Heatt.4.9), as well as a long-standing and important role in designing the series of travel book "P tite Plan te" in the Fifti , which, according to Guy Gauthier (th author of a recent French study on Markels work), "revitalized illusuated publishing in the Fiftie .' een in thi context, La Jetee was a project born not only from it director' a tivities a a photographer but equally from his involvement in book design. And it, too, is also a hook. Or, rather, the photo-roman (as Marker d ieribed the film) becam a cine-roman in 1992, when the director produced from the still photographs and commentary text a further hyhrid objet.

lf Marker was seen to have innovated in his exploration of irnag lI'text relations on th printed page, this was equally true of hi early filmmaking. It was Andre Bazin who observed in a 1958 article that, with Sunday in Pekillg, the filmmaker had "already profoundly Iran 'fOlID d the customary relation hip of the text to the image." Bazin tared that Marker "brings to hi films an ab olutely new idea of montage, which 1 shall call 'horizontal' .... Here, the imag does not refer Lack to that which precede it or to the one that follow but Iat rally, to what is said about i.l.... Montage i made from the ear to the eye." Basin develops this formal insight into a de cription of Marker's m thod by examining perhaps th most famous equence in Letter. Ov r the same three shots of a' treet in the iherian city of Yak utsk-i n which we see, consecutively, a bus, workers toiling on a road, and a local man glancing at the camera as he 'rosses it field of vi ion-run three different comm ntaries, The first is conventional Com-

rnunist-era propaganda; the second, "Voice of America"-style mi iiniormation; the third is "n utral" in tone, bUL no mot or less r svealing for that. Tn thi act of comically juxtaposing registers. Markel; according to Bazin, reveals that "impartiality is an illu ion: the operation in which we participate is therefore precisely dial I ical and consists of scann ins the sam image with three different intelle tual ray and receiving back th echo." In ihort, a philosophical question-"What do these images ·how?"-is posed with literary legerdemain. nd Letter, in all its literariness, aU its baggy pistolary diversity and trav logue-happy self-con. ciou ness, i truly the model for many of the films that follow, all the way to ans soleil, where the time-traveler (this lime giv n a name, andor Kra na) wri tes to his anonymou female pen pal that h has "been around the world s veral time and now only banality still interests me."

Banality ha a face and a name. You mu t make a E,i nd of banal ity. ln Sans soleu Mrukees surrogare-heteronym tracksit "with th , lentles n of a bourn hunter," just as Marker him If has don throughout his career. Think of Le loti mai and its verite vox-pops. Or of the J~ well-known 1he Koumiko Mystery (65) for which larker trav led to Tokyo ostensibly to film the 1964 Olympic Gam. and ended up making a portrait of a young Iapane e woman, Koumiko Muraoka. Koumiko gives "banality" a face and a name and hence becomes th opposite of" xotic." But then, perhaps "th xotic" i nly the mask that banality wears, anyway.

Alert to the exotic. its lures and peril. alike, [arker ha invented for himself the persona of a voyager in mu 1 ti pie dim nsions. Every continent-hopping trav logue is irnulraneously a \ ayof lieing through time; every destination is acknowledged as being already frozen in on image-rep rtoire or another. Tak the "childhood irna e ofth Gate of Peking that opens Sunday in Peking, for example, over whi h Marker comment , "For 30 years in Pari .• I'd been dreaming about Peking without knowing it' a he step into the image from childhood and mal ·hes it again t the t rritorial reality. It's an image of the past et again" t a present that is itself in flux, and it's of Len been not d that Marker's trav logues privilege countries in m merits of tran formation; China under Maoism ( ZUlday in Peking), Siberia dming a Soviet-promoted FiveYear Plan of industrialization and elec-

trification (Letter from Siberia), I rael in its infancy (Description of a Struggle), Cuba attempting to onsolidate Cash'o's Revolution (CubaSz). nd whil some of these films have the flavor of 'Bulletins to the Brotherhood of Man" about them, e/wage di patches 111 out in the spirit or international solidarity (in this respect, Marker the 1 It-leaning Catholic humani 1 was vet much of his generation), th y also r present the development of Cl film ic language that would wrest the travdogue Cree from its taint of easeful Colonialist ob ervation. nd thi is wh re Marker's a hievements come into their own and III rit the tag of "greatnes ."

Mruker has explored and developed 1:\ 0 of the most rudimentary aspects or film language: the look and the cut, "The look" is understood here as being both that of the camera it elf'(hence, the look of the filmmaker and, by exten ion, the look of the spectator) as well as "the look returned" (the reciprocal gaze of the person being filmed). It's this look that becomes his modus operandi, his favored Ietishized moment and whose motto comes in Sans soleil when, \ ith a career's worth or frustration behind him at cinema's underemployment and misuse of this extraordinarily potent device. KrasnalMarker complains:

"Have YOll ever heard of anything more stupid than what they leach at film 5ch001- not to look at the camera?' In my imagination, a young Marker-fixated video-artist is out th re somewhere laboring over a [ound-footag opus that \ ould he composed entirely of an as mbly of all those eyes staring into the heart of Marker's lens. In fact, Markers entire output is

hut throuah with the e moment that at lingered over and meditated upon. Cinema in general is described as l'imprimerie da regarci (th "printing press of the look") and Marker's own cinema hymns "the magical function or the eye." In this r spect, he stays true to an effect of iinema's OW11 childhood that his alma mater, th French New Wav , actively exploited: the moment when a passerby glances into the camera's lens and which the French film hi storian Jean-Pierre Jeancolas has narn d the "Feuillade effect" after the cin malic pioneer Louis Feuillade, whose own films, often shot on the streets of Paris, included such moments, When conventional fiction films capture these glances they come acm as merely channing, naive, and unguarded reminders of primitive cinema. Marker explores them more probingly aware that there is

The money shot: La Jetee

something magical <It work h re, something literally transporting in this contact between the camera eye and the human eye. Til contact he seeks is less of a glance than a gaze (and even when it i: only a glance, he lingers on it like a ga? ) keen to establish that moment when Iwo looks meet in a kind of equality, when the eye is, quite literally, "open."

In La Jetrfe the opening eye becomes the emblem of lim . The significanc . of this moment in the film is emphasized by a brill iantly inventive, "rud imentary" special effect whose impact is worked up to throu 'h a refined. rh thmic panoply of cross-fades, sup srimpositions, and fadesto-black. A woman's eye. open from sleep at 24 Irames per econd, movement animates the stills, and cinema is awoken [rom a phnlo-roman.. But blink and

Grimace without a face: La Jetee


vou'll rni . it.It's intere 'ling to con id I' tile way the photograph in l. t: )clt!e if; a', 0- ciated both with death and reanimation, and to do so in the light of th first words of the commentary to if' Htu] Four Camels a film made up ~ntirely ofthe photographs taken in 26 countries between ] 955 and 1965: ,. Phol ograp h y i.~ like huntins, it's the instinct of the hunt \ ithout the desire to kill. lt's the hu nt of angels .... One stalks. aim', shoots <1miclick! Hath I' than killing someone, you make them eternal." II is into thi . "eternil "jhat the photograph rleliv rs a landscape or a face, an eremit where Lime is stilled Ii)!' memory 10 linger and reanimate it. 'his is what the ti me traveler does in La }e/l!e. 01: rather; it is what time has done to him and [0 the lost love or his memory. ( Ilarker has spoken of La Jelee as 11 is "r make" of Hitchcock's Vertigo. a film about "impossible memory, insane rnernory."] It is rhes , words from La [etee that best encapsulate til emblematic 1'01 of memory in Marker's work: " 10thin,.; distingui. hes memories from ordinal moments. lt is only later that they claim rernemhrance. By their scars."

hildhoodmernories hit us all in the same spot, where imagination and remembering a 1'1" I ruly indistinguishahle. ~ hal gi ,UI [eiee its force is the \ a it conflutes childhood memory with the historical trauma of war. In a key essay on the film. Jan-Louis chefer identifies "the memory of, or the kind of mnemonic damage, caused by war in our d ildhood: a pri rna 1 consr iousness of an era of planetary destruction which has lodgerl a soul wi thin us, lib, a bullet or a piece of shrapnel that hit us and by chance reached H center where it could Ii \Ie on aft r ha i ng done no more than desl roy a town or kill someone other than us." Ne d aile he reminded of how the limetraveler in La Je/(fe yields up. and yield to. "the irnuae from his childhood?" under torture, in tl1e irradiated ruins of Paris. submitted to experiments in an undergrnund laboratory. La Jetee inha.bited an historical context full ofdread: the postwar legacy of barbarous inhumanity (wwu. the Holocaust. Hircshima). domestic shame and strife (Algeria: torture, terrori Ill). and k nife-edge atomic brinkmanship (the Cuban Missile Crisis). On one le el, the film can be seen as having killfully sidestepped the po .ible obj ctions of the cer1;;OI'S through its LISt" of the science-fiction genre. Aller all,


who wa going to obje '1 to a hlack-andwhite ci-fi photo-roman. even if its subject matter included torture and atomic devas tation? Because.l y the time he ume Lo make La [etee, censor 'hip was no academic mailer for Marker.

The heavy hand of the French ·tale had already been brought ll) bear twice before, 011 Statues Die and Cubo Si.

Marker revives a Soviet film practice from the TWenties and Thirties, a technique that turns editing into creative geography.

Sunday in Peking

'tallies. mad with Alain Hesnais, i, a gract'fi.rl hut nonetheles piercing critique of colonialism in the guise of' an arts documentary, "W(' find tIle picturesque where <1 memh r or the I3lack community s eli the race or a culture" the commentary stales, i:l111 It he iil III grarlua lIy COI1- . trucls an Irican cosmology from the .. lead" statuary in mus um display' of so-called primitive art. uuues remains a striking film. Cor th brilliance of Hesnais's CHm ra, the polished irony of Marker's .ommentary, and t hf' supple sophisticatiou of the diting, II is, as Marker describes it in Commetuaire: I. an exarnpl of a "pamphlet-film' and its barely veiled polemical thrust was not miss I by stale censors who banned it for t n years I efore authoriziru; Ill(' release or a truncated version. Cuba Si, shot 'ill Iutl tih" ill January 1961, was conceived. wrote larker, "in order to oppose the monstrous wave of m iSI nlormution in the [French] press" over Castro's revo-

lution. Thl' old ~ 111' logic of the I-'rpilch state found its censorious alibi for relusing Lh film a .Ii tribution visa by invoking gencri(' nicetie s; the film could not bf' described a. a documentary because "it constituted ,,111 apology for the Caslm regime,

A Ias! won! about "the cue in Marker. the bit that strikes me a" missing Irom Bazins analomization of "lateral montage." Mm-kel' uses his editing to traverse great stretches or time where years pass in the space or a step. Think of Sans soh'il:

Lime-traveler who stumbles into the luture as he tramps across Icelandic tundra. It strikes me that, in thi ' understanding of the cut. Marker is close to the viets who, in the teens and Twenties. in cinema's childhood, called editing "creative geography," able to create u filmic spacetime from discrete space-times. This i,.; where Marker's time-travelers reallv come into thei r own, and \ h .I'e 1 urker himselj, "ow' unknown cosmonaut" as Jean Ouevul christened him. endows cinema with a technical capacity that is intrinsic to it aJ d that exceeds the simple repertoire or llas hbaek/l1 ash forward and in which time is understood as cin srna's tru e materia I.

Mayhe we shouldn't resent Marker';; "childhood" film. being donie I us, Af[(~r all. ob essives <11'(> always deeply grateful for stuff that needs digging up in order to be rediscovered, But one can't help wondering whether urker's examplehis solitary wanderinzs wilh camera and pen, hi. exploration of the forms of ssay, travelogue. and I'irl'll-pet'.'\on filnunaking-is not now an example whose tim!' has come arou nd again. , n I 1)\' cameras, desktop editing software. all these nell' technological tool>; are currently nvitalizing first-person filmmaking. It w uld be a salutary real ization for those exploring this form to understaud that they an" not the first to do. o. That they are themselves the children or an elusive, mercurial, quixotic lather who, with a play of words [or his name, with a speedy cut and lill-' click of a shutter, ha . removed himself' into another dimension, leaving the res I of us 10 make our OWI\ journeys. not ;;(1 I11LLCh following in his footsteps as traveling ill a time machine of his design.

Chris Darkes short video portrait o] Chris Marker': included 011 {he tecentl y released rle/Argus Films om of La J et e and ans solei],