Sixth Side of the Pentagon Trailer

The image below from Marker’s Staring Back photo collection book was posted to the Chris Marker Facebook page today by Ben McGill. Marker getting the not welcome please cease and desist moves by the US military police… Neither the image nor the film have lost their significance, to say the least, as the resistance to power renews itself after a short nap of reason. As Ben aptly notes, “Perhaps the best place to hide is in your own book.”

On October 21, 1967, over 100,000 protestors gathered in Washington, D.C., for the Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam. It was the largest protest gathering yet, and it brought together a wide cross-section of liberals, radicals, hippies, and Yippies. Che Guevara had been killed in Bolivia only two weeks previously, and, for many, it was the transition from simply marching against the war, to taking direct action to try to stop the ‘American war machine.’ Norman Mailer wrote about the events in Armies of the Night. French filmmaker Chris Marker, leading a team of filmmakers, was also there, and made THE SIXTH SIDE OF THE PENTAGON.
IMDB

For more information, see Icarus Films video page. They offer the DVD of The Sixth Side of the Pentagon bundled with Marker’s short fiction film 1973 The Embassy.

The original title of the film is La sixième face du pentagone, filmed in 1967 and finished in 1968. It is a collaboration between Marker and François Reichenbach. For a deeper look at Reichenbach and his career, take a look at the article “Francois Reichenbach Dies at 71; Directed Range of Documentaries” in New York Times, dated 2/3/1993. Among his books is Le monde a encore un visage, a statement certainly given ample life in both Reichenbach’s and Marker’s films and photography.

Robert Goff has written one of the most comprehensive reviews of the film. Here’s an excerpt:

The films of Chris Marker continue to remind us how the history of the twentieth century haunts the present. Few directors alive today have filmed in so many countries, witnessing and commenting on the events of the second half of the century. This prolific French filmmaker has brought a left-wing political vision and a reflective sensibility to the creation of a remarkable body of work. With so few films from his vast archive available in the United States, one is grateful for the release of any of his works, however minor. The Sixth Side of the Pentagon (1967) and The Embassy (1973) are two short films made during the time of the production company, SLON (Société Pour le Lancement d’Oevres Nouvelles [Company for the Launching of New Work]) that Marker founded in 1967 and that lasted until 1977. The Sixth Side of the Pentagon is a documentary on, arguably, the most important anti-Vietnam war demonstration of the 1960s, the march to the Pentagon in 1967, later immortalized in Norman Mailer’s Pulitzer prize-winning The Armies of the Night. The Embassy, shot in Super 8, imitates the form of a documentary but it actually is a fictional work that references the overthrow of President Allende in Chile the same year the film was made.

If the coup in Chile in 1973 influenced the making of The Embassy, the film is also a commentary on French society. Marker’s voice-over suggests that the director is filming left-wing intellectuals taking refuge in the embassy from an unnamed military regime. The voice expresses left-wing ideas about repressive regimes and class struggle but what the viewer seems to be watching is a silent home movie of a wealthy family and their guests. Marker, the viewer realizes, is filming actors and what we see and hear alludes to the privileged but often impotent position of intellectuals in society. One surmises that in 1973 the filmmaker was probably coming to terms with his own feelings about what had just happened in Chile.

The Sixth Side of the Pentagon is the slightly longer and more conventional of the two films. Mostly shot in color, it captures the dramatic events in Washington during October 1967. Marker and his co-director, Francoise Reichenbach (the film is a typical example of the collaborative SLON) share a gift for capturing bizarre confrontations: American Nazis distribute flyers on “gassing the Viet Cong” and try to shout down draft resistors outside the Department of Justice; sinister U.S. military personnel look down from the top of the Lincoln Memorial while below hordes of protestors, many wearing clothing and carrying banners bearing the image of Che Guevara, can be seen thronging the steps and lining the distant reflecting pool; a minister sermonizes against communism from atop a cherry picker while hippies chant pagan incantations below, led by Ed Sanders of the Fugs; middle-aged U.S. Marshals emerge from the Pentagon wearing steel helmets, lashing out with clubs and bloodying very young demonstrators. The film, however, is not just an observational documentary as Marker’s commentary is unequivocally on the side of the protestors in this huge demonstration against the military might of the Pentagon, which in 1967 symbolized the war in Vietnam.

After watching these films, the viewer is advised to see Marker’s A Grin without a Cat (also available from Icarus Films). This compilation film is one of Marker’s more important feature-length films but it can also be viewed as a very long DVD commentary on these two short films. Released in 1977 and revised further in 1993, A Grin without a Cat is a meditation on the history of the struggles of the left, particularly over Vietnam, in the 1960s and 1970s, and concludes with a long commentary on the demise of the Allende government. Marker laments he did not notice the rise of the right in his narration of A Grin without a Cat, which incorporates considerable amounts of footage…
Robert Goff, “The Sixth Side of the Pentagon and The Embassy”, Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies, Volume 39.1 (Spring 2009) pp. 75-76 – as presented on http://muse.jhu.edu/article/375875

Colin MacCabe Visits the Atelier

Chris Marker studio door

Visiting rue Courat
Colin MacCabe

It was early 2002 and people still used answering machines rather than mobile phones. The recording clicked in and an extraordinary voice that sounded as if it had been mechanically produced asked the caller to leave a message “if you have something interesting or amusing to say”. I was already nervous that I was cold calling Chris Marker, legendary recluse and indeed general artistic legend. My anxiety intensified and I started to stutter out my message. “I am in Paris and I have a VHS copy of a film called The Magic Face and…” The receiver was picked up (I learned later that Chris screened all his calls) and a very human voice said, “You are the Messiah”. I have never been more startled by any single sentence addressed to me.

If I was the Messiah then John the Baptist was Tom Luddy. It was a few days earlier that I had seen Tom in Berkeley and asked him if he could get me an introduction to Marker. “I have the perfect calling card”, he said. “Chris has been looking for a copy of a film called The Magic Face for 50 years and I have just found a poor VHS copy. Here – deliver it.” And deliver it I now did. Marker said that he would be in the Latin Quarter, where I was living, the next Tuesday but his enthusiasm for the film was so overpowering that I insisted that I would bring it immediately to him. His instructions were both precise and disorienting. I had to go to a Metro station I had never heard of, cross under a disused railway I had never seen, walk down a narrow street, the rue Courat, find a huge house with an array of bells and names. Then I was to choose the bell without any name and ring three times.

The Metro was Maraichers and over the next decade I was to come to know it and that part of the 20th arrondissement well. No tourist has ever set foot there and it corresponds to none of the conventional pictures of Paris but with its completely mixed and relatively poor population it is as good an image of contemporary France profonde as you can find. But that first day it was terra incognita. As I stood at the door of the house I wondered if I had wandered into a parallel universe.

Of course I had and in time I would feel at home there. But, for now, I felt extremely uncomfortable and slightly terrified as I waited for the door to open. Everybody knew Marker’s name (although Marker wasn’t his real name) but unlike almost any other twentieth century name there was no accompanying image. I had no idea what to expect. Suddenly, bounding down the steps came what at very first impression was a huge and agile monkey. Indeed I wouldn’t have been surprised if there had been a long and bushy tail to go with the completely bald head. Certainly he bounded back up the stairs with long agile leaps leaving me, thirty years his junior, toiling in his wake.

And then we were in his studio …
Colin MacCabe, www.orbooks.com

Colin MacCabe is a British academic, writer and film producer. He has published books on a variety of subjects, including Jean Luc Godard, James Joyce and T.S. Eliot, and has produced many films, among them Young Soul Rebels, Seasons in Quincy, and Caravaggio. He is currently distinguished professor of English and film at the University of Pittsburgh.

For a rare interview of Marker by MacCabe, see 80:81 Chris Marker Speaks with Colin MacCabe.

For pre-orders and additional information on the book and its three authors, navigate to OR Books | Studio: Remembering Chris Marker.

For more information on the forthcoming book Studio by OR Books, of which the MacCabe remembrance is an excerpt, see our initial post Studio: A Remembrance of Chris Marker – Bartos, McCabe, Lerner.

10:04 | 4001

FYI, Ben Lerner’s novel 10:04, which I had the pleasure of reading this year, is a fantastic novel. Lerner contributes the Introduction to Studio. Some things are definitely worth waiting for, down to the minute. It strikes me now that 10:04 reversed is 4001, the year of perfect memory in Sans Soleil:

He hasn’t come from another planet he comes from our future, four thousand and one: 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.

[…]

As we await the year four thousand and one and its total recall, that’s what the oracles we take out of their long hexagonal boxes at new year may offer us: a little more power over that memory that runs from camp to camp—like Joan of Arc. That a short wave announcement from Hong Kong radio picked up on a Cape Verde island projects to Tokyo, and that the memory of a precise color in the street bounces back on another country, another distance, another music, endlessly.

Cuba Si! by Chris Marker (1961)

Cuba Si!, Chris Marker’s 1961 film about the late Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution, was produced by Pierre Braunberger and banned in France. It contains much original footage of Castro speaking, and is one of a handful of films not available, to my knowledge, on DVD. It is rarely shown and was not considered by Marker himself as part of his oeuvre that he wished to have projected. He talked about his early films as ‘sketches’ of what was to come, of their being preludes to his later work (post 1962 I believe was his internal dividing line, expressed publicly from time to time). Nonetheless, it is unmistakably a Marker film, bearing his signature, his political engagement, his humour and his curiosity.

And indeed, we witness in the evolution of his work an interesting tendency to revisit topics in a more full-bodied manner, transitioning often from court-métrage to long-métrage.* In this line of thinking, Le Mystère Koumiko (1965) forms a prelude to the more wide-ranging Sans Soleil in its more thorough treatment of Japanese culture. His first film on Alexandr Medvedkin, The Train Rolls On (1972), become the masterpiece letter-film The Last Bolshevik two decades later (1992). Cuba Si! found itself incorporated in part in Le fond de l’air est rouge (1977), itself expanded and revised for the English version Grin Without a Cat in 1988.

La Jetée (1963) also found itself inhabiting – in nuanced references – the expanded space of Sans Soleil, though this case is different, for this film begins the period that Marker embraced and encouraged to be shown, inaugurating what he apparently viewed as his mature period and willing the earlier works to the ‘dustbin of history’ – though there was by then already a sizable and wonderful oeuvre, especially when one considers his collaborative work with Resnais. The same year brought Le Joli mai, Marker’s exploration of Paris and the Parisian Zeitgeist using the new technique of ‘direct cinema’ in the wake of the French war in Algeria (1954 to 1962), and Marker oversaw its remastering and re-release before the end of his life.

With Cuba Si!, La Jetée and Le Joli mai, in effect we have portraits of the aftermaths of three wars, with three wildly different approaches – documentary, science fiction and direct cinema. The subject is omnipresent in Marker’s work, returning forcefully again in Level Five‘s treatment of Okinawa and the brutal end of WWII in the Pacific.

Of course, Marker fans would wish to salvage all of Marker’s films, and have in large part been granted that wish with the ongoing releases on DVD in French and English – though English-speaking fans and followers still await the big-yet-incomplete step towards an Oeuvres complètes of the magnificent Planète Chris Marker collection, still available only in French. Instead, we have the rich Chris Marker Collection, published by Soda Pictures (following the impetus of the Whitechapel exhibition), and many individual releases.

For a inventive thematic look at Marker’s work circa 1963 (but before La Jetée and Joli Mai), take a look at the essay Markeriana by Roger Tailleur, newly added to the site’s core content.

In any case, it seemed like the right moment for this site to track down this YouTube version of Cuba Si!, despite the poor quality and the ads, alas, as Fidel Castro has now passed, and with him the era whose inception this film documents, when Marker was 40 and the Sixties were just beginning their wild inscriptions into history and memory.

Marker, in the “Sixties” essay mentioned above, recollecting 1967, riffs on Cuba and Castro in what could stand as an interesting postscript to Cuba Si!:

Chance having made me born a bit restless and gifted with the insatiable curiosity of the Elephant’s Child, when I browse mentally my diary of 1967 I think on the contrary that one had to be pretty dumb not to catch a glimpse of what was already cooking. Springtime: a trip to Cuba, at its heretic best (to the extent that the sheer name of Cuba never appeared any more in L’Humanité, the French communist newspaper), Fidel thundering against the dogmatism of the Marxist-Leninist manuals, severing ties with all the communist parties in South America, explaining to us that the time had come for ‘non-Party people, new people, who break with that tepid, weakly, pseudo-revolutionary model of some who boast to be revolutionaries …’, wrong-footing his Russian allies in such a way that one year later, on the verge of delivering the famous speech in which he would align with the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia, everybody in Havana was certain that he was to announce the split with the USSR (the icy shower would be but icier, but so goes History).

En France, selon les textes en vigueur du Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, la durée d’un long métrage est supérieure à une heure, plus exactement à 58 minutes et 29 secondes, c’est-à-dire l’équivalent d’une bobine de film de 35 mm standard de 1 600 mètres.
Wikipedia.fr

Chris + Andrei

file-nov-06-5-28-06-pm

Chris Marker at the funeral of Andrei Arsenevich Tarkovsky. Les deux maîtres. It is au revoir not adieu, one may only hope. If rockstars can reunite in heaven, why not filmmakers? Imagine a film that combines the already fathomless treasures of La Jetée and Stalker

Studio: A Remembrance of Chris Marker – Bartos, McCabe, Lerner

Ben Lerner, Chris Marker studio

Marker Studio, 2007 © Adam Bartos

He inferred that persons desiring to train this faculty (of memory) must select places and form mental images of the things they wish to remember and store those images in the places, so that the order of the places will preserve the order of the things, and the images of the things will denote the things themselves, and we shall employ the places and images respectively as a wax writing-tablet and the letters written on it.Cicero, De oratore [on Simionides discovery of the art of memory], quoted Frances Yates, The Art of Memory, 2

We have seen some photos on the net of late taken at Chris Marker’s atelier, showing the wealth of memorabilia, books, and technologies of a life of creation & travel that made up the precious space of his atelier, most of which we assume is now in the hands of the Cinémathèque française. It turns out that the photos are by Adam Bartos, and the Paris Review article where they were first glimpsed is just a hint of what is to come – a full book of his photos of Marker’s studio: Studio: A Remembrance of Chris Marker. The book will be published in 2017, so we have to be patient, but it promises innovative layouts including gatefold images, a text by Colin McCabe and an introduction by Lerner. Here’s the information I’ve been able to gather to date:

OR Book Going Rouge

Studio: A Remembrance of Chris Marker

ISBN 9781682190807
$40.00

OR Books
Photographs by Adam Bartos. Text by Colin McCabe. Introduction by Ben Lerner.
Hbk, 6.5 x 9.5 in. / 96 pgs / 21 color.
Pub Date: 5/23/2017 | Awaiting stock
U.S. $40.00 CDN $52.50

Chris Marker (1921–2012) was a celebrated French documentary film director, writer and photographer, best known for his films La Jetée, A Grin Without a Cat and Sans Soleil. He was described by fellow filmmaker Alain Resnais as “the prototype of the 21st-century man.” In this highly original book, Adam Bartos’ exquisite photographs of Marker’s studio, a workspace both extraordinarily cluttered and highly organized, appear alongside a moving reminiscence of his friend by the film theorist, Godard biographer and practitioner Colin MacCabe. The novelist and poet Ben Lerner provides a fulsome introduction to the work of Marker, Bartos and MacCabe. The physical structure of the book, incorporating an array of gatefold images, echoes Marker’s own commitment to radical, innovative form. The result is a compelling homage to one of the most important and original talents in modern cinema.
www.artbook.com

Chris Marker’s Studio – Adam Bartos and Ben Lerner

Chris Marker, whose name was not “Chris Marker,” was a play of masks and avatars, an artist who leapt, like one of his beloved cats, from medium to medium. If, as Walter Benjamin said, a great work either dissolves a genre or invents one, if each great work is a special case, Marker produced a series of special cases. He invented the genre of the essay film; he composed what is widely considered the greatest short film ever made, La Jetée, in 1962; in the late nineties, he issued one of the first major artworks of the digital age, the CD-ROM Immemory. Even Marker’s relation to his own celebrity was an evasive masterpiece: until his death in 2012, at ninety-one, he was everywhere and nowhere, refusing both the haughty fantasy of nonparticipation and the seductions of spectacle. How do you ­memorialize an artist who refused to remain identical to himself? How do you remember one of the great philosopher-artists of memory?

Adam Bartos’s photographs of Marker’s Paris studio offer a powerful answer; they are beautiful portraits from which the subject has gone missing.
www.theparisreview.org

Ben Lerner, Chris Marker studio

Marker Studio, 2007 © Adam Bartos

Ben Lerner, Chris Marker studio

Marker Studio, 2007 © Adam Bartos

Marker’s studio is a kind of (light-flooded) darkroom located off a Parisian boulevard and is as full of formerly futuristic keepsakes as a cosmonaut’s yard sale—that is to say, Bartos has been preparing, without knowing it, to shoot Marker’s studio for decades. The studio is both remarkably cluttered and remarkably clean. There is no trash (although there is plenty of kitsch), no dust; the thousands of books, VHS tapes, and CDs, the multiple computers, monitors, keyboards, and other production technologies all seem in their place. A sense of highly personal order prevails; Marker, I feel, would have just the right texts and images and totems at hand, but anyone else would be at a loss regarding how to navigate his systems. And while Marker isn’t at home, from every corner something gazes at us: his cats and owls, Kim Novak in a signed photograph (Vertigo was Marker’s favorite film), the paused image of an actress on a monitor (in these images, Marker will forever almost be right back), masks of various sorts, stuffed animals, et cetera. Marker’s mind seems spatialized here, as though we were looking into his memory palace, an elaborate, idiosyncratic mnemonic become a memorial. But a joyous memorial: joyous first, because Marker’s signature mix of seriousness and playfulness is palpable—we see a thousand grins and winks—and second, because Marker, instead of becoming the fixed ­object of elegy, has again given us the slip, allowing us an intimate glimpse, but of privacy.
Ben Lerner, Paris Review, No. 218 (Fall 2016).

For those interested in the idea of the memory palace, take a look at Jonathan Spence’s The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. The introduction to Marker’s Immemory is also invaluable, as he articulated there his concepts of mnemonics as an architecture of memory, linking it to a long European tradition most famously explored in Frances Yates’ The Art of Memory. Another great resource on medieval practices of the art of memory can be found in Mary Carruthers’ books: Carruthers, Mary. The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990 & Carruthers, Mary. The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400-1200. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Other sources can be found on our page DocuMemory: A Bibliography.

Chris Marker studio door with cat drawing

Marker Studio Front Door, 2008 © Adam Bartos

Art of Memory – From Chris Marker, Immemory

“L’Art de la Mémoire’ est […] une très ancienne discipline, tombée (c’est un comble) dans l’oubli à mesure que le divorce entre physiologie et psychologie se consommait. Certains auteurs anciens avaient des méandres de l’esprit une vision plus fonctioinnelle, et c’est Filippo Gesualdo, dans sa Plutosofia (1592) qui propose une image de la mémoire en termes d’«arborescence» parfaitement logicielle, si j’ose cet adjectif.”

[‘The art of memory’ is a very ancient discipline, fallen (that takes the cake!) into oblivion as the divorce between physiology and psychology came to pass. Certain antique authors had a more functional vision of the twists and turns of the mind, and it is Filippo Gesualdo, in his Plutosofia (1592) who proposes an image of memory in terms of ‘branching’ that is perfectly “softwary”, [softwarian?] if I dare use this adjective.]

Three Cheers for the Whale

Over the next two decades, Chris and I spoke on the phone periodically and I attended several of his rare public presentations. In 2007, Jon Miller, president of our mutual distributor Icarus Films, contacted me to see if I would be willing to assist Chris in the making of a new English version of his 1972 film “Vive la Baleine”, a passionate, collage-based essay film on the plight of the whales. Of course, I was honored and immediately said yes. For one whole year, Chris and I corresponded weekly as we re-wrote and updated the narration and I searched for a male and a female voice-over actor to read the two parts. He renamed the new 2007 version of his film “Three Cheers for the Whale”. It is distributed with other “bestiary” films he has made including “The Case of the Grinning Cat”.
Lynne Sachs, LynneSachs.com

With Lynne Sachs’ moving post on meeting Marker in Berkeley and San Francisco, starting a correspondence with Marker and eventually working with him on an English version of Vive la baleine, I felt I would be remiss to not fill in this blank on the site. The topic is as important as ever, Marker’s heart in the right place as ever, his use of images of the past a propos as ever. What more can we say? The post also gives a sense of the scale and relentlessness of the work this one person undertook to make films in the mode of the caméra-stylo (without assistants). So busy but never too busy to make a new friend, and to put that friend eventually to work. He didn’t forget, he had her filed in his library of babel for contact when the moment was right. There is much to admire here.

Unfortunately, I can’t find an online copy of the English remake Three Cheers for the Whale. It seems to have been up on YouTube and then taken down again. Let us know in the comments if you find a version that can be embedded here. I will also work to translate the essay in French by François Giraud into English and add it to this post.

A comment on the IMDB entry for Vive la baleine:

Chris Marker’s usual mix of “borrowed” pieces of different film textures (film, video, animation, photographs, paintings) serves as a poetic, passionate and very sound warning against the widespread, business-like, matter-of-fact killing of whales around the world. If today its message may sound obvious to most of us — almost everybody is aware of the danger of whale extinction, though of course there are still killings out there — it can still be enlightening as to the appalling methods of whale-hunting worldwide through the ages, as well as the very special place that this big cetacean has occupied in human mythology, history, economics and art, the “challenge” of little men killing the biggest animals on the planet, and making the mo$t of it.

The quality of the images vary tremendously, and for sure there are scenes that will make you cringe with horror (not unlike Geroges Franju’s 1949 one-day-in-a-slaughterhouse “Le Sang des Bêtes”). Marker’s incomparable talent for weaving his commentary with creative insight, historical research, wit, irony and common sense elevates this short film above the routine ecological documentary.www.imdb.com

More material on Vive la baleine:
Par François Giraud – le 11 février 2014

vive-la-baleine-4images

Au cours de sa longue carrière, et surtout dans sa période militante, Chris Marker a souvent collaboré avec d’autres cinéastes. Cette pratique participe à l’éclectisme et à la complexité de son œuvre pléthorique. Avec Mario Ruspoli, documentariste d’origine italienne mais parlant couramment le français, Chris Marker a fait deux films, sur un thème commun, à seize ans d’intervalle : Les Hommes de la baleine en 1956 et Vive la baleine en 1972. Pour être tout à fait juste, Les Hommes de la baleine est entièrement réalisé par Ruspoli, tandis que Vive la baleine est le fruit d’une co-réalisation entre les deux hommes. Pour autant, Chris Marker a signé le commentaire, sous le pseudonyme de Jacopo Berenizi, du court-métrage de 1956, jouant ainsi un rôle déterminant dans la réussite artistique de ce film.

Tourné aux Acores, Les Hommes de la baleine commence par le dépeçage d’un géant des mers. Cette séquence forte est accompagnée d’un commentaire qui dénonce le massacre des baleines à des fins purement industrielles. Pour autant, Mario Ruspoli cherche surtout à montrer comment les populations pauvres de ces îles continuent de pratiquer avec authenticité la chasse au cachalot et risquent leur vie pour subvenir à leurs besoins. A la manière d’un documentariste ethnographique, le cinéaste s’intéresse aux techniques traditionnelles de la chasse au harpon et aux conditions de vie rustiques de ces pêcheurs.

En 1972, le ton a changé, le style également. Ce qui a motivé la réalisation de cette “suite” est la décision, en 1972, de la Commission baleinière internationale d’arrêter la chasse pendant dix ans. Comme le précise le commentaire de Chris Marker, cette réglementation est ignorée par le Japon et l’U.R.S.S., deux pays qui pratiquent la chasse à la baleine de manière industrielle, sans se préoccuper de la survie de l’espèce. Vive la baleine s’ouvre ainsi sur ce cri du cœur : « Car vous vous éteignez, baleines ! Comme de grosses lampes. Et si vous n’êtes plus là pour nous éclairer, vous et les autres bêtes, croyez-vous que nous y verrons dans le noir ? » La voix-off condamne le passage d’une lutte naturelle entre l’homme et la baleine à une lutte d’ordre exclusivement industriel qui ruine l’équilibre de la planète. Le court métrage abonde en références littéraires – Moby Dick bien sûr -, et en références picturales.

A l’inverse des Hommes de la baleine, cette suite est presque intégralement illustrée par un corpus d’œuvres d’art, dans son ensemble très varié, qui témoigne de l’évolution et de l’internationalisation de la chasse à la baleine à travers l’Histoire. Ces œuvres, japonaises, européennes ou américaines offrent une représentation esthétique du génie de l’homme qui a su redoubler d’ingéniosité technique pour mettre à mort ces gigantesques mammifères marins. La chasse à la baleine accède ainsi à un niveau symbolique et révèle la volonté de puissance de l’homme. Conquête du monde, impérialisme, colonialisme : la baleine devient l’allégorie de la folie des grandeurs de l’Humanité. Très acide, le texte de Chris Marker, non sans une pointe d’amertume, n’épargne rien, même pas le cinéma : « Vous êtiez une nourriture. Vous êtes devenues une industrie. Comme le cinéma ! Et à vous non plus, ça n’a pas réussi. » Ce genre de pique prouve bien que le discours de Marker va bien au-delà de la chasse à la baleine. Il s’attaque au cynisme des puissants qui n’hésitent pas à sacrifier l’équilibre de la nature à des fins économiques, il pointe du doigt un monde qui s’industrialise au point d’en perdre la raison, il s’attaque à l’embourgeoisement de l’art, lorsque celui ne sert qu’à flatter l’orgueil des hommes : « Pour les Hollandais, vous n’étiez qu’une ressource. Mais plus encore : une gloire. Savez-vous que les riches amateurs emmenaient sur leurs bateaux des peintres pour prendre sur le vif des scènes de chasse, qui plus tard, orneraient leur salon ? »

Le commentaire, qui multiplie les jeux de mots et les piques humoristiques, n’est pas sans évoquer la cinécriture d’Agnès Varda qui se plait elle aussi à écrire des textes rythmés, aux références abondantes et aux sonorités très marquées pour illustrer ses documentaires. Le texte est riche, peut-être trop, et s’égare parfois dans un humour sardonique qui aujourd’hui paraît quelque peu démodé.

En revanche, la conclusion implacable et très markerienne conserve tout son impact : « Pendant des siècles , les hommes et les baleines ont appartenu à deux camps ennemis qui s’affrontaient sur un terrain neutre : la Nature. Aujourd’hui, la Nature n’est plus neutre. La frontière s’est déplacée. L’affrontement se fait entre ceux qui se défendent, en défendant la Nature, et ceux qui la détruisant, se détruisent. Cette fois, les hommes et les baleines sont dans le même camp. Et chaque baleine qui meurt nous lègue comme une prophétie l’image de notre propre mort. » Ce basculement est illustré, non plus par des œuvres du passé, ni même par des extraits des Hommes de la baleine, mais par des images documentaires crues qui exposent toute la cruauté et la barbarie de la chasse au lance-harpon : l’océan se transforme en un écœurant flot de sang, la baleine paraît d’une vulnérabilité déconcertante à côté des immenses navires japonais. Le court métrage se clôt sur la représentation d’une déshumanisation désespérante.

Comme toujours dans les films de Chris Marker, le montage et l’association du texte et de l’image sont d’une grande efficacité. Même si Mario Ruspoli est crédité à la réalisation et à l’image, Vive la baleine porte surtout l’empreinte du savoir-faire de Chris Marker. Mieux que quiconque, il sait dramatiser les images fixes et leur donner du mouvement. De même, son texte demeure une composante essentielle de ce court métrage. Il est difficile d’évaluer l’impact qu’a eu Mario Ruspoli sur ce court métrage. Son style, influencé par l’ethnographisme, ressortait de manière bien plus évidente dans le court métrage de 1956. Vive la baleine ne se caractérise pas par une démarche anthropologique. L’homme est toujours montré à distance, il n’a pas droit à la parole. C’est la baleine qui est l’héroïne de cette histoire tragique, même si en filigrane se dessine une évolution des techniques et des rapports de l’homme avec la nature. Vive la baleine est un documentaire politique et militant qui cherche à dénoncer. Et il le fait de manière convaincante.
Par François Giraud – le 11 février 2014

L’essai : vues d’Allemagne, la fabrique documentaire

L'essai : vues d'Allemagne from la fabrique documentaire on Vimeo.

This essay film on ‘views’ of the essay film in Germany begins with the unmistakable, raspy and wise voice of Gilles Deleuze, and quickly launches into a rapid montage of moments of meta, showing and letting the showing speak, while adding voices but not an authorial voice per se, rather quoted voices – just as cinematic citation pulls clips out of context so does the audio editing. But everything was de-contextualized already, and perhaps it is not a loss of context we see in the meta-cinema movement, but a constant churning of recontextualization, never complete but less prone to the voice of the deus ex machina. The auteur recedes like the tide, and the collective works like ants or bees, collectively of course, behind the scenes. How refreshing not to have a central figure to lionize or demonize, to put on a pedestal. And yet, there is nostalgia for the total statement, the touch of genius, the auteur herself nonetheless. An ambivalence creeps in to the plethora of video essays we have been witness to of late, emerging like California wildfires as cinema wraps around itself and the pedagogic impulse, from professorial to journalistic, learns the tools of montage. The caméra-stylo triumphant, but awash too in a potential sea of banality. Who will emerge as the master of this new wave of essay film/video, if anyone? Do we need heros anymore? Do we need genius? Perhaps these questions are beside the point, and the real thesis is that now we can treat the film as text, something that Bellour always argued against. Not in a book, but in another film can this stratagem succeed, perhaps. Gutenberg slumbers on… The thesis can be lost as the particulars, the instances of speech and moving image as signs accumulate. Have we fallen out of the temptation of the essay to have a thesis at all, as taught relentlessly to students globally, or are we merely acceding to the impulses of the essai sauvage – the wild essay form, beginning in media res and spiraling around its ultimate thematic monads, unrushed, expansive – as born in the tower of Montaigne?

Chateau de Montaigne

La fabrique documentiare

Depuis 2005, la fabrique documentaire* produit, réalise, programme et diffuse des œuvres documentaires (audio, vidéo, livre, web, exposition…), en explorant de nouvelles façons d’écrire et de partager.

Nos productions, initiatives personnelles ou travaux de commande, engagent des points de vue d’auteurs. La fabrique documentaire privilégie les projets qui lui semblent de nature à nourrir la pensée, voire à infléchir le réel.

* En 2015, Radiofonies Europe devient la fabrique documentaire.
la fabrique documentaire

Ghost Cat: Postcards + Exhibitions

cm-postcard-cimitiere-chat

Card 5 of 15
Roma, 1956

Chris Marker, Image from Staring Back
May 12-August 12, 2007
Exhibition organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Ohio State University

FYI, there are two postcard sets by Chris Marker that I know of. This set is from Wexner and is, I believe, out of print.

The other is Chris Marker, How a grinning cat visits the HISTORY OF ART, 10 Postcards, Peter Blum Editions. This production, to my knowledge, is also no longer available. I’ll see if I can get them into a gallery here soon, as they are replete with classic Markerian wit and digital détournement.

While the cards are not to be found on the Peter Blum site (peterblumgallery.com), it is well worth exploring the whole Chris Marker section, which includes Images, Exhibitions, Books, Press and Biography pages – the last containing a filmography, bibliographies, exhibition lists and more. The Biography section includes an exhaustive listing of Chris Marker exhibitions that I have yet to see appear on traditional filmographies or bibliographies:

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2014

“Koreans”, Peter Blum Gallery, New York

“Crow’s Eye View: the Korean Peninsula”, Korean Pavilion, Giardini di Castello, Venice, Italy

“Chris Marker: A Grin Without a Cat”, Whitechapel Gallery, London, England; Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, October 21, 2014 – January 11, 2015; Lunds Konsthall, Lund, February 7 – April 5, 2015

“The Hollow Men,” City Gallery Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

2013

“Chris Marker: Guillaume-en-Égypte”, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA & the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

“Memory of a Certain Time”, ScotiaBank, Toronto, Canada

“Chris Marker”, Atelier Hermès, Seoul, South Korea

The “Planète Marker”, Centre de Pompidou, Paris

2012

“Chris Marker: Films and Photos”, Moscow Photobiennale, Moscow, Russia

2011

“PASSENGERS”, Peter Blum Gallery Chelsea / Peter Blum Gallery Soho, New York, New York

Les Rencontres d’Arles de la Photographie, Arles, France

“PASSENGERS”, Centre de la Photographie, Geneva, Switzerland

Thinking Hands, Beijing, China

2009

“Quelle heure est-elle?”, Peter Blum Gallery Chelsea, New York, New York

“Second Life” (May 16 a one night event), Harvard Film Archive, Cambridge, Massachusetts

“Chris Marker: Par quatre chemins”, Beirut Art Center, Lebanon

2008

“Abschied vom Kino / Farewell to Movies”, Museum fur Gegenwartkunst, Zurich, Switzerland

“Abschied vom Kino / A Farewell to Movies”, virtual museum, Second Life

Un Choix de Photographies, Galerie de France, Paris, France

2007

“Staring Back,” Peter Blum Gallery, New York, New York

“Staring Back”, Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

“The Case of the Grinning Cat”, Film Forum, New York, New York

“Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men”, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia

2006

“The Hollow Men,” Dazibao Centre de Photographies Actuelles, Montreal, Canada

“The Hollow Men”,Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, Toronto, Canada

2005

“Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York

“Through the Eyes of Chris Marker”, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong, China

“Through the Eyes of Chris Marker”, Macao Cultural Centre, Macao, China

2003

“Rare Videos by Chris Marker,” Anthology Film Archives, New York, New York

2002

“Chris Marker”, The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

1999

“Silent Movie and Selected Screenings”,Beaconsfield, London, England

“Chris Marker”, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville, Spain

“Chris Marker”, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, Spain

1997

“Immemory One,” Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

1996

“Silent Movie,” Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota

1995

“Silent Movie”, Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

“Silent Movie”, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York

“Silent Movie”, Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, California

Peter Blum Gallery, Chris Marker, Exhibitions – Download PDF

One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich by Chris Marker

Chris Marker writes what is reproduced below in extreme modesty, given the depth of his film: its astute insights into Tarkovsky’s film language & signature motifs, its palpable emotional presence that embues the intimate family scenes, his empathetic camera and commentary. He is not an outsider here; he is family too in Tarkovsky’s largesse as Marker captures a home movie of the reunion of Andrei Arsenevich’s family after five years of implacable bureaucracy – and the nostalghia that forms the atmosphere of exile.

The text appears on the back cover of the US DVD containing his and two other films, Sergey Dvortsevoy’s In the Dark and Marina Goldovskaya’s Three Songs About Motherland, which he places on the DVD with equality and a view to expanding the awareness of contemporary US audiences regarding Russian filmmaking. We know, though, for him, Tarkovsky is in a league of his own. In person, Marker referred to him simple as “le maître.”

We add after Marker’s text the summary of the film given by Icarus Films on their site. More material, more quotes will follow, in the minor-key, unsung tradition of bricolage.

THREE SONGS ABOUT MOTHERLAND, the title of Marina Goldovskaya’s inspired wandering throughout her country, could have been used as a general title for this DVD. Each of us in his manner sings the paean or the doom of a place on Earth that defies any rational grasp.

I had the easiest task. Entering Tarkovsky’s world carries you within a sumptuous chorale, a multivoiced fugue that encompasses all that’s Russian. Marina, since years, pursued a patient pilgrimage home, with her unique gift to mix with people and extract the best of them. As for Sergey Dvortsevoy and his blind man, he illuminates the Russian way to embody what has been since Antiquity the natural hobby of sightlessness: prophecy.

The night Stalin died, I was on Times Square, beside another blind man: Moondog, the musician. I couldn’t help feeling something metaphorical in this confrontation between blindness and history. There we were, like the apes at the beginning of Kubrick’s “2001”, facing an opaque, indecipherable monolith. So is the blind man in his basement, facing the enigma of an opaque, indecipherable country which he manages to graze with the help of his companion the cat, the creature who sees what even the seers don’t see.

Sometimes we come to the conclusion that Mother Russia just can’t be analyzed, criticized, dismantled, explained: too complex, too brutal, too elusive, too paradoxical, too cavorting… Sometimes even, to my dismay, she can’t be loved. But still, yes, she can be sung.
Chris Marker, back cover of DVD, One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich

Tarkovsky and Chris Marker on set of The Sacrifice

Through film clips, journal entries, and personal musings, ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF ANDREI ARSENEVICH is renowned French filmmaker Chris Marker’s homage to his friend and colleague, Andrei Tarkovsky, who died in 1986.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century, and certainly the most important post-War Russian filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky has achieved a mythic status with such visionary masterpieces as Andrei Rublev, Solaris and Stalker. His stylistic idiosyncrasies: minimal plots, fragmented narrative, and long takes have become staples of the modern art film. His confrontations with the Soviet government, the censorship of his films, and his eventual exile only contributed to his mystique.

Through close readings of Tarksovsky’s films – including rare scenes from his student film (an adaptation of Hemingway’s The Killers) and a practically unknown production of Boris Goudonov – Marker attempts to locate Tarkovsky in his work. Parallels drawn by Marker between Tarkovksy’s life and films offer an original insight into the reclusive director. Personal anecdotes from Tarkovsky’s writings – from his prophetic meeting with Boris Pasternak (author of Dr. Zhivago) to an encounter with the KGB on the streets of Paris (he thought they were coming to kill him) – pepper the film.

With behind-the-scenes footage of Tarkovsky obsessively commanding his entire crew (including famed Bergman cinematographer Sven Nykvist, during the filming of a complicated sequence from his final film The Sacrifice), and candid moments of Tarkovsky with his friends and family, bedridden but still working on the editing of his final film, ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF ANDREI ARSENEVICH is a personal and loving portrait of the monumental filmmaker.

“**** (4 stars). A masterpiece! Marker’s ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF ANDREI ARSENEVICH [is] the best single piece of Tarkovsky criticism I know of, clarifying the overall coherence of his oeuvre while leaving all the mysteries of his films intact. The video interweaves biography and autobiography with poetic and political insight in a manner that seldom works as well as it does here.”
—Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

“A brilliant appreciation of the last great Soviet director, Andrei Tarkovsky. No less then Jean-Luc Godard or Martin Scorsese, Marker is an original and perceptive exegete of other filmmakers…. The most sustained and heartfelt tribute one filmmaker has paid another.”
—Jim Hoberman, Village Voice

“A sublime meditation on the poetic, surreal universe of Tarkovsky.”
—Los Angeles Times

“Fascinating! What makes Chris Marker’s documentary such an invaluable gift is that his insights into the director are so accessible – and so provocative. Not only is it a remarkable analysis of Tarkvosky’s brilliance; it’s also a showcase for Marker’s.”
—Time Out New York

“A superb analysis of Tarkovsky’s lyrical vocabulary. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more thorough explication of Tarkovsky’s vision than the one provided by Marker here.”
—Dallas Observer

“A film that defies categorization as a documentary, or even as a ‘film essay’ …A love letter is more like it: personal, passionate, unguarded. The meat of the film is a dazzling montage, drawn mostly from Tarkovsky’s work, but reorganized into illuminating new patterns… inspiring us to make our own observations and connections.”
—LA Weekly

“Even those of us who find Tarkovsky’s films more tedious than tantalizing will appreciate the care and love that went into this reflection on the man and his work. I can’t remember any film capturing an artist more intimately…”
—Detroit Free Press

“Chris Marker’s informative tribute to the late Andrei Tarkovsky is an important contribution to film scholarship.”
—Variety

“Chris Marker’s ‘One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevitch’ is perhaps the best film yet made by one (great) film-maker about another. A revelatory document, loving, lucid and lyrical, on the elemental structuring of Tarkovsky’s work, it marries moving footage of the terminally ill director shooting and struggling to finish his final film ‘The Sacrifice’ with an exemplary assessment of the films and their importance, humane, humble and always open. In its own essential way, it too is a masterpiece.”
—Gareth Evans, The Andrei Tarkovsky Companion

2001 DoubleTake Documentary Film Festival
2000 Berlin Film Festival
2000 San Francisco Film Festival
2000 Toronto Film Festival
2000 Telluride Film Festival

Icarus Films

Philippe Dubois, “La Jetée de Chris Marker ou le cinématogramme de la conscience”

Philippe Dubois presenting on La Jetée

I’m seaching still for the full text of this presentation, published in Théorème 6: Recherches sur Chris Marker (Paris, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2002), and whose table of contents were published here a while back. Hopefully it might be available still somewhere, as it contains a great selection of texts on Marker. An excerpt follows, and then a link to the presentation (no embed code was available).

“La Jetée” de Chris Marker ou le cinématogramme de la conscience, Philippe Dubois

Philippe Dubois (Université Sorbonne – Paris III) : « La Jetée est donc ce film que Chris Marker réalisa en 1962. C’est un court métrage de “seulement” 29 minutes. (On a souvent fait remarquer que Chris Marker – il a les initiales de court métrage – n’avait quasiment jamais fait de film “normal” en termes de durée : des courts ou des [très] longs. Cela ne veut certes rien dire, sinon que chez lui le temps n’est pas un “standard”, qu’il ne se mesure pas, qu’il est chose infiniment extensible, et vertigineux.) Ce film, court donc, mais qui raconte toute la vie d’un homme en la condensant dans un instant-image paradoxal, ce film-vertige du temps est et reste absolument singulier, autant que mythique. C’est, si l’on veut, le seul film de fiction (et même de science-fiction) dans l’œuvre de Marker. À mes yeux, il se présente, avec une intensité remarquable, à la fois comme un acte théorique, une sorte de film-pensée articulant des modèles conceptuels complexes (du temps, de l’espace, de la représentation, de la vie psychique), et comme une pure œuvre, non une illustration d’un enjeu conceptuel, mais une création d’une force vive encore aujourd’hui irrésistible, sans équivalent, et qui finit par emporter toute théorie. C’est à ce double titre que cette œuvre m’intéresse et me fascine, comme elle a fasciné et intéressé plus d’une génération de théoriciens autant que de créateurs, son propre auteur compris : “La Jetée est le seul de mes films dont j’ai plaisir à apprendre la projection”, aime à dire Chris Marker. »
www.zintv.org

Philippe Dubois, presentation of paper “La Jetée de Chris Marker ou le cinématogramme de la conscience” – Video

Pin It on Pinterest