Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

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Chris Marker English DVD Box Set Coming Soon

Soda PicturesI do have my RSS spies out there, my Google and Talkwalker alerts, but it was a real live human being – the awesome Fenn Brown – who informed me of this Chris Marker news. To wit: a 3 DVD collection of Marker films, going back to Sunday in Peking, passing through the essential Letter to Siberia and Description of a Struggle, and finishing up with The Case of the Grinning Cat are being published by Soda Pictures in the UK (no mention on their site of this that I could find). There are also some surprises like E-CLIP-SE and Theory of Sets. The wait for some of these has stretched on for decades, so I’m sure there is a healthy appetite for both the hors d’oeuvres and the main courses! Youtube, of course, has provided some sustenance in the meantime…

Message Body:
Hello – You may know of this release already but could not see any details on your fine site by searching …

“The Chris Marker Collection” – out 2nd June, maybe?


Sunday In Peking (Dimanche à Pékin, 1956) (also on Blu-Ray)
Letter To Siberia (Lettre de Sibérie, 1958) (also on Blu-Ray)
Description Of A Struggle (Description d’un combat, 1960)
The Sixth Side Of The Pentagon (La Sixième face du Pentagone, 1968)
The Embassy (L’Ambassade, 1973)
Theory Of Sets (Théorie des ensembles, 1991)
Three Video Haikus (Trois Video Haikus, 1994)
Blue Helmet (Casque bleu, 1996)
E-CLIP-SE (1999)
The Case Of The Grinning Cat (Chats Perchés, 2004)

Spec Aspect ratio: 4:3
BD running time: 80 mins approx
DVD1 running time: 134 mins approx
DVD2 running time: 154 mins approx
English/French with English subtitles

Best wishes,

Pre-order is available on for £20.74. Region is B/2; Aspect Ratio 4:3 – 1.33:1; Number of discs: 3; Studio: Soda Pictures; DVD Release Date: 2 June 2014.

Soda Pictures was not a name familiar to me. Perusing their online catalog, however, revealed some familiar directors. Their catalog includes the following noteworthy films:

  • Close-Up by Abbas Kiarostami
  • Hannah Arendt by Margerethe Von Trotta
  • Klimt by Raul Ruiz
  • La Danse by Frederick Wiseman
  • Little Dieter Needs to Fly; The Wild Blue Yonder & Wheel of Time by Werner Herzog
  • Moloch by Alexander Sokurov
  • Museum Hours by Jem Cohen
  • Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch
  • Patience (After Sebald) by Grant Gee
  • Strayed by André Téchiné
  • Tetro by Francis Ford Coppola
  • The Cuckoo by Aleksandr Rogozhkin
  • The Thorn in the Heart by Michel Gondry
  • Wadjda by Haifaa Al-Mansour

More on the Marker release as more is revealed, and thanks again to Fenn.

Today, the day after the post, I received a nice note from filmaker Gareth Evans confirming this release:

We nudged Soda to do this as it is designed explicitly to tie in with the Whitechapel show. Chris [Darke] is doing the sleeve essay. They also released Patience (after Sebald), very much inspired by Marker, which we both worked on. Due out 2 June.Gareth Evans

April 21, 2014  4:29 pm   No Comments

Researching Early Chris Marker Writings in the Esprit Archives

Revue EspritFor those interested in Chris Marker’s postwar writings published in Esprit, it has up until recently been a tricky research endeavor. I remember scouring the archives held at Cornell University around 1990, pulling down dusty Esprit issues dating back to the Forties and searching for hints of Marker’s authorship, such as the initials C.M. appended to certain pièces d’ocassion, minutiae really but part of the story of Marker as an author, as an ‘homme-de-lettres’. He asked at one point to have these taken out of the bibliography I was building. My sense was that what was right in front of him, the current project, was of an importance that made searching for archival traces seem ludicrous. Even his early films he had little interest in talking about. I’m sure some others out there can relate. This focus allowed Marker to inhabit the present and, in a way that I think many have sensed, the future, in an intense manner that gives his work a unique energetic signature.

Esprit 1950s style

Exemplar of Esprit cover style, 1950s has done Marker researchers (if perhaps not Marker himself) a large favor in tracing his contributions internally and, in the process of digitization of their archives, revealing under the authorial search term “Marker” or “Chris Marker” articles that were originally signed, to give but two examples, “Chris Mayor” or “C.M.”

We made an inquiry about this matter to the Revue Esprit, still going strong on rue Saint Martin in Paris, and received an informative response:

Cher Monsieur,
Pour retrouver les articles de Chris Marker dans la revue, vous pouvez utiliser notre moteur de recherche :…
Quand nous avons numérisé notre fonds, nous avons fait cette recherche sur les pseudonymes de Chris Marker et sur les initiales. Nous avons donc déjà fait ce repérage. Par exemple, si vous entrez “Marker” dans le champ “auteur” de notre page de recherche, vous obtenez bien dans la liste de réponses le tout premier article signé sous le pseudo Chris Mayor.
Bonne recherche !
Marc-Olivier Padis

Dear Sir:
In order to find the articles of Chris Marker in the review, you can use our search engine.…
When we digitized our archives, we conducted this research on the pseudonyms of Chris Marker, including the use of initials. We have therefore already made this restoration. For example, if you enter “Marker” in the “author” field of our search page, you receive in the results the very first article of all, signed under the pseudonym Chris Mayor.
Happy researching!Marc-Olivier Padis

The first turns out to be from May, 1946, signed by Chris Mayor and entiled Les vivants et les morts. And what an interesting piece it is…

Further Reading

…il ne faut pas oublier qu’il a fait du montage un art qu’il a appliqué à tous les domaines.
François Lecointe

April 18, 2014  7:00 pm   No Comments

Tombeau Chris Marker

I would like to thank Etienne Sandrin for sending this photograph of Chris Marker’s gravesite in the Montparnasse cemetary. He wrote on April 2, 2014: “We have put – last Monday – Chris’s ashes in the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris.”


Christian BOUCHE-VILLENEUVE dit Chris MARKER 29.7.1921 – 29.7.2012

Christian Bouche-Villeneuve dit Chris Marker 29.7.1921 - 29.7.2012

Here is a link to the pdf map of the Cimetière du Montparnasse, and below an image (click to enlarge). Guillaume stands at his master’s spot.


I have also made available a printable pdf of another excellent photograph taken by Laurence Braunberger of Films du Jeudi. Many thanks to Laurence.

Chris Marker Tombeau taken by Laurence Braunberger

The maneki-neko (Japanese: 招き猫?, literally “beckoning cat”) is a common Japanese figurine (lucky charm, talisman), usually made of ceramic in modern times, which is often believed to bring good luck to the owner. The figurine depicts a cat (traditionally a calico Japanese Bobtail) beckoning with an upright paw… The maneki-neko is sometimes also called the welcoming cat, lucky cat, money cat, happy cat, or fortune cat in English.Source

Chris Marker postcard, Roma 1956, card 5 of 15
Roma, 1956, Chris Marker postcard series, v.Zona5/15

April 5, 2014  9:11 am   3 Comments

Etienne Sandrin & Catherine Belkhodja to Perform Chris Marker’s Le Dépays

Lecteurs : Etienne Sandrin, Catherine Belkhodja
Musique Live : Rainier Lericolais – Piano : David Sanson
Texte et photos : Chris Marker

10 Avr. 2014 : 20h | Grand auditorium, Collège des Bernardins

Etienne Sandrin and Catherine Belkhodja

Disparu l’été dernier à 91 ans, Chris Marker demeure une figure majeure de la modernité depuis les années cinquante. Dans son œuvre immense, il y a, outre maints films marquants (La Jetée, Sans Soleil, Level five, Chats Perchés) des pièces multimédias, des photographies, des collages, ainsi que des livres.

Parmi ceux-ci, Le Dépays, presque introuvable aujourd’hui, est un livre de photos et de textes consacrés au Japon, dans lequel, selon les mots de Marker, le texte ne commente pas plus les images que les images n’illustrent le texte.

En accord avec l’artiste, Etienne Sandrin a mis en place une version scénique de ce livre, qui a été présentée au Japon en 2012. Il s’agit d’une lecture à deux voix, qu’il présentera à Paris avec Catherine Belkhodja, actrice pour Chris Marker notamment dans Level Five et Silent Movie. La lecture s’accompagne d’un ‘slide show’ des photos du livre, ainsi que du piano et des sons – enregistrés à Tokyo – retravaillés en direct par Rainier Lericolais, compositeur et plasticien.

Une belle – et interdisciplinaire – manière de célébrer ce grand artiste, qui n’a cessé de remuer dans son travail des questionnements essentiels…

Desceased last summer at age 91, Chris Marker remains a major figure of modernity since the fifties. In his immense work, there are, in addition to many memorable films (La Jetée, Sans Soleil, Level Five, Chats Perchés), multimedia pieces, photographs, collages, as well as books.

Among these, Le Dépays, almost unfindable today, is a book of photos and texts devoted to Japan, in which – in the words of Marker – the text comments on the images as much as the images illustrate the text.

In agreement with the artist, Étienne Sandrin has implemented a stage version of this book, which was presented in Japan in 2012. The piece is a reading for two voices, which he will present in Paris with Catherine Belkhodja, actress for Chris Marker notably in Level Five and Silent Movie. The reading is accompanied by a slide show of photos of the book, as well as piano and sounds recorded in Tokyo, reworked live by Rainier Lericolais, composer and visual artist.

A beautiful – and interdisciplinary – way to celebrate this great artist, who has continued to stir in his work some very essential question(ing)s…


April 4, 2014  9:44 am   6 Comments

Image Indexing: High Speed Scan of Remembrance of Things to Come – Fandor

Warning: Semi-heavy rock and roll soundtrack with crunchy guitars.

This presentation of post-metabolic image indexing is best viewed by your subliminal senses, or your android enhancements if you have connections at the Tyrell Corporation, where a watchful AI owl presides over the spacious dystopic empire of terraced architecture and vast wealth. We are several years in the future of that future, and Fandor has scanned Chris Marker’s Remembrance of Things to Come for our viewing pleasure. The accompanying article, “Chris Marker’s Image Index: As Europe’s grasp on the early 20th-century globe tightens into a death grip in REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS TO COME”, offers a review of his “last work” that is also well worth reading.

This video essay attempts to give a sense of his strategy in organizing hundreds of Bellon’s images into a narrative. As the name most associated with the essay film, Marker is celebrated for having a free-flowing, discursive narration that seems to generate insights on the fly. But by speeding this film up to 14x normal speed and noting the thematic phases that guide his movement through the photographs, one gets a sense of how he pieced together Bellon’s oeuvre to construct both a story of her life and an image collage of modern dystopia.Kevin B. Lee

On another page at Fandor, we find a cogent summation of the film:

Fascinated with the effect of photography on memory (and on the future), Chris Marker and Yannick Bellon look at the work of Bellon’s mother, photojournalist Denis Bellon in this, one of Marker’s final film essays. With a title reminiscent of Marcel Proust’s tome on memory, REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS TO COME uses Bellon’s journalism from 1935-1955, to prove her images of the first post-world-war phase forecast the second. Bellon’s friendship with the Surrealists lends her a unique relationship to the history of recording through images. Despite the paradoxes and puns elegantly expressed by narrator Alexandra Stewart, photography remains prosperous, “used to refresh failing memories or convince nonbelievers.” Some images, this film posits, accomplish more.Sara Maria Vizcarrondo

March 23, 2014  2:17 pm   1 Comment

Rick Poynor Reviews Chris Marker’s Commentaires

Commentaires 1The Design Observer Group published an excellent review by Rick Poynor of Marker’s two volume Commentaires yesterday. The article explores the books, now out of print and – as noted in the article – exceedingly hard to find, from the perspective of book design.

Marker was an editer at Editions du Seuil for part of his career, and was responsible for the innovative design of the Petite Planète series. He brought this expertise to the making of his own books, which are characterized by customized layouts and a dialogic juxtaposition of text and image.

These characteristics are of course the basis for the essay film as well. While he claimed to have abandoned Gutenberg for McLuhan, Marker was clearly also a bibliophile and a book designer – as if he needed more titles to add to his resumé… The style of Commentaires (1961, 1967) is also on display most prominently in the earlier Coréennes (1959).

Rick Poynor’s review is a highly intelligent opening of a design perspective on Marker that has been missing in the voluminous commentary around his work. So please check out The Filmic Page: Chris Marker’s Commentaires.

Some books are magnetic, by their fluctuation in relation to and through the image, maintaining between words and images a vibration… They swarm with meaning, move, as if beyond themselves, become testaments.
Raymond Bellour, Between the Images, JRP | Ringier & Les Presses du Réel [French orig. L' Entre-images: Photo. Cinéma. Vidéo., Éditions de la Différence, 1990, rev. ed. 2002, English trans. 2011]


Rick Poynor is a writer, critic, lecturer and curator, specialising in design, media, photography and visual culture. He founded Eye, co-founded Design Observer, and contributes columns to Eye and Print. His latest book is Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design.The Design Observer Group

Here’s Rick’s Amazon page.

March 23, 2014  11:54 am   No Comments