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

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

Stranger Than Fiction Screens Sans Soleil

As a friend of a friend used to say of the voices in his head: “THIS JUST IN!”

Stranger Than Fiction (STF)Stranger than Fiction, an exclusive documentary film series followed by live discussions with filmmakers, has just announced its 2014 Spring / Summer lineup. The series begins tonight (May 6) at 8pm, with a screening of Chris Marker’s 1983 classic SANS SOLEIL, followed by a discussion with filmmaker Jem Cohen (MUSEUM HOURS), who cites Marker as a key influence in his own work. Stranger than Fiction takes places every Tuesday night at the IFC Center in Manhattan.

I’m reaching out as you are the best person and place to share Marker screenings. I would appreciate you sharing our screening with your followers who may be in NYC.

May 6: SANS SOLEIL (1983) by Chris Marker
Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum describes Marker’s 1983 masterpiece as “a film about subjectivity, death, photography, social custom, and consciousness itself.”
Tickets here: stfdocs.com/films/sans-soleil
Jasmin Chang

Curating Chris Marker: The Word & The Image

Appearing in the Whitechappel channel on Youtube, the following video was just released and gives an excellent overview of the architecture of the exhibition, modeled on the play of image and text that pervades all of Marker’s creations. One learns from the curators’ reflections how the exhibition was designed to cover in this manner all aspects of the multifarious makings of the maker Chris Marker. Well, that’s quite a mouthful already, so without further ado, thanks to Christine van Assche and Chris Darke (both of whom have been fabulous supporters of this site as well), and on with the show.

As a reminder, you can find more details and some added photographs on the Whitechapel press release post. As the press release states:

Chris Marker is co-curated by Christine van Assche, Chief Curator, Centre Pompidou, Paris, writer and film critic Chris Darke, and Whitechapel Gallery Chief Curator Magnus Af Petersens.

Chris Marker Blow Up – ARTE

Posted by ARTE, this is an insightful and quick-witted introduction to Chris Marker, the man, the filmmaker and the phenomenon. It goes quickly like Marker’s films, so is definitely worth watching several times. “Einmal ist keinmal,” as Benjamin said.

Blow Up is a series of videos produced by ARTE covering a diverse set of topics, with an emphasis on films & filmmakers, but also musicians and other cultural happenings & reminiscences. The full list of shows to date can be found at www.arte.tv/fr.

There is much to enjoy, from the Velvet Underground to the masterful Antonioni film from which the series derives its name. I would even venture to say these videos, with their ‘essayistic’ approach, are prime examples of the caméra stylo predicted by Astruc and embraced/adopted by Marker.

Note: if you’re having trouble with the video feed, try again a bit later. Also please note this is in French. I’ll work on transcribing & translating to add to the post.

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…
Blue-ray.com

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

http://www.blu-ray.com/news/?id=13767

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

CONTENT:

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,
Fenn

Pre-order is available on www.amazon.co.uk 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

For an update on the release, see the subsequent post Soda Releases 3 DVD Chris Marker Collection in English.