Chris Marker: Links and Thoughts

Plenty has been written online about French filmmaker Chris Marker, who died this past Sunday. 

Here’s Richard Brody in The New Yorker, and Colin Marshall at Open Culture, where you can watch full some of Marker’s films online (Chris Marker documents the Tokyo Olympics – London 2012 take note: Le mystère Koumiko (1965)). Zachary Wigon at Filmmaker Magazine laments the extent to which Marker, a filmmaker obsessed with memory, has been forgotten about: “you’ll see plenty of notice given the man in the wake of his death, but Marker hasn’t held the attention of the film world in the way that his contemporaries Jean-Luc Godard and Resnais do since, well – never.”

He was certainly no showboater; the filmmaker who Ty Burr describes as “a ghostly fellow traveler” alongside the French New Wave seldom gave interviews and refused to be photographed. He expressed a desire, as Richard Brody quotes from a rare interview, “to give the floor to people who haven’t got it, and, when possible, to help them to find their means of expression.” But his presence is still everywhere.

There’s the influence of Marker’s films; this is the person who “pioneered the flexible hybrid form known as the essay film” according to Dennis Lim’s NYT obituary; who made Sans Soleil; and who once saved me personally (as I’m sure he’s saved others in the past), from the consequences of several rolls of ruined film during a class project. NB. you can get away with pretending you were planning to do something “La Jetee style,” and get away with it, exactly one time.

Then there’s his presence in other people’s movies. Personal, like his appearance in his friend Agnes Varda’s The Beaches of Anges in the guise of an animated cat; or harder to trace, like his role as the kind of fairy godfather behind Patricio Guzman’s The Battle of Chile. Guzman recalls how Marker, who was to him just a well-known Left-wing French filmmaker, showed up at his doorstep one day to buy Guzman’s film The First Year. When the Chilean political situation began to escalate and Guzman sensed that huge events would need to be captured on film, he reached out to his acquaintance:

The Battle of Chile turned out to be a great film and an important part of a country’s memory; the reverberations of Chris Marker’s response are still felt. Who knows how a generous action or a willingness to take a creative risk will play out in the future? We can all take lesson’s from Marker’s far-raging work.

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