Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

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Entering History

Quand les hommes sont morts, ils entrent dans l’histoire. Quand les statues sont mortes, elles entrent dans l’art. Cette botanique de la mort, c’est ce que nous appelons la culture.
Les Statues meurent aussi

Alain ResnaisI’d like to thank Christophe Crison for alerting me to this rare footage of the young Alain Resnais – whose death two days ago is still sending out shockwaves – and (a glimpse of) Chris Marker, recently published at www.ina.fr. The footage was shot on February 1st, 1954 on the occasion of Jean Vigo Prize, awarded to Resnais and Marker for Les Statues meurent aussi, a film that practically single-handedly inaugurated the essay film, opened a long-needed public conversation about colonialism, racism and the politics of the museum, and was promptly banned by the Centre National de la Cinématographie. Single-handedly? More like à quatre mains, but who’s counting…

Jenny Chamarette, in an article on sensesofcinema.com, summarizes these circumstances:

This 30 minute short film has a chequered history of censorship that at one time elevated it to a somewhat mythical status, and which prevented it from being brought into the wider public eye until some 16 years after it was completed. After its first screening at the Cannes Film Festival in 1953, and in spite of winning the Prix Jean Vigo in 1954, Les Statues meurent aussi was banned in France by the Centre National de la Cinématographie between 1953 and 1963 owing to its controversial anti-colonialist stance. While a truncated version was made available in 1963, the unabridged film only became available in 1968.
Jenny Chamarette, Les Statues meurent aussi, Sept. 2009 (Cinémathèque Annotations on Film, Issue 52)

Here is the fragment of what seems to be a jumpcut celebration combined with a game of cards. If anyone can help identify the others that appear here, please do so in the comments section. I would also welcome reflections on what Alain Resnais means to you personally.

Producteur ou co-producteur: RADIODIFUSION TELEVISION FRANÇAISE
Générique: journaliste, Pierre Tchemia
Mots clés: Resnais Alain Marker Chris prix-recompense film Cinéma

A bit more from the Senses of Cinema article:

Les Statues meurent aussi was commissioned by the literary review and publishing house, Présence Africaine, which was set up in 1947 in Paris as a quarterly literary review for emerging and important African writers. Founded by the Senegalese thinker Alioune Diop, it housed the writings of some of the most important francophone thinkers in the latter half of the 20th century, such as Aimé Césaire, Ousmane Sembene, Léopold Sédar Senghor, in addition to French metropolitan writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The journal also translated groundbreaking works by Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka into French for the first time. Having emerged so soon after the new French Constitution of 1946 had declared a “French Union”, Présence Africaine’s publications signalled a new, post-colonial status for French and francophone thought, embracing what was then a key notion: that of négritude. It is this notion that the second half of Les Statues meurent aussi engages with most deeply, and perhaps most controversially, especially as it strives to connect the death of the statue with the rise in the commercialisation of African art for the pleasure of the colonial classes. Indeed, it is against the backdrop of a France that had so recently lost its colonial power, but which still retained many of the quasi-Manichean distinctions between white, Western culture and black, African culture, that (and in spite of their claims to the contrary) Resnais and Marker’s film projected its passionately anti-colonial, anti-racist, even anti-capitalist audio-visual collage. It is little wonder then that such a film should have been censored until the late 1960s, by which time it might have lost some of its topicality, but none of its political vigour.Jenny Chamarette, Les Statues meurent aussi, Sept. 2009 (Cinémathèque Annotations on Film, Issue 52)

Les Statues meurent aussi - collage by John Coulthart

Collage of Les Statues meurent aussi photograms from John Coulthart’s { feuilleton }

According to a 1961 interview with Resnais in the French film journal Premier Plan, it proved impossible merely to censor the film rather than ban it, as the censors claimed that any cuts made would run the risk of them effectively re-editing for their own ends. In effect, what this double-edged and ambiguous comment on the part of the censors suggests, is that the censors at the time were unable to extricate the insidious, intelligent and deeply controversial implications of the film from its patient, attentive visual aesthetic and complex, lyrical voiceover, soundtrack and musical score. Marker also critiqued the censor’s reluctance to make clear what their objections were, and in fact published the full details of their letter in an appendix to his written volume Commentaires in 1961. Commentaires also contains the full poetic commentary of Les Statues meurent aussi, in addition to four of his other early works: Dimanche à Pékin (1956); Lettre de Sibérie (1958); Description d’un combat (1960) and Cuba Si! (1961). That said, the written text only echoes, rather than replicates the extraordinary contribution that Marker’s authorial poesis makes to the film as a whole. A generous interpretation might suggest that, for the censors in 1953, the powerful sound and image track of Les Statues meurent aussi proved impossible to untwine in a way that would not simply present a brutal butchery of the film’s aesthetic.Jenny Chamarette, Les Statues meurent aussi, Sept. 2009 (Cinémathèque Annotations on Film, Issue 52)

It is hard yet to speak of Resnais, like Marker a true genius of cinema, but completely unique. Both were fascinated by memory; Resnais’ best films are enigmas of memory and time. It occurs to me that there was, in the making of Les Statues meurent aussi, some discovery made à deux that was to follow both filmmakers throughout their careers, whatever the genre. Resnais, like Marker, created films that asked the spectator to view them not once or even twice, but many times – as if the films were changing, mutating between viewings – and changing the viewer each time as well. Toute la mémoire du monde, Hiroshima mon amour, Nuit et brouillard, Muriel and the incomparable Last Year in Marienbad come to mind for me, for I have viewed them many times.

I can only wish that the two French innovators of the 7th art are convening now wherever they are, and picking up effortlessly where they left off, making films beyond culture, outside of history, inventing higher dimensional arts…

Toute la mémoire du monde, by Alain Resnais

Toute la mémoire du monde, dir. Alain Resnais, 1957

March 3, 2014  12:37 am   6 Comments

Time Travel Specialist

chat2000v2

I’m working – and reaching out once again to a friend better qualified – on translating a fine story involving the encounter of Chris Marker and Thoma Vuille, awesome street artist and creator of M. CHAT. The story, “Chats percheurs – La rencontre entre Chris Marker et M. CHAT racontée par Louise Traon,” appears currently in French on Arte.tv’s Creative site, and is accompanied by a short documentary well worth watching, as the story is well worth reading. For now, let’s start with a mysterious quote from Marker. I’m not sure yet if it is an excerpt of a letter to M. Vuille or not, but I presume so.

First we must fill in some background. You may recall that in Sans Soleil, the date 4001 is introduced and has special signifcance:

That’s for a start. Now why this cut in time, this connection of memories? That’s just it, he can’t understand. He hasn’t come from another planet; he comes from our future, 4001: the time when the human brain has reached the era of full employment. Everything works to perfection, all that we allow to slumber, including memory. Logical consequence: total recall is memory anesthetized. After so many stories of men who had lost their memory, here is the story of one who has lost forgetting, and who—through some peculiarity of his nature—instead of drawing pride from the fact and scorning mankind of the past and its shadows, turned to it first with curiosity and then with compassion. In the world he comes from, to call forth a vision, to be moved by a portrait, to tremble at the sound of music, can only be signs of a long and painful pre-history. He wants to understand. He feels these infirmities of time like an injustice, and he reacts to that injustice like Ché Guevara, like the youth of the sixties, with indignation. He is a Third Worlder of time. The idea that unhappiness had existed in his planet’s past is as unbearable to him as to them the existence of poverty in their present.

Sans Soleil, trans. courtesy of markertext.com

Fast forward to 2038, several years before the loss of forgetting and a lone Third Worlder of time, to the epistolary fragment quoted on arte’s page:

« daté du… 19 janvier 2038 à 4h14 du matin.

Pour un spécialiste des voyages dans le temps, c’est impressionnant. Ce serait d’ailleurs une bonne illustration du paradoxe temporel. Si je vous disais (puisqu’il y a de fortes chances que vous passiez un jour par cette date et cette heure) de veiller à ce qui s’y passera, ce serait une façon d’y attirer votre attention, et par conséquent c’est moi qui déclencherais dans le futur l’événement du présent… Encore un anneau de Moebius dont on ne sort pas. »

Chris Marker

The gist of this quote in English:

“dated … January 19th, 2038 at 4:14 a.m.”

“For a specialist in time travel, it’s impressive. This would be moreover a good illustration of temporal paradox. If I told you (because there’s a strong likelihood that you will pass through this date and this hour) to look out for what will happen then, this would be a means of drawing your attention to it, and consequently it is I who would unleash in the future the event of the present… Once again a Möbius strip without exit.”

Chris Marker

I hope to present you with the full story soon. À bientôt!

February 25, 2014  8:21 pm   No Comments

Bouquin Rare + Kashima Paradise

forthright-spirit-spine

Here is a photograph, slightly (mis)treated, of a hard to find 1951 edition of Chris Marker’s The Forthright Spirit, published by Allan Wingate Ltd., London. A man came across this book at an antique book fair in Dublin ‘about 8 years ago.’ He has done his homework and is now cognizent of the rarity of the book. He wrote me an email expressing his desire to sell it. If anyone is interested, please let me know via the contact form. For me, I was content to play a bit in Photoshop with one of the various images he sent, as I love the embossing on the spine and wanted to attempt to bring that out more…

Another note: there are several new pages on the site. One of particular interest is Marker’s very personal summation of the film Kashima Paradise made by Bénie Deswarte and Yann Le Masson in 1973 in Kashima, Japan, for which Marker is credited as the writer and narrator.

February 18, 2014  6:15 pm   1 Comment

Entering Level Five

More on this film to come… I am watching it multiple times and seeing what my mind can find to put down in terms of thought, the play of concepts, runimation and the like. I am finally entering Level Five.

Chrismarker.org is also celebrating, if you can call it that, a hosting move – up a level – and not without its ‘game over’ moments. If you have had difficulties reaching the site in recent days, that is why. Things did not go as smoothly as hoped, mostly due to climbing up the rather steep learning curve on the Linux command line, followed by some DNS disturbances in the force. Please, if you have any issues with the site, I would appreciate it if you notified me via the contact form. The site should be much faster in load time and overall performance now, as it is using a solid state drive and the latest LAMP technologies. I have also adjusted some typographic minutiae and added the ‘related posts’ feature you’ll see below, which I’m finding does a commendable job – an A+ algorithm, thanks to developer Adknowledge. The plugin serves to unearth some older material buried in the site’s archives and provide more labyrinthian reading paths, just as Borges would have it.

We will also have more to report soon on Dialector 6, Marker’s Apple II long unknown converse-with-computer project. (Perhaps it was his willingness to tackle that command line that paved the way for me, un- or semi-consciously). To wit, a friend and long-time correspondent has managed to reconstruct a version of the source code, via some ingenious screenscraping and reverse engineering. We hope with his blessing to make this available under a liberal license and let you play directly with Marker’s invention. DK, are your ears getting warm?

I’ll leave you with a quote I just rediscovered, as the result of a bad habit of buying books off Amazon late at night. I believe this quote, while not entirely unproblematic, holds some meaning for Chris Marker’s style of writing, bricolage and exploration of the caméra stylo aka ‘essay film’:

Properly written texts are like spiders’ webs: tight, concentric, transparent, well-spun and firm. They draw into themselves all the creatures of the air. Metaphors flitting hastily through them become their nourishing prey. Subject matter comes winging towards them. The soundness of a conception can be judged by whether it causes one quotation to summon another. Where thought has opened up one cell of reality, it should, without violence by the subject, penetrate the next. It proves its relation to the object as soon as other objects crystallize around it. In the light that it casts on its chosen substance, others begin to glow.
– T.W. Adorno, Minima Moralia, trans. E.F.N. Jephcott, 95

February 5, 2014  11:24 am   No Comments

The Third Cat

THE THIRD CAT from gorrr aka. Mosmax on Vimeo.

Dedicated to Guillaume-en-Egypte and thanks to Chris.Marker
Machinima by Max Moswitzer
3D Guillaume created by Exosius Woolley
Screening at Centre Pompidou on 2. November 2010, Estoril Film Festival on 9. November 2010.

Reference: "The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir, directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles and Trevor Howard. It is particularly remembered for its atmospheric cinematography, performances, and musical score, and it is considered one of the greatest films of all time. The screenplay was written by novelist Graham Greene, who subsequently published the novella of the same name (which he had originally written as a preparation for the screenplay). Anton Karas wrote and performed the score, which used only the zither; its title music “The Third Man Theme” topped the international music charts in 1950." { Wikipedia }

January 29, 2014  1:03 pm   No Comments

The Cat Wants His Grin Back / Les Chats ne sont plus perchés

THE CAT WANTS HIS GRIN BACK (LES CHATS NE SONT PLUS PERCHES) from Fabi Dapi on Vimeo.

Another offering at the temple of homages chez chrismarker.tumblr.com, courtesy Cinémathèque française. Full screen recommended.

July 29th, 2012. A man crosses the zone. A mysterious street painter with paws without claws, prints in the city, this passage in the offspring. So, let’s talk about Chris Marker.

A short documentary by Céline Balandard & Fabien Dapvril.

with the voice of Vincent Remoissenet.

Produced by Tepaklap.
Written by Céline Balandard.
Camera & Editing by Fabien Dapvril.

Translation by Khalil El Bazi & his father, Alison Wightman & Elodie Doudoux.
Special thanks to Laurent Bailly, Pauline Bouyer, Adrien Danielou, Angélique Démaret, François Duboux, Florian Du Pasquier, Bénédicte Favre, Vincent Hémar, Anthony Jade, Anaïs Meuzeret, Audrey Philippon, Ugo Zanutto.

© 2013

January 28, 2014  6:11 pm   No Comments