Category Archives: Biographic

France Culture Podcasts – Conversations on Chris Marker

We have been following with appreciation the podcasts of France Culture on the occasion of the phenomenal Sept Vies d’un Cinéaste exhibition/retrospective, conversations that touch on Chris Marker’s life, friendships and wisdom in a way that the written word has a harder time achieving – the Costa-Gavras conversation is exemplary in this regard. There is an intimacy to the spoken voice that comes through vividly, and the questions posed by Albane Penaranda are always on target.

To state the obvious: all France Culture podcasts in the Chris Marker series are in French, and rapid spoken French at that. Repeat listenings are recommended. We thank France Culture for allowing the exporting of iframe audio player code, so these podcasts can be shared on the web. All quotations below are copyright © France Culture and taken from the articles that accompany the podcasts, at www.franceculture.fr under the rubrique Les Nuits de France Culture.

These valuable supplements to the current exhibition put us in proximity with the co-creators of the exhibition / retrospective, Christine van Assche and Raymond Bellour, with the young Marker himself – like Benjamin, making early forays into radio as yet another medium of expression – and with his close friend and fellow cineaste Costa-Gavras. The three van Assche & Bellour episodes demonstrate their deep familiarity with and lucid insight into Marker’s work, the awe they hold it in, as well as the enormity of the Marker archive at their/our disposal now at the Cinémathèque française.

Qui était Chris Marker

En décembre 2012, pour “Une vie, une œuvre”, Virginie Bloch-Lainé rassemblait les morceaux du puzzle Marker. Ecrits, photographies, films, vidéos, dessins et mondes virtuels l’univers de Chris Marker était raconté par Claude Lanzmann, Régis Debray, Raymond Bellour, parmi d’autres.

Arles 2011 Chris Marker exposition - Photo Gérard Julien, afp

“Jusqu’à la fin des temps”, un essai radiophonique de Chris Marker

L’écriture, plus que l’image, a occupé les premières années du parcours de Chris Marker. À la revue Esprit notamment, dans laquelle il publia de nombreux articles entre 1947 et 1955. Il y eut aussi la poésie, un roman, Le cœur net, en 49, et en 52 un essai sur Jean Giraudoux. Tout naturellement, le texte, l’écriture, menèrent Chris Marker à plusieurs reprises vers les studios de radio : Solitude, diffusée en 1943, à la radio nationale, une pièce radiophonique écrite sous le pseudonyme de Marc Dornier… L’Aube noire, en 1949, sur Paris-Inter, dans le cadre d’une émission de poésie… Toujours en 1949 et sur Paris-Inter, Cirque de notre vie dans la collection Les argonautes… Et aussi, La Peur à la radio : le fantastique, en 1950, une émission de science-fiction encore sur Paris-Inter, écrite par Chris Marker, Jean Basset et Pierre Schaeffer.

Jusqu’à la fin des temps, l’émission de la RDF est un essai dramatique d’un peu moins de vingt minutes que Chris Marker signa en 1949. Un récit empreint d’inquiétude, au temps d’un après-guerre irréel, dans lequel, comme dans un mauvais rêve, le monde menace de s’abîmer.

§

“Chris Marker était quelqu’un qui, impulsivement, écrivait, on a l’impression qu’il écrivait plus vite qu’il ne pensait”

A l’occasion de l’exposition qui lui est consacrée à la Cinémathèque française, Albane Penaranda propose une “Nuit Chris Marker” avec des archives et des entretiens, pour commencer avec Raymond Bellour et Christine Van Assche. Entretien 1/3 avec les co-commissaires de l’exposition.

Nuit Chris Marker – Entretien avec Raymond Bellour et Christine Van Assche

A l’occasion de l’exposition qui lui est consacrée à La Cinémathèque française, Albane Penaranda propose une “Nuit Chris Marker” avec des archives et des entretiens. Deuxième partie de l’entretien avec Raymond Bellour et Christine Van Assche. Entretien 2/3 avec les co-commissaires de l’exposition.

Nuit Chris Marker – Dernier entretien avec Raymond Bellour et Christine Van Assche

A l’occasion de l’exposition qui lui est consacrée à La Cinémathèque française, Albane Penaranda propose une “Nuit Chris Marker” avec des archives et des entretiens. Troisième et dernière partie avec Raymond Bellour Christine Van Assche (co-commissaires de l’exposition).

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Costa-Gavras : “Sur un film Chris Marker ne voulait pas être le chef, il voulait être parmi les créateurs, cela c’est exemplaire”

Entretien avec le Président de La Cinémathèque Française, Costa-Gavras, qui était un des plus proches amis de Chris Marker. A l’occasion de l’exposition qui lui est consacrée et de la “Nuit Chris Marker”, il revient sur cette amitié et sur l’oeuvre de Marker.

Costa-Gavras, Ami de Chris Marker et Président de la Cinémathèque française

Christine van Assche & Raymond Bellour, les co-commissaires de l’exposition

Chris Marker: (Le livre impossible) by Maroussia Vossen

Daughter Owl Chris MarkerOut of the blue, we learned of a new and quite intimate book on Chris Marker (‘un centre mouvant’), written by his adopted daughter Maroussia Vossen.

Marker’s life went into his work, and his personal life remained and remains a mystery to a great many of his fans. This new book, which can be found at Amazon.fr currently, promises to be a welcome respite from scholarly publications, and an insight into the oft-guarded personal side of the auteur. That Marker was loyal to his intimates has been clear, with testimonies coming since his death from many sides, including Pierre Lhomme and Patricio Guzman.

His friends were so numerous, yet each relationship, as attested to by Maroussia, was set in a kind of sacred space – just the opposite of social space with its flattening of relationships into connections, friends, followers… There is in this publication an aura of glimpsing into the center of the storm of a wildly productive life, at the most intimate and non-public relationship perhaps of all.

It is a welcome arrival. As we await its physical arrival from amazon.fr, we can at least ruminate and quote some preliminary texts that are posted on the publisher’s site, le-tripode.net. What was impossible during Marker’s life comes to life here, the impossible book somehow made possible.

Chris Marker (Le livre impossible)

Maroussia Vossen

« Ce texte n’est ni un roman, ni un essai ; encore moins une biographie. C’est le récit fragmentaire de mon lien à Chris Marker, de ma naissance à sa mort. »

L’un est un cinéaste mythique, l’autre sa fille d’adoption. L’un a fait de sa vie un mystère, l’autre en a été le témoin.

Avec justesse et humilité, Maroussia Vossen fait le récit sobre d’une filiation peu banale et révèle le portrait d’un artiste hors du commun, qui s’évertua jusqu’à sa mort à demeurer une énigme.

Artiste et écrivain, Chris Marker est notamment l’auteur d’un film culte : La Jetée.

L’Auteur

Née en 1955. Danse, chorégraphie, enseigne, aime les chats.Le Tripode, Chris Marker (Le livre impossible)

Maroussia Vossen, Chris Marker Le livre impossible

Préambule

Ce texte n’est ni un roman ni un essai; encore moins une biographie.

C’est le récit fragmentaire de mon lien à Chris Marker, de ma naissance à sa mort.

Je n’évoquerai pas le cinéaste, laissant ce travail à ses commentateurs. Je ne peux que restituer quelques instants partagés avec lui, à mesure qu’ils me reviennent en mémoire : plus de cinquante ans de souvenirs.

À peine sortie de l’enfance, je me suis rendu compte qu’il cloisonnait ses relations. Cela lui permettait d’avoir un échange privilégié, un rapport singulier avec l’autre, de construire un cercle dont il serait le centre, mais un centre mouvant. Ainsi, chacun peu aujourd’hui parler de ‘son’ Chris.

Mon point de vue (ou de vie) est fait de plusieurs regards. Celui d’une enfant qui cherche un père ; celui d’une adolescente à la fois rebelle et impressionnée par cet homme qui avait l’allure d’un grand fauve ; celui enfin d’une femme adulte, engagée dans sa propre voie artistique. Ce dernier regard est probablement le plus critique. Mais, quoi qu’il en soit, notre relation ne s’est jamais départé d’une forme de reconnaissance réciproque. On peut dire que notre lien était là et au-delà des mots, comme il était hors de toutes règles conventionnelles.

Chris Marker était un personnage complexe, ses multiples noms d’emprunt sont autant de preuves de son exceptionnelle capacité d’adaptation ; il m’a toujours été difficile d’en cerner les contours. Paradoxal, contradictoire, imprévisible… Ce ne sont que des mots. Immanquablement, il échappait à quiconque voulait l’enfermer dans une définition.

Maroussia Vossen, Chris Marker (Le livre impossible)

Extract published by Le Tripode on Issuu

Full-screen reading enabled

François Maspero Passes

Finally, I cannot forget to mention Chris Marker, without whom, quite simply I would not have become what I am. Among others, it was he who shared with me the ideal that was then behind Peuple et Culture, and much besides: a whole vision of the world where dreams were always at the heart of reality; for without dreams (unlike utopia) you can only live life as a vegetable. He, too – even more so – gave me this love for life, this life force, not to give up on what you have committed to doing.
François Maspero, “An interview with François Maspero: ‘A few misunderstandings'”, versobooks.com

Thanks to John Burgan, posting to the Chris Marker group on Facebook, I have learned of the death of François Maspero, radical French publisher and subject of Chris Marker’s 1970 film Les mots ont un sens. He was born 19 January 1932, grew up in the Resistence during the war that took his parents (his father at Buchenwald), became an estimed and controversial publisher, then author, and passed on 11 April 2015.

François Maspero

François Maspero, the French publisher, bookstore owner and writer who published much of the great leftwing writing of the ‘sixties—authors like Frantz Fanon and Louis Althusser, writings against torture, against Stalinism, against the Algerian and the Vietnam War—died today at age 83. His bookstore was occasionally bombed and his publications banned, perhaps most famously when he published Alleg’s “La Question,” which made public the systematic use of torture by the French in Algeria.John Burgan, Filmmaker

DISPARITION Indépendance de l’Algérie, révolution cubaine : l’éditeur et libraire engagé, devenu écrivain sur le tard, est mort samedi à 83 ans.

L’éditeur et écrivain François Maspero est mort à Paris le 11 avril. Son ami médecin, le rhumatologue Marcel-Francis Kahn, raconte dans quelles conditions sur le site de Mediapart, où il a annoncé le décès le soir même : «Alerté par une fuite d’eau, on l’a découvert dimanche mort dans sa baignoire. Il avait passé la journée du vendredi 10 avec moi, qui l’avais amené dans une clinique de banlieue où il a subi un examen radiologique demandé par le spécialiste qui le suivait. Il avait 83 ans. Hier, on honorait la libération de Buchenwald où est mort son père. Je connaissais François depuis près de quarante ans et, au fil des ans, il était devenu mon meilleur ami.» Tous ceux qu’il a édités entre 1959 et 1982, à l’enseigne des éditions Maspero, tous les militants qu’il a soutenus, tous les lecteurs de l’œuvre personnelle qu’il a entreprise à partir des années 80 : il y a beaucoup de monde dans la cohorte de ceux qui se souviennent de lui.
Claire Devarrieux, “François Maspero, héraut de toutes les luttes“, Libération, 13 avril 2015

Here is Marker’s film via dailymotion.com.

Les mots ont un sens de Chris Marker

There is a transcript of the film’s commentary (French only) at www.chrismarker.ch (PDF). I have also exported this document to Rich Text format, which can be opened in Word, Pages, and other word processing programs: Les mots ont un sens – François Maspero (RTF)

It strikes me – and I may well be wrong here – that this court métrage may be the last film of Marker’s that we hear his own voice supplying the commentary. For a non-native speaker, Marker’s voice is difficult to parse, quite different from the narrator voices that came before in La Jetée and later in Sans Soleil, to give but two examples. Maspero, for his part, speaks extremely quickly. The film comes across as a conversation between peers rather than taking the more journalistic interview approach we saw in Le joli mai, where Marker is perceivably less comfortable in asking questions of his subjects (while avoiding being filmed himself). Voix off, toujours…

Here’s some additional background on Marker’s film on Maspero, from Catherine Lupton:

Number 5 in the series, On vous parle de Paris: Maspero, les mots ont un sens (1970, ‘Maspero, Words Have a Meaning’), is an affectionate portrait of the left-wing publisher and bookshop owner François Maspero, who was a contributor to Far From Vietnam and would later publish the commentary to Le Fond de l’air est rouge. Maspero is one of the most satisfying and likeable of Marker’s films from this period, achieving an exemplary balance of quirky human warmth with a clear and inventive form of political argument. Premised on the idea that ‘for Maspero, words have a meaning’ – or expressed differently, that books have an active role to play in the global revolutionary movement – the film is divided into seven sections: Quotation, Introduction, Selection, Definition, Information, Recuperation and Contradiction, each prefaced by an image of the word torn from a dictionary and placed on a black ground. Catherine Lupton, Chris Marker: Memories of the Future, 122-123

Works of François Maspero

  • Le Sourire du chat, roman, 1984.
  • Le Figuier, roman, 1988.
  • Les Passagers du Roissy-Express, 1990, photographies d’Anaïk Frantz. Prix Novembre.
  • Paris bout du monde, 1992, texte de l’album de photographies d’Anaïk Frantz.
  • L’Honneur de Saint-Arnaud, chronique historique, 1993.
  • Le Temps des Italiens, récit, 1994.
  • La Plage noire, récit, 1995.
  • Balkans-Transit, photographies de Klavdij Sluban, chronique d’un voyage, 1997. Prix Radio France internationale, « Témoins du monde ».
  • Che Guevara, introduction aux photographies de René Burri, 1997.
  • Les Abeilles et la Guêpe, 2002.
  • Transit & Cie, récit, La Quinzaine, 2004.
  • Le Vol de la mésange, nouvelles, 2006.
  • L’Ombre d’une photographe. Gerda Taro, biographie, Fiction et Cie, 2006.
  • Des saisons au bord de la mer, roman, Seuil, 2009.

The Cat’s Grin

One other item of interest linking Maspero and Marker is the book The Cat’s Grin by Maspero (in its English translation). This book is still available, for instance here at amazon.com. A reader offers the following cogent review:

Cat's Grin by François MasperoCat’s Grin is an extremely personal and profound look at the Occupation and Liberation of France through the eyes of a boy plowing through both adolesence and this tumultuous time period. Cat (Luc) recalls pre-war France and his family life so precisely that the reader lives it too. As his life begins to unravel, Cat responds in his typical hilarious and wise fashion. He goes on a brave, desperate search for his beloved brother, Antoine, a fighter for the Resistance; leads his fellow schoolboys in paper airplane flying adventures in the Luxembourg gardens; and finally must come to terms with the unendurable impacts of the war. With writing that is both stark and eloquent, Cat’s Grin will sneak into your heart and stay there for a long time.Erin Byrne, amazon.com, April 13, 2007

Marker, of course, went on to give the name “Grin Without a Cat” to the English version of Le fond de l’air est rouge, in which he traces the origins, events and viscissitudes of the radical politics and protest in the 60s and 70s. The French original appeared in 1977, with the revised, expanded – and retitled – English version arriving 1988.

Obituaries & Further Reading

The Verso piece is particularly fascinating, as Maspero gives us a great gift, his own perspective on himself and his times. It serves in a way as a fascinating sequel in words to Marker’s film, across the years.

François Maspero, 2006

Chris Marker Commentaires : English Translation Coming

I’m not sure of the publisher or publication date, but I learned today via the following essay of this project, which is a joy to contemplate. More as more is revealed, bien sûr, and heartfelt congratulations to Sergey Levchin, yet another longtime Chris Marker fan emerging with an essential project. Scanned copies of the out-of-print originals are available at the end of the post for download.

chris marker commentaires spread

Levchin’s article on the translation project was published on 2.20.15 in Pen America (pen.org).

Intuition and Reflection: On Translating Chris Marker

Sergey Levchin is the recipient of a 2014 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for his translation of Commentaires by Chris Marker.

Chris Marker is a famous unknown, a cinephile shibboleth, his banal pseudonym perhaps first among the names that divide the pearl diver from a mere wader; a relentlessly self-effacing self-mythologizer, whose meandering, globetrotting, paradoxically personal philosophical essay-film about Japan-time-memory Sans Soleil (1983) is still the inevitable offering of any Intro to Film course, inevitably reserved for the make-up day. He is also said to have made a short film entirely out of still photographs that later inspired Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys. Little more is generally known of the eccentric Parisian, whose remarkably extensive body of work includes some sixty films, hundreds of essays and articles, and dozens of avatars.

In the past decade or longer, longer certainly than I would like to admit, I have delved on and off into Marker’s filmography—tantalizing in sheer volume as much as rarity. In that time I learned to make films, to speak French, to translate … and the master himself had died. That was when we finally learned his name and birth date (91 years prior, to the day), both engraved on the casket.

Of course, by then “my” Marker was no longer a shimmering cipher: from his many works I had been able to tease out bits of biography, distinct stages of his long career, affinities and affiliations, artistic roots, circumstances, trajectories—all the things that strip away the veneer of mystery and reveal (in the best cases) a far deeper mystery.

The “essay film” is Marker’s invention and natural element, its best specimens brilliant orchestrations of image and text and sound, of intuition (the snapped photo—and Marker’s images are nearly always still, even when they are moving) and reflection (the commentary).

The two Commentaires volumes, published in France in 1961 and ’67, respectively, are a summing up of the essay-film phase of Marker’s career, which would hibernate for the next 15 years to re-emerge as the masterpiece Sans Soleil. These are the founding texts of the genre, print variants of nine early essay-cum-travelogues, two of which were never filmed. The title is deceptive—these are not merely “commentaries” or voice-over scripts torn from the fabric of the films, not the films’ pale shadows. Generously supplied with images, dynamically and idiosyncratically laid out by Marker himself, they become photo-essays, works of art—both visual and literary—in their own right.

And while the photos mercifully speak for themselves in any language, it is both remarkable pleasure and cringing toil to attempt to recreate Marker’s playful idiom and verbal pyrotechnics in English. I am deeply grateful to PEN for supposing I may be up to the task.
Sergey Levchin

This piece is part of PEN’s 2014 translation series, which features excerpts and essays from the recipients of this year’s PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants.

Chris Marker Commentaires spread

For those who read French, we offer scanned PDFs of the originals here for the first time. These pdfs have been reduced in size as much as possible, and are compatible with Acrobat 9.0 and later. Still, they will take some time to download… Enjoy!

  1. Commentaires, 1961 [15MB]
  2. Commentaires 2, 1967 [17MB]

You can also refer to the cult knowledge/document sharing site aaaaarg.org [google it, the url is unstable] for the generous uploads, curation and downloads of all sorts of arcane literary, theoretical & philosophical materials. Chris Marker, Commentaires + Chris Marker, Commentaires 2. While you’re there, check out the rubric I curate on Essay Film: Essay Film, aaaaarg.org. Sign up and join the erudite fun, from ‘A Genealogy of Bibliographies’ to ‘Zone Books’.

NB: This post is being updated with new links for aaaaarg, which has moved now to https://aaaaarg.fail/

Chris Marker Commentaires 1961

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.

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.