Harun Farocki 1944-2014

Harun Farocki

Harun Farocki was born in 1944 in German-annexed Czechoslovakia. From 1966 to 1968 he attended the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB). In addition to teaching posts in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Manila, Munich and Stuttgart, he has been a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Farocki has made close to 90 films, including three feature films, essay films and documentaries. He has worked in collaboration with other filmmakers as a scriptwriter, actor and producer. In 1976 he staged Heiner Müller’s plays The Battle and Tractor together with Hanns Zischler in Basel, Switzerland.

Since 1966 he has written for numerous publications, and from 1974 to 1984 he was editor and author of the magazine Filmkritik (München). His work has shown in many national and international exhibitions and installations in galleries and museums.

Thanks to Dirk K., who sent the following news and citation. I will have so much more to say, when it is time… Dirk writes:

Harun Farocki died yesterday.

He certainly understood a thing or two about Marker, the modus operandi of Sans Soleil, and its effects:

SANS SOLEIL … has an extraordinary text — a text that emanates from a lifetime’s preoccupation with cinema, as you just sketched it. This text can also be reproduced without the film, by which I do not at all imply that the images in the film are somehow worthless. Rather, the text has had such a strong effect that in some places nobody paid much attention to the images. To give a small example: there is a scene in SANS SOLEIL where the camera accompanies two people visiting a grave. It rushes ahead of them and waits for them at the graveside, just like a television crew would do it, if it had the time and a chance to stage things. Why does the camera rush ahead? — this sort of question has not generated any critical energy. I probably write, or rather: occupy myself with writing, in order to determine the difference between film and text. I want to make films that are not that far removed from texts, and that are nonetheless very distinct.

Harun Farocki: Working on the Sightlines, ed. Thomas Elsaesser. Feb 2014, 180

OK, me again. Here are some preliminary reflections from Germany, France and the US.

Obits & Appreciations

Zum Tode Harun Farockis: Einzelkämpfer gegen die Macht der Bilder
spiegel.de

Harun Farocki, Celebrated Filmmaker, Dead at 70
news.artnet.com

Harun Farocki n’expérimentera plus
next.liberation.fr

Harun Farocki: Der ungeschminkte Blick auf die Realität
zeit.de

Der Filmemacher Harun Farocki ist gestorben
welt.de

Regisseur Harun Farocki tot
spex.de

Watch Harun Farocki Explain His Final Solo Show
news.artnet.com

Further Reading

I will be posting further articles on Farocki as they appear to my Google + page. I will also brush up a dusty article I wrote on Images of the World and the Inscription of War, potentially Farocki’s most prominent essay film.

If you have not read Farocki’s printed essays, a good manual to have is his (regrettably out of print to my knowledge) book Nachdruck/Imprint Texte/Writings, ed. Susanne Gaensheimer, Nicolaus Schafhausen, trans. Laurent Faasch-Ibrahim, assistant ed. Volker Pantenburg, New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2001. Most recently, Farocki published Harun Farocki: Diagrams: Images from Ten Films, along with Thomas Elsaesser and Maren Grimm, with Benedikt Reichenbach as editor. He is also co-author with Paul Virilio of the hyper-contemporary Serious Games: War-Media-Art, like Nachdruck/Imprint bi-lingual in English and German.

Soda Pictures Releases 3 DVD Chris Marker Collection in English

Chris Marker Collection, a 3 DVD set of Chris Marker films published to coincide with the Whitechapel exhibition currently running in London, is out! The 3 DVD collection of Chris Marker films was published June 2, 2014 by SODA Film+Art and is now available for purchase. It’s a thrilling addition to Marker’s English-language releases. Without further ado, here are the overall details on the release. We’ll ad some additional images down the road.

Chris Marker Collection DVD set

Contents

BLU-RAY

  • Sunday in Peking (Dimanche á Pékin, 1956, 22 min)
  • Letter From Siberia (Lettre de Sibérie, 1958, 62 min)

DVD 1

  • Sunday in Peking (Dimanche á Pékin, 1956, 22 min)
  • Letter From Siberia (Lettre de Sibérie, 1958, 62 min)
  • Description of a Struggle (Description d’un combat, 1960, 60 min)

DVD 2

  • The Sixth Side of the Pentagon (La Sixiéme face du Pentagone, 1968, 27 min)
  • The Embassy (L’Ambassade, 1973, 20 min)
  • Theory of Sets (Théorie des ensembles, 1991, 11 min)
  • Three Video Haikus (Trois Vidéo Haikus, 1994, 3 min)
  • Blue Helmet (Casque blue, 1996, 26 min)
  • E-CLIP-SE (1999, 8 min)
  • The Case of the Grinning Cat (Chats perchés, 2004, 59 min)

Blu-Ray tech info: Aspect ratio: 4:3 | Running time: 80 mins. approx. | Audio LPCM 2.0 Stereo
Language English/French with English subtitles S| Region B | Colour | 1080p | 24fps

DVD Tech info: Aspect ratio: 4:3 | DVD 1 Running time: 134 mins. approx. | DVD2 Running time: 154 mins. approx. | PAL
Language English/French with English subtitles | Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 Sterio | Region 2 | 1080p | 24fps

Chris Marker Collection - interior

Passion for Words, Madness for Images

This collection of Chris Marker films consists of three works that pre-date La Jetée, the featurette that firmly planted his name as a filmmaker, as well as a series of seven shorter films that span each decade of his career thereafter. These remarkable curios reveal much about him, his ideas and his visuality, as well as his take on the modern world from an artistic point-of-view – from China, Siberia and Israel in the 1950s to the Pentagon, art collectives, cheshire cats, haikus and early new media.

Released in conjunction with a major exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery, London, and with a new piece by writer and curator Chris Darke (Rediscovering Chris Marker), alongside a seminal early piece by Roger Tailleur (Markeriana: A Scarcely Critical Description of the Work of Chris Marker).

Chris Marker Collection DVD 1 - Pentagon

About Soda Film + Art

Soda Film + Art (SoFA) is an international agency that focuses on visual artists working in feature filmmaking. It operates at the nexus of film and art, and acts as a centralised bureau for development, production, sales, distribution and exhibition support. SoFA also has a collectable DVD label, with bespoke packaging that is unique to each title and artist vision, but together forms a cohesive library – and ultimately an overview of what’s happening in art + film today.www.sodafilmart.com

Purchase: sodapictures.squarespace.com

Rediscovering Chris Marker

By 2002, it was evidently no longer enough to describe Marker simply as a ‘filmmaker'; cinema was merely one of the forms into which this prolific artist had channelled his protean creativity. When Marker died in July 2012, aged 91, he left behind an utterly singular body of work. From his first appearance in print as an author in 1946 to his final film, a 60-second ‘trailer’ for the 2012 Vienna film festival, his oeuvre spanned over 65 years and was remarkable in its scope. He designed and edited books, published journalism and essays, as well as a novel and short stories. As a visual artist, he was an accomplished photographer, cartoonist, and multimedia practitioner. But he remains best remembered as a filmmaker, with more than forty-five titles to his name and over thirty more as a commentary-writer or editor.
Chris Darke, "Rediscovering Chris Marker", Chris Marker Collection booklet, 5

Rare Chris Marker Post-War Memory Published

music memoryI just published a text sent by Chris Darke, who has seen to its translation and encouraged its publication here, for which I am profoundly grateful. The text is one Marker wrote at the request of Jean-Jacques Birgé, answering the question Images gravitate around music. Which has marked you the most? You can find the text as An Image Just Appeared by Chris Marker.

The text shows the remarkable blend of keen memory, eye for emblematic images, and historical consciousness that we find inscribed in many of Marker’s films and installations (Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men comes to mind, for one). Once again, as in Sans Soleil, the wounds of history meet the compassionate gaze of memory. En plus, the text reminds us of Marker’s deep attachment to music – in this case, jazz. It is an attachment that works subliminally in many of his films to deepen the emotional reach of the projection and audition for the spectator. It’s what made Chat écoutant la musique possible: another treasure of memory and music.

In prefacing his remarks, Marker hints at how large ‘memory’ can become – stretching space and time like an expanding universe, an impossible architecture – within a single lifetime.

The image below is of one of the ships that Marker references in this memory text.

Exodus

Happy Birthday Tom Luddy

Tom LuddyHappy Birthday Tom LuddyHappy Birthday wishes go out today to Tom Luddy, longtime Chris Marker friend, director of the Telluride Film Festival, longtime director of the Pacific Film Archive, and a man well worth knowing. Tom’s been a trusted supporter of this site, and has helped answer many questions – my own and others’ – on Marker’s films. When I first met Tom, he let me sit in Sean Penn’s office to view some Marker VHS tapes. I was dumbstruck. I was happy. As we walked to North Beach in San Francisco to find the best espresso ever, he talked of ‘Chris’, of Sans Soleil, of Junkopia, of Tarkovsky, of beings I perhaps did not believe really existed, much less had friendships and drank coffee, slept and got up the next morning. He handed me one of the first books on Chris Marker, a gift. Marker had no use for it, as a small note inside stated. Tom also introduced me to Dorna K., for which I am also eternally grateful – another masterful being. They are real. They have birthdays. A happy one to you Tom!

Here’s an interesting trace of Marker and Luddy.

As you probably know Chris did not make public appearances as a rule, and tried to prevent anyone taking a picture of him too. We were friends and I had also assisted him on three films: “San Soleil,” “The Owl’s Legacy” and “Junktopia.”

I persuaded him to come to Telluride… this was l987. We showed “La Jetee” and “San Soleil.” He would not appear before or after the film inside the theatre — The Sheridan Opera House — but I was allowed to tell the audience that he would be outside on the grass after the film and people could speak to him informally and this happened then, and throughout the weekend with people walking up to him for a chat. Even though he said NO PICTURES, someone did take this picture surreptitiously.Tom Luddy

Telluride Chris Marker at invitation of Tom Luddy

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A Grin Without a Cat – Whitechapel Catalogue Arrives

The Whitechapel catalogue has arrived. It is a wonderful work of art and scholarship. For now, here is a scan of the cover along with the table of contents, plus a pdf of front and back covers and a link to Whitechapel’s shop.

Chris Marker, A Grin Without a Cat, Whitechapel Catalogue

Table of Contents

  • Forward by Magnus af Petersens and Iwona Blazwick
  • Chris Marker, the Time of the World by Christine Van Assche
  • Statues Also Die: THE MUSEUM
  • Petite Planète: TRAVELOGUES
  • At the Sign of the Black Cat by Chris Darke
  • Memories of Things to Come: THE FUTURE-PAST OF FILM
  • La Jetée by Nicola Mazzanti
  • Marker Forever by Raymond Bellour
  • Image (journey) by Arnaud Lambert
  • When the Century Took Shape: WAR AND REVOLUTION
  • Quand le siècle a pris formes by Christine Van Assche
  • Orphée by Chris Marker
  • Till The End of Time by Chris Marker
  • List of works
  • Filmography, multimedia and installations, bibliography, exhibitions
  • Acknowledgements

You can download a pdf of both front and back covers.

For purchase information, you can access the Whitechapel online store.

Marker worked as a journalist, essayist and editor before becoming a filmmaker as part of the so-called Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) in the late 1950s. He is often given credit for renewing cinema, not least for his innovations in the genre of the ‘essay-film’, a hybrid of documentary and personal reflection and the style in which he became an acknowledged master. Such hybridity and restless crossing between media and forms were emblematic for Marker. His work is poetic and humorous, analytical, political and philosophical, a reflection of the complexity of the world. This exhibition shows him as a multifaceted artist and intellectual, working as an editor, writer, filmmaker, photographer and pioneer of new media and installation art. In many ways it is his way of working – as much as the result of that work – that has been such an inspiration to younger generations of artists.Magnus af Petersens, Curator at Large Iwona Blazwick, Director

Whitechapel Catalogue - Back Cover

Clicquez ici at Claire de Rouen Books

Cliquez ici – an illustrated journey through the pages of Chris Marker

Chris Marker Harem

Claire de Rouen Books, First Floor
125 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H OEW
Friday 30 May, 6-9pm

Chris Darke will talk on the significance of the book format for the French filmmaker’s methodology. He’ll look especially at Petite Planète, the series of travel books that Marker edited from the 1950s to the early 1960s.

Featuring: the printed page, sound, projection, still and moving image… and wine.

Chris Marker in Siberia

This event has been organised by Lucy Moore with Richard Bevan, Tamsin Clark and Chris Darke.

Texts on Petite Planète by Tamsin Clark and Lucy Moore can be viewed on the ICA’s blog (Institute of Contemporary Arts, a supporter of ‘radical art and culture’*).

A rare complete set of the books will be offered for sale at Room&Book, a new art book fair for London. It will be on view at the bookshop from 30 May – 3 June.

http://www.clairederouenbooks.com

In 1954 the 33 year old filmmaker had been hired as an editor by Parisian publishing house Editions de Seuil, known for its radical titles, including Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book and Frantz Fanon’s doctorial thesis Black Skin, White Masks. At Seuil, Marker was given free rein, devising and directing a collection of 31 travel books with the title Petite Planète. His aspiration for the series was to avoid the propaganda familiar to the guidebook genre, imagining instead the intimacy of his film script style, or a ‘conversation with an individual who is well informed about the country in question’.

Marker’s cinematographic eye focused attentively on book design and layout, creating dynamic relationships between images, with photographs of street life and people at work given equal attention to those of eminent historical figures. This surprising use of imagery and montage brought a sense of movement and momentum to the book form that Marker would eventually employ as a simple way to orchestrate a film.
Tasmin Clarke

Thanks to Tasmin Clarke

About Claire de Rouen Books

Claire de Rouen Books is the only specialist photography and fashion bookshop in London.

We stock photobooks, fashion monographs, micropublishing, rare, signed and limited edition books, international magazines, lookbooks and artist publications. We sell unique prints and limited editions – currently these include a Polaroid of Andy Warhol taken in 1986 and a Hiroshi Sugimoto Theatre print.

Claire de Rouen was the original director of the bookshop. Born in Alexandria in the early 1930s, she moved to London in her twenties, where she studied art and also modelled.www.clairederouenbooks.com

About the ICA

The ICA was one of the first venues to present The Clash and The Smiths, as well as bands such as Throbbing Gristle. The inaugural ICA / LUX Biennial of Moving Images was launched in 2012, and the ICA Cinema continues to screen rare artists’ film, support independent releases and partner with leading film festivals. ica.org.uk

Room and Book

Bellour Marker Forever

Chris Marker Second Life

“I was 22 when my friend Jean Michaud and I imprudently imagined an ‘Apology for Chris Marker’ on the model offered by Plato. I was 24 when, on the spiral staircase leading to, among other things, the ‘Petite Planète’ office at Éditions du Seuil, Marker pleaded with me – the word that comes is too strong but I can find no other – or asked me not to write a little book on his films, which already constituted an oeuvre, for the ‘Cinéastes d’aujourd’hui’ series, in its early days at the times. I had been asked to do so by Pierre Lherminier, following one I had written on Alexandre Astruc. It was just after La Jetée (hailed in the last issue of Artsept, our Lyon-based journal, where Marker had been a permanent guest). Of course I have not written the book, nor any other on Marker. May these few pages stand in their stead, following so many writings over the years, written for a living man, with respect, admiration and friendship across distance.”
Raymond Bellour, “Marker Forever”, Cat Without a Grin (Whitechapel catalogue), p. 74.

80:81 Chris Marker in Conversation

I’ve added a rare Chris Marker interview with Colin Maccabe to the site. You can find it under pages as 80:81 Chris Marker Speaks with Colin Maccabe. In this talk, Marker discusses his travels to Japan and Guinea-Bissau, his filming of what would become Sans Soleil, the transition of eras from Le fond de l’air est rouge to Sans Soleil, and the four language versions of the latter.

We get a glimpse of the four year time-frame that encompasses the work on Sans Soleil, and its crucial moment of clarity when Marker put the narrative commentary into the past tense, allowing the film to take on the singular quality that we know but still seek to understand.

Sans Soleil brochure cover

Cover of original brochure for Sans Soleil, courtesy Pacific Film Archive

Not Long Enough

Found this photograph taken at the Whitechapel exhibition on Twitter, by @rockmother.

Chris Marker on Photographs Quotation

I STARE at them, but not long enough, not long enough. There is a beautiful poem by Valery Larbaud, who evokes four young women he caught a glimpse of during his journeys, and he laments not being able to reach them now. "For, I don’t know why, it seems to me that with them I could conquer a world." There is something of that megalomaniac melancholy in the browsing of past images. Perhaps, if I could catch up with the absolute beauty in Cape Verde, the violinist in Stockholm lost in her thoughts, the grandmother in Corsica kissing the sacred stone, the exhausted Chinese laborer, the Japanese extra sleeping between two takes, the two Russian girls listening to poetry, the young woman dozing in the train, and the old man with his paper toys, perhaps I could conquer a world. Or rather, they would conquer a world for me.
Chris Marker

Icarus, Arte and Argos Release Four Chris Marker Films on iTunes

iTunesThe last few years have seen a growing availability of Chris Marker’s films, initially via pirate uploads to YouTube and an underground culture in subtitles, Criterion’s essential pairing of La Jetée and Sans Soleil, then online at streaming sites like MUBI, followed more recently by the great coffret of Planète Marker by Arte (to complement the Pompidou exhibition & retrospective). Other French DVD releases were unveiled, such as the remastered Le Joli Mai (Arte again), Argos’ Level Five, Lettre de Sibérie and Dimanche à Pékin, and the remastered Loin de Vietnam (Arte). Icarus had also done a great job with Grin Without a Cat, Remembrance of Things to Come, The Case of the Grinning Cat, The Last Bolshevik and The Sixth Side of the Pentagon.

Still, English speakers had discovered and embraced Marker, and wanted more. Then came Whitechapel. The current exhibition in London has prompted the box set of films by Soda Pictures, a most welcome release just shy of a month away. And now news has surfaced of the release on iTunes of some key Marker films, the details of which are below. It is said of American tourists that the first thing they ask of hotels in Paris is a WiFi connection, so it is fitting that we get – setting aside the indispensable Criterion & Icarus releases – our media via broadband. Before too long and before any eschatelogical events, we hope to have within reach of our eyes and ears a more complete collection of the many masterpieces by Marker, in English, German, Spanish, Japanese, Hungarian, Tibetan, Mongolian… Prais the digital dieties and the Babel of languages and enjoy!

Please note: all plot summaries below reproduced from Apple’s site. Sosume.

Class of Struggle

itunes.apple.com…class-of-struggle

Plot Summary

Class of StruggleIn 1967, Chris Marker and Mario Marret (under the aegis of SLON) produced À Bientôt J’espère, which documented a strike and factory occupation—the first in France since 1936—by textile workers at the Rhodiaceta textile plant in Besançon, the goals of which prefigured many of the demands that would come to define May 1968. Many of the Rhodiaceta workers who had collaborated with Marker and Marret on the film were unhappy with the final production. In response, Marker and other SLON filmmakers reorganized their efforts to begin training workers to collaboratively produce their own films under the name “The Medvedkin Group,” after the Russian filmmaker Marker would later memorialize in The Last Bolshevik. Class of Struggle is their first production. Picking up in Besançon a year after the events depicted in À Bientôt J’espère, the film focuses on agitation by workers at the Yema Watch Factory, particularly the efforts of one recently radicalized worker, Suzanne Zedet. Zedet describes her political activity, and the punishments issued in response by the factory management. She also articulates the radical scope of her and her fellow workers’ demands, which go beyond higher wages and better benefits, and reflect a desire to reorganize the country’s economy and social order. One of those demands is access to culture and to the tools of cultural production. The film itself is one attempt to meet this demand, and we see the workers editing and developing film under a banner that reads: “Cinema is not magic; it is a technique and a science, a technique born from science and put in service of a will: the will of workers to liberate themselves.” One of the most radical films produced in an era defined by radicalism, Class of Struggle reflects this will to liberation.

Far From Vietnam

Distributor: Icarus Films
itunes.apple.com…far-from-vietnam

Plot Summary

Initiated and edited by Chris Marker, Far from Vietnam is an epic 1967 collaboration between cinema greats Jean-Luc Godard, Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, and Alain Resnais in protest of American military involvement in Vietnam – made, per Marker’s narration, “to affirm, by the exercise of their craft, their solidarity with the Vietnamese people in struggle against aggression.” A truly collaborative effort, the film brings together an array of stylistically disparate contributions, none individually credited, under a unified editorial vision. The elements span documentary footage shot in North and South Vietnam and at anti-war demonstrations in the United States; a fictional vignette and a monologue that dramatize the self-interrogation of European intellectuals; interviews with Fidel Castro and Anne Morrison, widow of Norman Morrison, the Quaker pacifist who burned himself alive on the steps of the White House in 1965; an historical overview of the conflict; reflections from French journalist Michèle Ray; and a range of repurposed media material. Passionately critical and self-critical, and as bold in form as it is in rhetoric, Far from Vietnam is a milestone in political documentary and in the French cinema.

La Jétee

itunes.apple.com…la-jetee
Chris Marker, filmmaker, poet, novelist, photographer, editor, and now videographer and digital multimedia artist, has been challenging moviegoers, philosophers, and himself for years with his complex queries about time, memory, and the rapid advancement of life on this planet. Marker’s La Jetée is one of the most influential, radical science-fiction films ever made, a tale of time travel told in still images.

Le Joli Mai

itunes.apple.com…le-joli-mai

Plot Summary

Le Joli Mai is a portrait of Paris and Parisians during May 1962. It is a film with several thousand actors including a poet, a student, an owl, a housewife, a stockbroker, competitive dancer, two lovers, General de Gaulle and several cats.Filmed just after the March ceasefire between France and Algeria, Le Joli Mai documents Paris during a turning point in French history: the first time since 1939 that France was not involved in any war. Part I, “A Prayer from the Eiffel Tower,” documents personal attitudes and feelings around Paris. A salesman feels free only when he is driving his car, and then only if there is not too much traffic. A working-class mother of eight has just gotten the larger apartment that she had been wanting for years. The space capsule of American astronaut John Glenn is examined by a group of admiring children. Two investors talk about their careers and adventures. A couple who have been in love since their teens discuss the possibility of eternal happiness. At a middle class wedding banquet, the guests are raucous while the bride is quiet, dignified and reserved. Part II, “The Return of Fantomas,” is an investigation of the political and social life of the city. Marker and Lhomme alternate between public events and private discussions: the former focusing on the Algerian situation, such as a funeral for people killed in Paris street demonstrations after the Algerian settlement. Meanwhile, the latter includes a conversation with two girls about the state of France; a meeting with a pair of engineers who describe the potential of the current technological revolution; an African student who discusses his own response to the French and the Parisians’ reaction to his skin color; a worker-priest forced to choose between the Church and his fellow workers; and an Algerian worker describing conflict he has experienced with native Frenchmen. The film ends with sweeping views of Paris, the façades of its prisons, and the faces of its people as they struggle to make sense of their moment in history.

§

After publishing this post, I read the reflections of on bfi.org.uk in the article “The owl’s legacy: in memory of Chris Marker“, by Catherine Lupton, Thom Andersen, Chris Petit, Jem Cohen, John Gianvito, Patrik Keller, Sarah Turner, Kudwo Eshun, José Luis Guerin and Agnès Varda. A thought of Thom Anderson’s struck me in relation to the distribution of Marker’s films in the US. It goes against the grain of this celebratory post, as does our first comment regarding the lack of availability of the iTunes releases in the UK. Here is Mr. Anderson’s thoughts, thoughts that make one wonder about the political backdrop of Marker’s limited presentation in this country historically:

I only had that one chance to see A Valparaiso projected. I’ve never had a chance to see most of his films, and others only many years after their original release. The political censorship we face in the United States has allowed only his more melancholy films, such as Sans soleil, to pass, while stopping his optimistic films, such as Sunday in Peking, If I Had Four Camels and Cuba Sí!. Others were delayed until their usefulness had vanished.

I read a review of Le fond de l’air est rouge in Variety in 1977; I first saw it in 2002, when it was finally released in the US with a new title, A Grin Without a Cat, that reversed the connotations of the original. The grin is the armed revolutionary vanguard, and the cat is the people. The disillusioned leftist has for many years been a sympathetic figure in American culture. Marker, of course, didn’t choose this role – it was falsely imposed on him in the US by selective sampling of his work.Thom Anderson

Chris Marker holding small award