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October 17 – December 16, 2013

Chris Marker: Guillaume-en-Égypte

“Only one who loves can remember so well.” - Anton Chekhov

A poet of the trace who left precious few, Chris Marker (1921-2012) was born French but lived in the imagination. We might also know him as Sandor Krasna, Jacopo Berenzi, or the grinning Guillaume-en-Égypte (“a cat is never on the side of power”), the alter-egos and self-effacement in dialectical counterpoint to the essayistic voice that is quintessentially Marker: playful, skeptical, compassionate, lucid, curious above all. “This secret and unpredictable man,” recalled one of his earliest collaborators, “dressed unlike anyone else, always ready to defend lost and difficult causes.” As much a password as a pseudonym, the name Chris Marker first appeared in postwar France as a byline for cultural reportage, educational dossiers, travel guides, and a novel (Le Cœur net). Quixotic amalgamations of fact and speculation, these early texts are montage by other means.

Marker would subsequently date his own genesis as a filmmaker to 1962—the year he made Le Joli Mai and La Jetée, two wildly different yet complimentary meditations on time and collectivity—but already in 1958 André Bazin was crediting him with having “profoundly altered the visual relationship between text and image.” The French critic could not have anticipated that Marker would keep it up for another half century, transiting from Direct Cinema to photo montage, compilation film to collectively produced cinema, CD-ROM to Second Life. “The really interesting phenomenon is the totality of these forms of expression, their obvious or secret correspondences, their interdependence.” Marker wrote this about William Klein, a fellow free spirit in media, but as in Marker’s later film portraits, every appreciation doubles as a manifesto. More than any other filmmaker associated with the first flowering of the nouvelle vague, Marker embraced cinema’s impurities, ceaselessly experimenting with different technologies and rhetorical forms to glean the elusive muse of memory: personal, political, wounding, ever fragrant memory.

As a flaneur of history, Marker used his economic means of filmmaking to recover mislaid dreams of the future and forgotten memories of the past. “You never know what you’re filming,” says the narrator of A Grin without a Cat, addressing a series of images of a seemingly innocuous Chilean athlete who history would reveal as one of Pinochet’s generals. By scrutinizing how meaning evolves even as what is depicted remains fixed, the self-christened Marker reveals the latent pressures acting upon, and indeed creating, the present. “What we call the past is somehow similar to what we call abroad. It is not a matter of distance, it is the passing of a boundary”: Marker’s discursive narrations ferry the viewer across this boundary, making the familiar strange and the strange familiar.

Chris Marker: Guillaume-en-Égypte affords a rare opportunity to explore the far reaches of Marker’s wide-ranging body of work. Along with lodestars like La Jetée and Sans Soleil, we find collaborations with Alain Resnais and Joris Ivens, early impressions (¡Cuba Si!) and subsequent reassessments (The Battle of the Ten Million) of the Cuban Revolution, “cine pamphlets” produced for SLON (Société pour le Lancement des Oeuvres Nouvelles, or the Association for Launching New Works), a poetic denunciation of industrialized whaling (Vive la baleine), portraits of colleagues Yves Montand (The Loneliness of the Long Distance Singer) and Simone Signoret (Hommage à Simone Signoret), and many less easily categorized titles. A tireless explorer and benefactor of cinema (Patricio Guzmán recalls him smuggling the raw stock needed to make The Battle of Chile), Marker is simply irreplaceable. A year after his death, we may find ourselves wondering what he would make of the tragic logic by which winter seems to be following spring in the Arab world, or of an astonishing statistic like the 100 hours of footage that are uploaded to YouTube every minute of the day. Marker can no longer venture a response, but revisiting his work we may be surprised to find our present quandaries there waiting for us. – Max Goldberg, writer and frequent contributor to cinema scope

Presented in conjunction with the MIT List Visual Arts Center’s exhibition Chris Marker: Guillaume-en-Égypte (Oct. 18 – Jan. 5, 2014), the first comprehensive presentation of Marker's pioneering work in text, photography, film, video and digital media, reflecting his role as a chronicler of the second half of the 20th century through its images. The exhibition is presented concurrently at the Carpenter Center of Visual Arts (Oct. 18 - Dec. 22, 2013). 

The Max Wasserman Forum on Contemporary Art will focus this year on the life and work of Chris Marker and features Nora Alter, Duncan Campbell, Paul Chan, Haden Guest, Jean Pierre-Gorin, and Martha Rosler. Moderated by João Ribas, curator of Chris Marker: Guillaume-en-Égypte. November 16-17, Bartos Theatre, Wiesner Bldg., 20 Ames Street, Cambridge. For more information, visit their website.

Special thanks: Eric Jausseran, Emmanuelle Marchand, Anne Miller – Consulate General of France, Boston, Florence Almozini, Muriel Guidoni, Myriam Laville – French Film Office, New York; Judith Revault-Dallone – Centre Pompidou; Florence Dauman – Argos Films; Meir Russo – Israel Film Archive and
Bernard Eisenschitz

Film descriptions by Max Goldberg and Haden Guest

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Free Screening
Thursday October 17 at 7:30pm

La Jetée

Directed by Chris Marker. With Hélène Chatelain, Davos Hanich,
Jacques Ledoux
France 1962, 35mm, b/w, 29 min.
 French with English subtitles

One of his only extended forays into fiction, La Jetée is constructed (with one crucial, brief exception) from still photographs that are combined in serial fashion with voiceover narration and music. The result is one of cinema’s most compelling works, a love story set in a bleak future and involving time travel and memory. After the destruction of civilization by war, a member of the underground survivor community, haunted by glimpses of a barely recalled face, is sent by scientists back to the past to look for a key to humanity’s salvation. There he finds a lover, love of the world when it was still alive, and traces of his earlier self. This ecstatic, lyrical film conveys the pain and weight of modern history and the intense power of images.

This screening follows the opening reception for the MIT List Visual Arts Center’s exhibition at the List beginning at 5:30pm, with a film screening/talk at 6:00 pm by exhibition curator João Ribas. The opening reception at Harvard's Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts will begin at 6:30. Haden Guest and João Ribas will introduce the film.

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Sunday October 20 at 4pm

Statues Also Die (Les statues meurent aussi)

Directed by Alain Resnais and Chris Marker
France 1950–53, 35mm, b/w, 30 min. French with English subtitles

This collaborative film, banned for more than a decade by French censors as an attack on French colonialism (and now available only in shortened form), is a deeply felt study of African art and the decline it underwent as a result of its contact with Western civilization. Marker’s characteristically witty and thoughtful commentary is combined with images of a stark formal beauty in this passionate outcry against the fate of an art that was once integral to communal life but became debased as it fell victim to the demands of another culture.

Toute la mémoire du monde

Directed by Alain Resnais
France 1956, digital video, b/w, 21 min. French with English subtitles

Alain Resnais’ short documentary study of the Bibliothèque nationale credits “Chris and Magic Marker” as one of several collaborators, but Marker’s epigrammatic wit is evident from the first sentence of the voice-over: “Because he has a short memory, man amasses countless memory aids.” The maze-like library triggers a beautiful chain of ruminations on the nature of knowledge and posterity, with Resnais’ gliding camera movements providing apt visual counterpoint to the riddling narration.

Les Astronautes

Directed by Walerian Borowczyk
France/Poland 1959, 16mm, color, 12 min

Although Marker's screen credit for "technical cooperation" leaves ambiguous his actual role in this early collaboration – a Surrealist inflected stop-motion collage directed by Marker's longtime friend, Polish animator and filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk – the film's delightful intertwining of frustrated love and science-fiction announces major Marker themes.

… A Valparaíso

Directed by Joris Ivens
France/Chile 1962, 35mm, b/w & color, 27 min. In English

Marker only needed a few days to write the voice-over narration for Joris Ivens’ lyrical city symphony, an astonishing fact given its poetic concision and layered ironies. Text and image work together to relate the port city’s geography and class structure; its architecture and folkways; its bloody history and uncertain future.

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Sunday October 20 at 7pm

Letter from Siberia (Lettre de Sibérie)

Directed by Chris Marker
France 1957, 35mm, color, 62 min. French with English subtitles

“How to describe Letter from Siberia?,” wrote André Bazin. “Negatively, at first, in pointing out that it resembles absolutely nothing that we have ever seen before in films with a documentary basis.” Marker’s early essay film remains a breakthrough work, blending travelogue, reflexive analysis, animation, still photographs, and a disarmingly intimate epistolary frame to limn the complexities of Siberian culture and its representations.

Preceded by

Sunday in Peking (Dimanche à Pékin)

Directed by Chris Marker
France 1955, 16mm, color, 22 min.
French with English subtitles

After World War II, Marker traveled across the world as a journalist and still photographer and as editor of a series of French travel books that combined personal impressions with facts—a style that would come to inform his own highly personal film essays. This was his first solo film (after collaborating with Resnais again, as assistant director on Night and Fog) and must be one of the first accounts by a western filmmaker of Mao’s China. The film gives us plenty of Beijing city life and glimpses of a China unknown in the West, all set to a witty voiceover commentary that delights in the oddities and contradictions of Chinese society.

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Monday October 21 at 7pm

A Grin Without a Cat (Le fond de l’air est rouge)

Directed by Chris Marker
France 1978, 35mm, color, 180 min. French with English subtitles

Marker’s incomparable editing skills attained a new level of sublimity and subtlety in his epic chronicle of the international New Left’s spectacular rise and fall. At turns mordant and mournful, A Grin Without a Cat uses an extraordinary range of source material – newsreels, propaganda films and Marker’s own footage – to construct a polyphonic, immersive and critical history of political struggle. “I am not boasting that I made a dialectical film. But I have tried for once (having in my time frequently abused the power of the directive commentary) to give back to the spectator, through the montage, “his” commentary, that is, his power.” – C.M.

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Friday November 1 at 7pm

Description of a Struggle (Description d’un combat)

Directed by Chris Marker
Israel/France 1960, digital video, color, 60 min. French with English subtitles

Chris Marker’s 1960 voyage to Israel resulted in one of his key early works, an exploration of the then only twelve-year-old nation as a world replete with over-determined signs and meaning forged by intense geopolitical pressures and by forces of still indefinite change. Marker's cautious optimism and belief in the kind of ideals embodied in the kibbutz movement gives a richer tremor to the characteristically wry and world-weary poetry of his voice-over commentary. After the Six Day War radically changed the course of Israel and the entire Middle East, Marker withdrew Description of a Struggle, and it has remained largely unavailable until the recent restoration by the Jerusalem Film Archive.

Followed by

La Jetée

Directed by Chris Marker. With Hélène Chatelain, Davos Hanich,
Jacques Ledoux
France 1962, 16mm, b/w, 29 min.
French with English subtitles

One of his only extended forays into fiction, La Jetée is constructed (with one crucial, brief exception) from still photographs that are combined in serial fashion with voiceover narration and music. The result is one of cinema’s most compelling works, a love story set in a bleak future and involving time travel and memory. After the destruction of civilization by war, a member of the underground survivor community, haunted by glimpses of a barely recalled face, is sent by scientists back to the past to look for a key to humanity’s salvation. There he finds a lover, love of the world when it was still alive, and traces of his earlier self. This ecstatic, lyrical film conveys the pain and weight of modern history and the intense power of images.

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Friday November 1 at 9pm

Class of Struggle (Classe de lutte)

Directed by Chris Marker
France 1969, digital video, b/w, 37 min. French with English subtitles

Class of Struggle was made in direct and radical response to Marker and co-director Mario Marret's portrait of a textile factory strike and occupation, À Bientôt, j’espère. When Marker learned that the factory workers were dissatisfied with his film's depiction of the strike, he set out to give the camera, encouragement and filmmaking instructions to workers themselves. Establishing a new collective of SLON members and newly empowered factory worker-filmmakers, Marker and the group turned now to another strike unfolding in a French watch factory. One of the most radical political films of the period, Class of Struggle is remarkable for its interweaving of the distinct voices and perspectives of the labor strife and for the emergence, nevertheless, of a kind of leader in the charismatic figure of an extraordinary young woman who gives the collective a brave voice and example.

Cinétracts

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, Philippe Garrel, et.al.
France 1968, digital video, b/w, 26 min. excerpt. No dialogue

The Cinétracts were a series of short 16mm films shot in Paris during the upheaval of May 1968 by Chis Maker and a host of the most talented and politically engaged French filmmakers of the period – including Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Jean-Pierre Gorin, Phillipe Garrel and Jackie Raynal. With the instructions that their films should be silent, unsigned, edited entirely in camera (rules clearly broken by Godard) and widely distributed the Ciné-tract group set out to capture the unrest.

The Sixth Side of the Pentagon (La sixième face du pentagone)

Directed by Chris Marker and François Reichenbach
France 1967, digital video, b/w and color, 26 min. French with English subtitles

Marker's charged rendering of the October 21, 1967 march on the Pentagon was made for a French “television magazine” and later distributed by the Franco-Belgian film collective, SLON). Integrating still photographs, voiceover commentary and dramatic actuality footage, Marker's hard-hitting short represents a forcible mode of alternative reportage, a type of counter-newsreel made during a period of intense distrust of the mainstream media.

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Saturday November 2 at 7pm

The Battle of the Ten Million
(La Bataille des dix millions)

Directed by Chris Marker
France 1970, digital video, color, 58 min. French and Spanish with English subtitles

Working for Belgian television, Marker returned to Cuba to gauge the course of the revolution and to respond to his early open embrace of the Castro-led movement in ¡Cuba Si! Implicitly questioning and correcting Castro's dominant figure, The Battle of the Ten Million follows Castro's bravura call for an unprecedentedly large sugar cane crop of ten million tons. Marker transforms Castro's gambit into a brilliant auto-critique, by turning instead to the Cuban people as a collective presence and voice larger than their leader, focusing on dignity, toil and unflagging spirit of the sugar cane workers.

The Embassy (L’Ambassade)

Directed by Chris Marker and François Reichenbach
France 1973, digital video, color, 20 min. French with English subtitles

A potent study of political disorientation, state terrorism and exile, Marker's "anonymous" 1973 Super-8 film reads as an allegory and vivid evocation of the violent paroxysms and unrest roiling Latin America and much of the world at the time.

 

Report on Chile: What Allende Said (On vous parle du Chili: Ce que disait Allende)

Directed by Chris Marker
France 1973, digital video, b/w, 16 min. In French and Spanish

One of several SLON newsreel interventions into Latin American politics, this short reveals Marker's deep concern and anger over the especially dire situation in Chile.

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Saturday November 2 at 9:30pm

Be Seeing You (À bientôt, j’espere)

Directed by Chris Marker
France 1968, digital video, b/w, 39 min. French with English subtitles

After first visiting Rhodia’s Besançon plant to observe a strike in March 1967, Marker and his SLON associates were invited back nine months later to document a second action. The resulting film shuttles between the picket line and interviews with workers and their wives at home. The men speak about the alienating aspects of their labor as well as the lively atmosphere of the strike. “What is beautiful is not what is written in the tabloid,” says one a union leader, “it’s what the working class does.” Soon after making À Bientôt, j’espère,Marker would lend his support to a collective of Rhodia workers making their own films, suggesting that they name themselves for the Soviet director Alexander Medvedkin.

Three Cheers for the Whale (Vive la baleine)

Directed by Chris Marker and Mario Ruspoli
France 1972, digital video, color, 17 min. French with English subtitles

The quizzical love of animals expressed throughout Marker's cinema is given a new dimension and urgency in Vive la baleine, a short essay film which traces the history and mythology of the whale and dark shadow of man's troubled relationship with the sea creature, co-directed by Italian painter, ethnologist and documentarian Mario Ruspoli.

The Train Rolls On (Le train en marche)

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, Philippe Garrel, et.al.
France 1971, digital video, b/w, 32 min. In French

Designed as a companion piece to a re-release of Alexander Medvedkin's Happiness (1934), Marker's short film revisits the cine-train designed by Medvedkin to bring cinema to the people, looking affectionately and almost wistfully back at the utopian spirit and idea of the cinema as a force for raising political consciousness.

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Sunday November 3 at 5pm

Olympia 52

Directed by Chris Marker
France 1952, 16mm, b/w, 82 min. French with English subtitles

Marker's rarely seen first documentary feature offers a fascinating early, still not fully formed, expression of his distinct style and essayistic approach. A chronicle of the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Marker's debut film is noted for its lightness of touch, for the ways the camera constantly wanders away from the athletic spectacles to linger on the apparition of a face in a crowd, or the comic antics of a seal, or the ironic unfurling and pomp of a Coca-Cola flag.

Preceded by a free screening at 3:30pm of Un regard neuf sur Olympia 52 (Julien Faraut 2013, digital video, color, 80 min)

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Sunday November 3 at 7pm

The Koumiko Mystery (Le Mystère Koumiko)

Directed by Chris Marker
France 1965, 16mm, color, 54 min. French with English subtitles

The peripatetic and famously elusive Marker created this film essay, his first account of Tokyo, during the Olympic games, acting as usual in the triple role of cameraman, scenarist, and editor. The tour of Tokyo is conducted by Koumiko Muraoka, a young Japanese woman the director claims to have discovered in the crowds at the games. Mixing elements of the city symphony – street scenes, neon signs, crowds, the monorail – with fragments of comic books and other cultural materials, Marker creates a rich portrait of modern-day Tokyo.

If I Had Four Dromedaries
(Si j’avais quatre dromadaires)

Directed by Chris Marker
France/West Germany 1966, digital video, b/w, 49 min. French with English subtitles

Composed entirely of still photographs shot by Marker himself over the course of his restless travel through twenty-six countries, If I Had Four Dromedaries stages a probing, at times agitated, search for the meanings of the photographic image, in the form of an extended voiceover conversation and debate between the "amateur photographer" credited with the images and two of his colleagues. Anticipating later writings by Roland Barthes and Susan Sontag (who professed her admiration for the film) If I Had Four Dromedaries reveals Marker's instinctual understanding of the secret rapport between still and moving image.

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Friday November 8 at 9:15pm

Level Five

Directed by Chris Marker
France 1997, digital video, color, 110 min. English, Japanese, French with English subtitles

A spectral truth-seeker named for Otto Preminger’s Laura (1944) navigates a networked computer game designed to reconstruct the memory of the Battle of Okinawa. Linking between shards of fact and memory, including film shot by Nagisa Oshima and John Huston, Laura follows Marker’s advice that in travelling one must accept “the rhythms, waves, shocks, all the buffers of memory, its meteors and dragnets.” Explicitly positioned as a cyberpunk equivalent to Alain Resnais’ classic trauma narrative –“Okinawa mon amour,” Laura says – Level Five is alive to fresh possibilities for storytelling in the information age while remaining in the debt of historical memory.

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Sunday November 10 at 4pm

Far From Vietnam (Loin du Vietnam)

Directed by Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, Agnès Varda, Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker, Alain Resnais
France 1967, digital video, color, 115 min. French and English with English subtitles

In 1967, Chris Marker assembled footage shot by a number of filmmakers opposed to the war in Vietnam into a film essay. Most of these filmmakers were French; their commitment to this project testifies to the political engagement of the Left Bank and New Wave filmmakers at that time as well as to their awareness that US aggression in Vietnam stemmed directly from that country’s revolt against French colonialism. William Klein films pro- and anti-war protests in New York, while Joris Ivens contributes footage from Vietnam; Resnais and Godard contribute two self-contained sequences. Marker masterfully blends these contributions with interviews, newsreel imagery and additional material by Agnès Varda and Claude Lelouch, and lays a typically incisive – and occasionally ironic – voiceover on top.

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Monday November 11 at 7pm

This selection of films were made by Marker as a member and in close collaboration with the activist documentary collective SLON (Société pour le Lancement des Oeuvres Nouvelles). Marker's SLON films are noted for their radical editing style and incredible resourcefulness – using whatever footage and imagery available to compose urgent newsreels to combat the grotesque injustices and cruel totalitarianism afflicting Latin America and Europe. Marker's SLON films each focus on the human actors of political struggle, spotlighting party leaders and book editors alike and insightfully capturing the telling gestures and turns of phrases that make clear the dedication and frailty of those valiantly determined to change the established order.

Report on Brazil: Tortures (On vous parle du Brésil: Tortures)

France 1969, digital video, b/w, 20 min. In French

 

Report on Prague: The Second Trial of Artur London
(On vous parle de Prague: Le déuxieme process d’Artur London)

France 1971, digital video, b/w, 30 min.  In French

 

Report on Paris: Maspero. Words Have Meaning
(On vous parle de Paris: Maspero. Les mots ont un sens)

France 1970, digital video, b/w, 20 min. In French

 

Report on Brazil: Carlos Marighela
(On vous parle du Bresil: Carlos Marighela)

France 1970, digital video, b/w, 20 min. In Portuguese and French

 

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Free Panel Discussion
Thursday November 14 at 6pm

After Marker

Presentations by Jem Cohen, Renée Green, Tom McDonough
Panel discussion moderated by Trevor Stark

Chris Marker's work persistently staged encounters across disciplinary, historical, geographical, and political divides, whether in his passionate recovery of forgotten legacies, his gestures of cinematic friendship, his challenge to the divisions of cultural competence and access, or his meditations on memory, travel, and dispossession in a global setting. No longer able to call Marker our contemporary, this panel asks what potential his work may have for our present and future conceptions of artistic practice, the possibilities of film, and historical memory.

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$12 Special Event
Pierre Lhomme in person

Sunday December 1 at 7pm

Le Joli Mai

Directed by Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme
France 1963, digital video, b/w, 123 min.
 French with English with English subtitles

This grand-scale, beautifully photo-graphed study of Paris and its people during the month that marked the end of the Algerian War presents interviews with an assortment of citizens and then broadens out to consider the physical setting and political context in which they live. The film has been compared to Jean Rouch’s cinéma vérité classic, Chronicle of a Summer, made the year before. Marker begins and ends Le Joli Mai with meditative, poetic voiceover commentary as only he can write it, but otherwise yields to the sounds of Paris and the voices of a slum dweller, a merchant, an African student, an Algerian worker, a priest turned militant communist, and others.

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Saturday December 7 at 7pm

Sans soleil

Directed by Chris Marker
France 1982, 16mm, color, 100 min. In English

Marker’s ruminative, melancholy masterpiece channels the imagination of a lonely traveling cameraman—evoked in letters from distant Africa and Japan—into a profound meditation on the creative conjuring powers of memory, place and image. Among the most brilliant examples of the essay film, Sans soleil uses a lyrical, associative structure to transform modern Japan into a vivid metaphor for the scintillating mosaic of fact, fiction and fantasy that defines the increasingly mediated image world in which we live. A crucial bridge between Marker’s adventurous earlier travel films and his growing interest in media and technology, Sans soleil is one of Marker’s most dazzling and inexhaustible works.

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Saturday December 7 at 9pm

The Last Bolshevik

Directed by Chris Marker
France 1993, video, b/w and color, 120 min.
French with English subtitles

Marker’s video is a tribute to the Soviet director Alexander Medvedkin, who operated the famous “agitprop” train in the 1930s and made the classic comedy/allegory Happiness (1935), a remarkable fantasy on the theme of collective farming. Marker presents the film in the form of letters to his now deceased friend, with words and images that evoke the man, his works, the history of the Soviet Union, and the disciple’s own tender interest in the subject. The film includes rare footage from Medvedkin’s works, which were surely a model for Marker, especially during the years of his own collective filmmaking activities.

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Sunday December 8 at 4:30pm

Marker's intense political awareness and untrammeled activist spirit gave a galvanizing intensity to his work in the 1980s and 1990s which also saw him working and experimenting with a wide variety of video formats. This selection of late shorts reveals Marker's restless engagement with the many wars and upheavals that destabilized Europe throughout the period while showcasing his syncretic vision of history and the inter-connectedness of international events.

2084 (2084: Video clip pour une reflexion syndicale et pour le plaisir)

France 1984, digital video, color, 10 min. French with English subtitles

 

Prime Time in the Camps
(Le 20 heures dans les camps)

France 1993, digital video, color, 28 min. In English

 

E-clip-se

France 1999, digital video, color, 8 min. Minimal dialogue

 

Casque bleu

France 1995, digital video, color, 26 min. In French

 

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Sunday December 8 at 7pm

One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevitch
(Une journée d’Andrei Arsenevitch)

Directed by Chris Marker
France 2000, digital video, color, 55 min. French with English subtitles

One Day in the Life . . . is a study of Andrei Tarkovsky, the great Russian romantic/metaphysical filmmaker, by the very different but admiring Chris Marker, an ironic, critical artist with a lively sense of humor who, of course, also has his romantic and lyrical side. The film begins with moving footage in Paris of Tarkovsky’s reunion with his son, who had been held back in the USSR for a time after the director’s exile. Marker presents clips from the films, offering shrewd commentary on Tarkovsky’s use of fire, earth, and water; on the carnality of his mysticism; on his links to Kurosawa, and much else. We also see him at work filming The Sacrifice and speaking his considered last thoughts from his deathbed.

Followed by

A.K.

Directed by Chris Marker
Japan/France 1985, digital video, color, 74 min. Japanese and French with English subtitles

Marker's fascination with Japan and the idea of the untranslatable finds full flower in his essay portrait of Akira Kurosawa tirelessly at work on the Mt. Fuji set of Ran (1985), his late masterful adaptation of King Lear. A double Portrait of an Artist as an Old(er) Man, A.K. offers glimpses of both Kurosawa and Marker as unflagging perfectionists, each seeking somehow to achieve the impossible – Kurosawa grappling to realize an epic and unprecedentedly expensive jidaigeki adaptation of Shakespeare, and Marker trying to capture the essence and enigma of the legendary and legendarily remote director. Maintaining a respectful distance from Kurosawa, Marker looks instead towards those smaller moments and details of the entire vast production unfurled before him – the armies of extras at repose, the drama of the mist shrouded mountain sides, the ever-watching camera-eyes – seeking different expressions of Kurosawa's obsessive artistic persona and cinema's bizarre and beautiful artifice.

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Monday December 16 at 7pm

Junkopia

Directed by Chris Marker, John Chapman, Frank Simeone
France 1981, 35mm, color, 6 min

Equal parts actualité and science fiction, Junkopia was made on the same trip to San Francisco that yielded the Vertigo segments of Sans Soleil. The scrap sculpture lining a thin strip of land between freeway and water present Marker with something like an ideal subject; found objects and possible harbingers, they are allowed to speak for themselves.

The Case of the Grinning Cat (Chats perches)

Directed by Chris Marker
France 2004, digital video, color, 58 min

Chris Marker offers a lively, roaming examination of political dissent in 21st century France and an energetic return to the film essay form that he pioneered. Intrigued by the enigmatic appearance of an insouciant graffiti cat, grinning from ear to ear, perched defiantly high across the walls of Paris, Marker set out to track the feline pattern and the broader mood of the post-9/11 city. Marker’s search eventually leads him to discover a sudden reassertion of political voice by Parisian youth, a spirited defiance to the American invasion of Iraq and the insurgent French ultra-right, with the grinning cat an icon and emblematic participant.

Remembrance of Things to Come
(Le souvenir d’un avenir)

Directed by Yannick Bellon and Chris Marker
France 2001, digital video, b/w, 42 min

A circuitous meditation on the volatile interwar years as photographed by Denise Bellon, Remembrance of Things to Come is bookended by two surrealist exhibitions, the first staged in 1938, “when post-war was becoming pre-war,” and the second a class reunion convened in 1947 (the same year Marker began publishing articles). Bellon’s images provide an ideal vehicle for Marker’s fascination with the indicting gaze, whether figuring as André Breton’s “perfect eye,” the hard stares of prostitutes in France’s African colonies or the shattered faces of war veterans. Typically of Marker, the film only offers faint glimmers of Bellon’s biography, focusing instead on the camera-eye’s waking dream of history in the making.

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