Chris Darke Publishes La Jetée

Chris Darke is coming out with a new book on La Jetée and has arranged for chrismarker.org to publish the first chapter. Many thanks to Chris and to the British Film Institute! It’s an honor to get a sneak peak at this important, extremely perceptive take on Chris Marker’s most famous creation. Please click below to read the chapter. If you wish, you can order your copy at amazon.uk.

La Jetée by Chris Darke, BFI Classics, Chapter One

Chris Darke, La Jetée. BFI Classics. Published July 2016

Chris Darke Biography

Chris Darke is a writer and film critic. For over twenty years his work has been published in newspapers and magazines including: Sight and Sound, Film Comment, Cahiers du cinéma, Trafic, Frieze, Vertigo, and The Independent. He is the author of four books: Light Readings: Film Criticism and Screen Arts (2000); a monograph on Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville (2005); Cannes: Inside the World’s Premier Film Festival (with Kieron Corless, 2007); and a study of La Jetée in the BFI Film Classics series (2016). He has contributed essays to catalogues and edited collections, as well as translating texts by Raymond Bellour, Jean-Pierre Oudart, Pascal Bonitzer, and Marc Augé, among others.

He has also made short arts documentaries for British television: his 1999 film about Chris Marker’s La Jetée was included (at Guillaume’s insistence) on French, UK, and US DVD releases of La Jetée and Sans soleil. He was creative consultant on Grant Gee’s Patience (After Sebald) (2012), a feature-length essay-film about W. G. Sebald’s novel The Rings of Saturn. He co-curated the major exhibition Chris Marker: A Grin without a Cat at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 2014, for which he also co-edited the catalogue. He is a Senior Lecturer in Film at Roehampton University, London.

Books

Light Readings: Film Criticism and Screen Arts (London: Wallflower Press, 2000)
Alphaville: French Film Guide (London, IB Tauris, 2005)
Cannes: Inside the World’s Premier Film Festival (with Kieron Corless. London: Faber, 2007)
Chris Marker: A Grin without a Cat (co-editor with Habda Rashid. Whitechapel Gallery, 2014)

Selected essays, articles, reviews, and interviews

Review: Antonioni exhibition at the Cinémathèque Française, Film Comment, July 2015
http://www.filmcomment.com/blog/artform-antonioni-at-the-paris-cinematheque/

Uneasy Listening: Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland, UK, 2012), Film Comment, May-June 2013
http://www.filmcomment.com/article/berberian-sound-studio-uneasy-listening/

Interview with Patricio Guzmán on Nostalgia for the Light (Chile, Spain, Germany, France, 2012), Sight & Sound, August 2012
http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/interviews/desert-disappeared-patricio-guzman-nostalgia-light/

Systems Analyst: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (Adam Curtis, UK, 2011), Film Comment, July-August 2012
http://www.filmcomment.com/article/adam-curtis-all-watched-over-by-machines-of-loving-grace/

Interview: Adam Curtis, Film Comment, July-August 2012
http://www.filmcomment.com/blog/interview-adam-curtis/

Antonioni – the afterlife, Sight & Sound (online), March 2011
http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/comment/obituaries/antonioni-afterlife

“Les Enfants et les Cinéphiles” The Moment of Epiphany in The Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, Spain, 1973), Cinema Journal, 49, no. 2, Winter 2010, pp. 152-158.
https://muse.jhu.edu/article/373237

On the Threshold: on Hunger (Steve McQueen, UK & Ireland, 2008), Criterion Collection, 2010
https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/1375-hunger-on-the-threshold

Three Images of May: Cinema and the Uprising, Vertigo, Vol. 3 Issue 9, Spring-Summer 2008
https://www.closeupfilmcentre.com/vertigo_magazine/volume-3-issue-9-spring-summer-2008/three-images-of-may-cinema-and-the-uprising/

Review: Yella (Christian Petzold, Germany, 2007), Film Comment, May-June 2008
http://www.filmcomment.com/article/yella-review/june

First Person Singular: on the essay films of Agnès Varda, Film Comment, January-February 2008
http://www.filmcomment.com/article/first-person-singular-agnes-varda/

Freedom and Dirt: on Vagabond (Agnes Varda, France, 1985), Criterion Collection, 2008
https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/501-vagabond-freedom-and-dirt

Once More … into the Zone: Chris Marker Looks Back, in Wonder, Vertigo, Vol. 3 Issue 6, Summer 2007
https://www.closeupfilmcentre.com/vertigo_magazine/volume-3-issue-6-summer-2007/once-more-into-the-zone-chris-marker-looks-back-in-wonder/

Sweet Bird of Youth: Kes (Ken Loach, UK, 1969), Film Comment, July-August 2007
http://www.filmcomment.com/article/encore-kes/

Films of Ruin and Rapture: In Search of Jean-Daniel Pollet, Film Comment, May-June 2007
http://www.filmcomment.com/article/films-of-ruin-and-rapture-in-search-of-jean-daniel-pollet/

Chris Marker: The Invisible Man, Film Comment, May-June 2003
http://www.filmcomment.com/article/chris-marker-the-invisible-man/

Chris Marker: Eyesight, Film Comment, May-June 2003
http://www.filmcomment.com/article/chris-marker-eyesight/

Letter from London (on surveillance and cinema), Senses of Cinema, Issue 25, March 2003
http://sensesofcinema.com/author/chris-darke/

Arte to Release “La Trilogie des Balkans” Chris Marker DVD

balkan-trilogy

In an email from April 26th, Sabrina Bendali of Arte France writes of the upcoming release of three Chris Marker films that have been put together into a “Balkan Trilogy.”  The overall title of the DVD is La trilogie des Balkans, set for DVD release on June 7, 2016 and containing the following films:

  • Le 20 heures dans les camps (1993, 26″)
  • Casque Blue (1995, 26″)
  • Un maire au Kosovo (2000, 27″)

Additional materials and details:

  • Slon Tango (4 min. short)
  • interviews with François Crémieux and Jean-Michel Frodon (30 min.)
  • accompanying booklet (20 pages)
  • TRT: 2 hours
  • Language: French with French sub-titles for deaf and hearing-impaired

“Je me permets de vous écrire pour vous signaler la parution le 7 juin prochain du dvd La trilogie des Balkans, dvd qui comprend trois films : Le 20 heures dans les camps, Casque Bleu et Un maire au Kosovo.

Ensemble, ces trois brèves réalisations offrent une perception d’une rare acuité de ce qui s’est joué en ex-Yougoslavie durant la dernière décennie du 20e siècle. […]

Merci et bonne fin de journée.
Sabrina Bendali, Service press ARTE Éditions

Here’s an overview from the press release:

À travers les décennies et les convulsions de l’histoire, Chris Marker a toujours fait preuve d’une réactivité sensible et intelligente aux événements de la planète. Ce fut à nouveau le cas avec les guerres balkaniques des années 1990 : 45 ans après la fin de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale, la guerre était de retour en Europe, des camps de concentration étaient ouverts à 500 km de Munich. En 1991-1995, une ville d’Europe symbole du multiculturalisme, Sarajevo, subissait le plus long siège de l’histoire moderne, les civils étaient abattus en pleine rue, la purification ethnique justifiait massacres et viols de masse, la communauté internationale prouvait que, malgré les leçons du siècle qui se terminait, elle restait impuissante à empêcher l’horreur, quand elle n’en devenait pas complice comme à Srebrenica. Dès le début des conflits en ex-Yougoslavie, Marker fut l’un des premiers à réagir. Il devait leur consacrer trois films, chaque fois selon une perspective originale qui, décalant l’observation journalistique ou le plaidoyer de principe, approchent davantage la vérité de ce qui est en train de se jouer, et les liens de ces événements avec le reste du monde.

Rough English Translation

Across the decades and the convulsions of history, Chris Marker always proved himself a sensible and intelligent guide to the events of the planet. This was true once again in the case of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Forty-five years after the end of World War II, war returned to Europe. Concentration camps were opened around 500 kilometers from Munich. From 1991 to 1995, the European city Sarajevo, symbol of multi-culturalism, suffered the longest siege in modern history. Civilians were killed in the middle of the street, ethnic ‘purification’ justified massacres and mass rapes. The international community proved that, despite the lessons of the century that was ending, it remained impotent at preventing such horror, even becoming complicit in the case of Srebenica. From the beginning of the conflicts in ex-Yugoslavia, Marker was one of the first to react. He devoted himself to three films, each time following an original perspective which, offsetting journalistic observation or ethical plea, approached the truth of what was unfolding, and the links of these events to the rest of the world.

jaquette-trilogie-balkans

Special thanks to Christine van Assche for the ‘jacquette’ image above. Click to enlarge.

Film Summaries

Le 20 heures dans les camps – 26 min
1993. Au camp de Roska en Slovénie, des réfugiés bosniaques, dépouillés de tout ce qui leur appartenait, entreprennent de se réapproprier au moins l’information, en créant une télévision sur cassettes dotée de tous les éléments de la “vraie” télévision : présentateurs, jingles et piratage des émissions qui parlent d’eux.

Casque bleu – 26 min
Le témoignage d’un jeune médecin conscrit qui s’est engagé en 1994 comme casque bleu pour partir en mission en Bosnie. Après 6 mois dans la poche de Bihac, François Crémieux est de retour en France. Quel bilan tire-t-il de son expérience ? Que reste-t-il de ses attentes, de ses projections, de ses fantasmes d’avant le départ ?

Un maire au Kosovo – 27 min
En 1999 Marker recueille le témoignage de Bajram Rexhepi maire de Mitrovitsa, ville devenue célèbre à cause de son pont qui la coupait en deux et séparait la population albanaise du dernier bastion serbe. Bajram Rexhepi a été engagé comme chirurgien, dans l’Armée de libération du Kosovo. Il parle de son engagement et analyse avec lucidité les circonstances qui l’ont fait maire de Mitrovitsa.

PS: For those in Paris on May 28th, check out this symposium on Chris Marker et la photographie: www.fabula.org/actualites/….

Chris Marker: (Le livre impossible) by Maroussia Vossen

Out of the blue, we learned of a new and quite intimate book on Chris Marker (‘un centre mouvant’), written by his adopted daughter Maroussia Vossen. Marker’s life went into his work, and his personal life remained and remains a mystery to a great many of his fans. This new book, which can be found at Amazon.fr currently, promises to be a welcome respite from scholarly publications, and an insight into the oft-guarded personal side of the auteur. That Marker was loyal to his intimates has been clear, with testimonies coming since his death from many sides, including Pierre Lhomme and Patricio Guzman. His friends were so numerous, yet each relationship, as attested to by Maroussia, was set in a kind of sacred space – just the opposite of social space with its flattening of relationships into connections, friends, followers… There is in this publication an aura of glimpsing into the center of the storm of a wildly productive life, at the most intimate and non-public relationship perhaps of all. It is a welcome arrival. As we await its physical arrival from amazon.fr, we can at least ruminate and quote some preliminary texts that are posted on the publisher’s site, le-tripode.net. What was impossible during Marker’s life comes to life here, the impossible book somehow made possible.

Chris Marker (Le livre impossible)

Maroussia Vossen

« Ce texte n’est ni un roman, ni un essai ; encore moins une biographie. C’est le récit fragmentaire de mon lien à Chris Marker, de ma naissance à sa mort. »

L’un est un cinéaste mythique, l’autre sa fille d’adoption. L’un a fait de sa vie un mystère, l’autre en a été le témoin.

Avec justesse et humilité, Maroussia Vossen fait le récit sobre d’une filiation peu banale et révèle le portrait d’un artiste hors du commun, qui s’évertua jusqu’à sa mort à demeurer une énigme.

Artiste et écrivain, Chris Marker est notamment l’auteur d’un film culte : La Jetée.

L’Auteur

Née en 1955. Danse, chorégraphie, enseigne, aime les chats.Le Tripode, Chris Marker (Le livre impossible)

Maroussia Vossen, Chris Marker Le livre impossible

Préambule

Ce texte n’est ni un roman ni un essai; encore moins une biographie.

C’est le récit fragmentaire de mon lien à Chris Marker, de ma naissance à sa mort.

Je n’évoquerai pas le cinéaste, laissant ce travail à ses commentateurs. Je ne peux que restituer quelques instants partagés avec lui, à mesure qu’ils me reviennent en mémoire : plus de cinquante ans de souvenirs.

À peine sortie de l’enfance, je me suis rendu compte qu’il cloisonnait ses relations. Cela lui permettait d’avoir un échange privilégié, un rapport singulier avec l’autre, de construire un cercle dont il serait le centre, mais un centre mouvant. Ainsi, chacun peu aujourd’hui parler de ‘son’ Chris.

Mon point de vue (ou de vie) est fait de plusieurs regards. Celui d’une enfant qui cherche un père ; celui d’une adolescente à la fois rebelle et impressionnée par cet homme qui avait l’allure d’un grand fauve ; celui enfin d’une femme adulte, engagée dans sa propre voie artistique. Ce dernier regard est probablement le plus critique. Mais, quoi qu’il en soit, notre relation ne s’est jamais départé d’une forme de reconnaissance réciproque. On peut dire que notre lien était là et au-delà des mots, comme il était hors de toutes règles conventionnelles.

Chris Marker était un personnage complexe, ses multiples noms d’emprunt sont autant de preuves de son exceptionnelle capacité d’adaptation ; il m’a toujours été difficile d’en cerner les contours. Paradoxal, contradictoire, imprévisible… Ce ne sont que des mots. Immanquablement, il échappait à quiconque voulait l’enfermer dans une définition.

Maroussia Vossen, Chris Marker (Le livre impossible)

Extract published by Le Tripode on Issuu

Full-screen reading enabled

You Only Live Twice Set at La Jetée’s Orly Airport

You Only Live Twice: Sex, Death and Transition

By Chase Joynt and Mike Hoolboom

Coach House, 152 pages, $14.95

On the day of French director Chris Marker’s death, two movie artists meet at the Orly Airport. It’s a place of professional interest, since Marker, a favourite New Wave cineaste, set a pivotal scene in his 1962 film, La Jetée, here. The film involves time travel such that in this particular scene the protagonist witnesses his own death, and so for trans writer and media artist Chase Joynt and HIV-positive movie artist Mike Hoolboom, this location is also a place of personal resonance: Both men share a sense of having lived twice. In the series of vignettes that follow, Joynt and Hoolboom enter into a free-flowing correspondence on multifarious topics – love, sex, art, death, the public and the private – that brings to mind Maggie Nelson’s work of autotheory from last year. The reflexive format allows for what John Berger would call a “real likeness”: a portrait from both sides of the camera. An intellectually expansive, emotional gut-punch of a memoir.TheGlobeandMail.com

Chris Marker et la photographie

chris-marker-et-la-photographie

What: Journée d’étude | Day of Study

Title: Chris Marker et la photographie | Chris Marker and Photography

Who: Vincent Jacques, avec la participation de | with the participation of:

  • Philippe Bazin
  • Christa Blümlinger
  • Pierre Gaudin
  • Vincent Jacques
  • François Niney
  • Bamchade Pourvali

When: samedi 28 mai 2016 | Saturday May 28th, 2016 – Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA), Salle Vasari | 2, rue Vivienne – 75002 Paris

Additional information at fabula.org: la recherche en littérature & www.ciph.org.

Chris Marker et la photographie

Organisation scientifique : Vincent Jacques (ENSA Versailles / LéaV)

Samedi 28 mai 2016 à 10h

Salle Vasari, Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA), 2 rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris

S’il s’est fait mondialement reconnaître comme cinéaste grâce à des films comme La Jetée, Le fond de l’air est rouge ou Sans Soleil, le cinéma et la vidéo n’épuisent pas la pratique de l’image de Chris Marker. En effet, une constante de son oeuvre consiste en l’usage de la photographie. Entre 1956 où il publie son premier portfolio Clair de Chine dans la revue Esprit et l’exposition Passengers à New York dans les galeries de Peter Blum en 2011, il aura pratiqué le genre à intervalle régulier et publié cinq recueils de photo, Les Coréennes (1959), La Renfermée. La Corse (1981), Le Dépays (1982), Staring Back (2007) et Passengers (2011). Quatre de ces recueils sont accompagnés d’un texte de l’auteur (La Corse est écrit par Marie Susini) : comme c’est le cas dans toute la production de Marker, quel que soit le médium, la photographie participe d’une démarche plus large que l’exploitation d’une seule modalité d’expression.

Notre journée d’étude se propose donc d’aborder l’oeuvre par le biais de la photographie, c’est-à-dire d’étudier le travail photographique de Marker en lui-même et dans le cadre d’une démarche plus générale. Soulignons d’emblée que ce travail n’a jamais vraiment été entrepris, les textes sur Marker étant quasi exclusivement consacrés à ses films tandis que les histoires de la photographie contemporaine font systématiquement l’impasse sur cette part de l’oeuvre. L’approche du travail photographique de Marker se fera selon trois axes. 1- Analyser comment l’auteur brouille la limite entre les genres (cinéma, essai, installation, jeux vidéo…) dans une recherche constante de nouvelles articulations entre l’image et le texte. 2- Étudier comment se construisent les séries de photographies en vue d’écrire et de réécrire en permanence la mémoire du siècle, à la lisière de l’intime et du collectif. 3- Aborder la question du traitement informatique de l’image photographique : quels sont les enjeux des manipulations opérées grâce aux logiciels de retouche numérique qui deviennent la marque de fabrique des dernières photos de Marker ?www.fabula.org

Programme

•10h-10h15 | Accueil des participants
•10h15-11h | Philippe Bazin (École Nationale Supérieure d’Art de Dijon) : « Les transports de Chris Marker. À propos de Passengers ».
•11h-11h45 | Christa Blümlinger (Université Paris 8, ESTCA) : « L’attraction du Musée. Notes sur Chris Marker ».
11h45-12h : Pause
•12h-12h45 | Pierre Gaudin (École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Versailles) : « La photographie filmée comme document-matière et document-mémoire chez Chris Marker : prise de vue photographique et montage cinématographique ».
12h45-14h45 : Pause déjeuner
•14h45-15h30 | Vincent Jacques (École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Versailles, LEAV) : « Floue, lisse, pliée : métamorphoses de la photo chez Chris Marker ».
•15h30-16h15 | François Niney (La Fémis, IRCAV) : « Un battement de cil, un battement de coeur : photo animée et photogramme arrêté, le “cinémarker” entre reprise et suspens du temps ».
16h15-16h30 : Pause
•16h30-17h15 | Bamchade Pourvali (Université de Paris Est-Marne la Vallée) : « Philosophie de la photographie et mise en page chez Chris Marker ».
17h30 : Fin de la journée

Guillaume, Guillaume, Guillaume…

Guillaume, Guillaume, Guillaume (The cat named Guillaume)
Visiting Chris Marker in Second Life
Katie Rose Pipkin

guillaume-SL

I never really lived in Second Life. As an artist working in digital spaces this is patently uncool. But it is true; by the time I stumbled onto the massively multiplayer simulation it was already empty, a shrinking economy and user-base spread across a vast and often-private landscape leaving the world desolate at best.

Around this time, I attended a seminar in which a subdued Jon Rafman gave us a tour of the sim, not in his eponymous Kool-Aid man avatar, but rather (if I’m remembering correctly) as a understated goth animal, perhaps some kind of dog. We were shown around a few of Rafman’s old haunts; a sex-club, a unicorn glade; all abandoned. Eventually we went to a welcome area, where there were 20-odd avatars sitting around and voice chatting. A small, diapered man was running up against the architecture repeatedly- a winged, corseted goddess-figure was talking about their kids. When we said hello (in unison, all of us) the other players were kind and welcoming, if a bit bored. Rafman seemed surprised; he told us that this was rare culturally, that the general sentiment about his art-world tour presence (and perhaps the presence of anyone new) was animosity.

Unsettled, I didn’t visit again for at least another year.

In the meantime, I was watching Sans Soleil, Chris Marker’s 1983 experimental travel documentary. I say watching, not watched, as it turned into a process; after seeing the film several times in a month, I downloaded a text file of the script and read it like a charm, in pieces, whenever I needed to write or to think in elegance. It is still open, autosaved as Unsaved Pages Document 20. I was surprised it should be so important to me; the work is disarmingly sincere, almost saccharine at times.

He writes; “I’m writing you all this from another world, a world of appearances. In a way the two worlds communicate with each other. Memory is to one what history is to the other: an impossibility.”

 

Katie Rose Pipkin, “Guillaume, Guillaume, Guillaume (The cat named Guillaume): Visiting Chris Marker in Second Life”, [email protected]/ Go to Medium to read the full text, merely excerpted above…

State of the Estate II: The Glorious Shambles

Chris Marker atelier with Guillaume by Agnès Varda

In the middle, on the balcony, the tree has grown, just a little.Chris Marker

Though the article cited below focuses on the archive of Jacques Demy acquired by the Cinémathèque française, this interview, part two of a series between journalist Louis Guichard and the Cinémathèque’s head Serge Toubiana, takes a fascinating if brief detour into the case of the estate of Chris Marker. If it sounds like there’s a mystery novel in there somewhere, there is.

One of the ideas that appears here in nuce is that of mapping a tree structure of Marker’s work. I am led to imagine a majestic infographic showing the main trunk and the branches into bifurcating gardens of media visualizing the fruits of Marker’s bricolage. Immemory, Dialector, Second Life, YouTube. Collective work, personal work, anonymous work. Writing, photography, programming, book design. The branching of names, aliases, pen names, noms de guerre. Guillaume’s poptronics forays into political commentary. The filmic byproducts of Marker’s home away from home in Second Life, Ouvroir, including The Third Cat and Ouvroir: The Movie. Arborescent branchings of a life/work of intelligence and curiosity, ceaseless but ending nonetheless — though continued in all who were en-raptured by his work, echos, reverberations, new generations of artists — other trees that grew up around the central tree of life/work. And underneath the trees, the rhizomes, like the beach beneath the concrete, driving slogan of May ’68…

Here’s the excerpt that fills in some details to the already reported State of the Estate, back in June. You can follow Serge Toubiana’s blog at blog.cinematheque.fr. More of course as we know more.

L’acquisition d’archives payantes est-elle une option ?

[…]

Il y aussi le cas de Chris Marker, qui n’a pas fait de testament. Au cours des dernières années de sa vie, il était logé chez Costa-Gavras, président de la Cinémathèque, et il avait dit qu’il laisserait une lettre précisant ce qu’il voulait faire de ses archives. Mais on n’a rien trouvé de tel. A sa mort, il y a donc eu un inventaire sommaire et une recherche de descendance qui a identifié six personnes au 5e et 6e degrés… Nous leur avons fait une proposition qui a été retenue et nous avons acquis le fonds pour 40 000 euros. Nous nous sommes trouvés face à une sorte de gigantesque foutoir avec des lots énormes de photos, de négatifs, de disques durs, d’ordinateurs, tout le travail qu’il faisait sur Second Life, des centaines de petits objets, de collages, de journaux… Il gardait tout. Mais qu’en faire ? C’est un travail considérable. Nous avons constitué une équipe en interne chargée de poursuivre l’inventaire et de travailler sur le fonds numérique. De plus, un comité scientifique se réunit régulièrement. Comment montrer l’arborescence de cette œuvre hybride? Chris Marker était un média à lui tout seul. Peut-être faudra-t-il associer des ingénieurs à cette réflexion… Il y aura sans doute un événement Marker à la Cinémathèque en 2017 ou 2018.Serge Toubiana, interviewed by Louis Guichard, “Serge Toubiana : “Le don des archives Demy à la Cinémathèque est un geste de confiance et d’amitié”, www.telerama.fr

Rough English Translation

Is paying for archival acquisitions an option?

[…]

There is also the case of Chris Marker, who did not create a will. In the course of the last years of his life, he was living with Costa-Gavras, President of the Cinémathèque, and he had said that he would leave a letter specifying what he wished to do with his archives. But nothing like this was found. With his death, a summary inventory took place, along with research into his heirs that identified six persons removed by 5 or 6 degrees… We made them a proposition that was agreed upon and we acquired the estate for 40,000 Euros. We found ourselves faced with a sort of gigantic shambles, with enormous stacks of photos, negatives, hard drives, computers, all the work that he conducted in/on Second Life, hundreds of small objects, collages, journals… He kept everything. But what to do with it? It’s a considerable piece of work. We put together a team internally, charged with pursuing the inventory and working on the digital archive. In addition, a scientific committee meets regularly. How to present the tree structure of this hybrid work? Chris Marker was a media [enterprise] unto himself. Perhaps it will be necessary to have engineers consider this reflection… There will be without a doubt a Marker event at the Cinémathèque in 2017 or 2018.

Also, please stay tuned for our upcoming article on the new book ZOO, which collects the animals from the Petite Planète series Marker edited into an exciting new work.

History of the Dialector Program

Chouette Dialector 6 Chris Marker

Dialector is now online at Poptronics.fr: http://dialector.poptronics.fr/
The text below is reproduced from that page. French version available there as well…

HISTORY OF THE DIALECTOR PROGRAM by Agnès de Cayeux, Andrès Lozano, Annick Rivoire

Sergei Murasaki, Kosinki, Stalker Sandor, Iterovich… No matter which pseudonym we use to refer to him, Chris Marker was the first‚ the first geek, the first programmer, the one who dove into computers, graphics cards, PEEKs and POKEs, who took a bite out of the apples of Alan (Turing) and Steve (Jobs and Wozniak). Marker programmed in 64k, 128k and 256k, wielding 5.25 floppies, poetry and invention. He wrote lines and lines of Basic code on his Apple // e, c and GS, those marvelous machines of the 1980s. Marker was a genius of computer thinking, inversing algorithmic logic, dodging digital syntax and refusing the label of visionary artist : “Let’s leave that to Steve Jobs”, he wrote.

It’s 2010. Marker recalls “the good old days when you could program quickly in Applesoft Basic.” He writes about his artificial intelligence (AI) dialogue program : “DIALECTOR was the sketch of a program that was interrupted when Apple decided that programming should be reserved for professionals. What remains are a few, probably incomprehensible, fragments and a dialogue sample. The original is stored somewhere on 5.25 floppy disks that are unreadable today. I’m sure that if I had been able to continue working on it at a pace of a few lines a day, the program would have had a much richer reserve of conversation, but that’s the way it is (and if CD-ROMs… and if… and if… wrong way of thinking).”

So, more than two decades after the slow-paced writing of DIALECTOR (from 1985 to 1988, time spent on inventing the possibility of a double, an ode to immortality), Chris Marker shares his thoughts : “Translating Applesoft Basic into contemporary code is probably unimaginable‚ this could have been one of my specialties: creating within the realm of the unattainable.”

This is the story of a man, his screens, his machines and his languages. It is also our story, that of computers and of thought : Do machines think ? And the story of an unrealized dream from the 1980s, a utopia developed out of AI.

It’s 2011. Marker e-mails us a few old annotated pages of the DIALECTOR program, as well as a dialogue sample. Then he finds the infamous 5.25 floppy and sends it over. It’s version 6 of the program. Time passes.

It’s 2012. We manage to track down an Apple // machine and its person. Together we set off on this journey into the history of computer programming. The floppy is readable. Version 6 of DIALECTOR, however, won’t execute and stops at the third command line, on the image of an owl. We extract the contents of the disk and discover that all the DIALECTOR files and version 6 of the program are intact, more than 20 years after they were saved‚ a miracle in the merciless world of programmed digital obsolescence. We convert them to text format and return them to Marker the same day, as requested.

It’s 2015. We have analyzed Marker’s lines of code and translated the program originally written in Applesoft Basic into a contemporary programming language. DIALECTOR runs on our computers. History is now imaginable. We converse with the program’s protagonist, whose name is COMPUTER. We spend hours in front of the computer screen, our machines and our apples. DIALECTOR is inexhaustible, with the humor of an English-speaking cat, a New York owl and a passing face.

It’s 1988. DIALECTOR suggests the futuristic and a-mortal vision of an anachronistic computer science dedicated entirely to poetic thought. In his stab at programming, Marker wrote the future face of machines: not very spectacular and, in a way, much more terrifying. He (perhaps unintentionally) predated a model of modernist fantasy that elevates the computer network to a possible matrix world, whose elements are already in place. The static, rudimentary art of reading on screen is now devoted to the irresistible ascension of the owl‚ eternal muse of the world according to Chris.

DIALECTOR is a computer program developed by Chris Marker in Applesoft Basic on an Apple //
The version that Chris Marker sent us is version 6 of the program, written in 1988.
DIALECTOR 6 is a conversational program that also contains visual and audio elements.
The program was originally saved on a 5.25-inch floppy disk.
According to Marker’s friend and engineer Paul Lafonta, previous versions were clearly geared toward multimedia development (touch screen, interactivity, etc).

Agnès de Cayeux, Andrès Lozano, Annick Rivoire

Apple II

André Bazin on Chris Marker (1958)

lettre-de-siberie-bazin

Trans. Dave Kehr, © Cahiers du Cinéma, published in Film Comment, 2003.

Chris Marker, as you may remember, wrote the narration for Bibliothèque Nationale (Toute la mémoire du monde) and Statues Also Die (which the public still has only been able to see in a version cut to half its length by the censorship board). These incisive, powerful texts, in which cutting irony plays hide and seek with poetry, would be enough to secure their author a privileged place in the field of short filmmaking, currently the liveliest fringe of the French cinema. As the writer of the narrations for these films by his friend Resnais, with whom he shares a marvelous understanding, Chris Marker has already profoundly altered the visual relationship between text and image. But his ambition was obviously even more radical, and it became necessary for him to make his own films.

First there was Sunday in Peking, which justly won a prize at the 1956 Festival of Tours, and now, at last, there is the extraordinary Letter from Siberia. Admirable as Sunday in Peking was, it was also slightly disappointing, in that the restrictions of the short format seemed inadequate for such a big subject. And it also has to be said that the images, while often very beautiful, did not supply sufficient documentary material in the end. It left us wanting more. But the seed of the dialectic between word and image that Marker would go on to sow in Letter from Siberia was already there. In the new film, it grows to the dimensions appropriate to a feature film, and takes the weight.

“A Documentary Point of View”

How to describe Letter from Siberia? Negatively, at first, in pointing out that it resembles absolutely nothing that we have ever seen before in films with a documentary basis – films with “a subject.” But then it becomes necessary to say what it is. Flatly and objectively, it is a film report from a Frenchman given the rare privilege of traveling freely in Siberia, covering several thousand kilometers. Although in the last three years we have seen several film reports from French travelers in Russia. Letter from Siberia resembles none of them. So. We must take a closer look. I would propose the following approximate description: Letter from Siberia is an essay on the reality of Siberia past and present in the form of a filmed report. Or. perhaps, to borrow Jean Vigo’s formulation of À propos de Nice (“a documentary point of view”), I would say, an essay documented by film. The important word is “essay,” understood in the same sense that it has in literature — an essay at once historical and political, written by a poet as well.

Generally, even in politically engaged documentaries or those with a specific point to make, the image (which is to say, the uniquely cinematic element) effectively constitutes the primary material of the film. The orientation of the work is expressed through the choices made by the filmmaker in the montage, with the commentary completing the organization of the sense thus conferred on the document. With Marker it works quite differently. I would say that the primary material is intelligence, that its immediate means of expression is language, and that the image only intervenes in the third position, in reference to this verbal intelligence. The usual process is reversed. I will risk another metaphor: Chris Marker brings to his films an absolutely new notion of montage that I wall call “horizontal,” as opposed to traditional montage that plays with the sense of duration through the relationship of shot to shot. Here, a given image doesn’t refer to the one that preceded it or the one that will follow, but rather it refers laterally, in some way, to what is said.

From the Ear to the Eye

Better, it might be said that the basic element is the beauty of what is said and heard, that intelligence flows from the audio element to the visual. The montage has been forged from ear to eye. Because of space limitations, I will describe only a single example, which is also the film’s most successful moment. Marker presents us with a documentary image that is at once full of significance and completely neutral: a street in Irkutsk. We see a bus going by and workers repairing the roadway, and then at the end of the shot a fellow with a somewhat strange face (or at least, little blessed by nature) who happens to pass in front of the camera. Marker then comments on these rather banal images from two opposed points of view: first, that of the Communist party line, in the light of which the unknown pedestrian becomes “‘a picturesque representative of the north country,” and then in that of the reactionary perspective, in which he becomes “a troubling Asiatic.”

This single, thought-provoking antithesis is a brilliant stroke of inspiration in itself, but its wit remains rather facile. Its then that the author offers a third commentary, impartial and minutely detailed, that objectively describes the unhappy Mongol as ‘”a cross-eyed Yakout.” And this time we are way beyond cleverness and irony, because what Marker has just demonstrated is that objectivity is even more false than the two opposed partisan points of view: that, at least in relation to certain realities, impartiality is an illusion. The operation we have observed is thus precisely dialectic, consisting of placing the same image in three different intellectual contexts and following the results.

Intelligence and Talent

In order to give the reader a complete sense of this unprecedented enterprise, it remains for me to point out that Chris Marker does not restrict himself to using documentary images filmed on the spot, but uses any and all filmic material that might help his case—including still images (engravings and photos), of course, but also animated cartoons. Like McLaren, he does not hesitate to say the most serious things in the most comic way (as in the sequence with the mammoths). There is only one common denominator in this firework display of technique: intelligence. Intelligence and talent. It is only just to also point out that the photography is by Sacha Viemy. the music the work of Pierre Barbaud. and that the narration is excellently read by Georges Rouquier.

Andre Bazin, 1958

Further Reading:  Chris Darke, “Chris Marker Eyesight,” Film Comment, 2003.

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