Category Archives: Clips

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

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

Chris Marker Month at MUBI

Our friends at MUBI are putting on a Chris Marker retrospective this Summer, giving UK members the ability to see Chris Marker films online for a small monthly fee. I’m trying to get more details on the programming & country limitations, so please check back here. Note 7/28/15: I’ve confirmed that the retrospective is limited to the UK site.

We’ve been adding one title a week for the past three weeks, and from tomorrow July 29th (and as I’m sure you know, the anniversary of Marker’s birth and death) the four of them will be live.

IN CELEBRATION OF CHRIS MARKER
This summer we’ll be hosting a retrospective on one of our all-time favourite auteurs, Master film & video essayist Chris Marker. Each week we’ll play one of his most iconic works.MUBI Marker Month

MUBI is known for its informed, eclectic and globe-spanning programming. The site has a large archive of films known and unknown, a selection of which are available live at any given time. MUBI screens classics and obscure indie films alike, all curated by people with great taste & wide-ranging interests. You won’t find this cinéphilic catalog on Netflix. In addition, extensive user-contributed lists, ratings, favorites & following functionality add a social media dimension to the site.

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Pompidou Planète Marker Video Archive

It’s been a great pleasure, having been unable to attend the Centre Pompidou’s 2013 Chris Marker exhibition and retrospective, to witness the appearance on Daily Motion of videos of the talks that were held, as well as a wonderfully edited overall / intro video that emerges us in Marker’s visual world. While a longer post is in progress on the series and the practice of video archiving, I did want to present the intro video first, as a kind of teaser and work of art unto itself.

Planète Marker – du 16 octobre 2013 au 22 décembre 2013


Planète Marker – du 16 octobre 2013 au 22… by centrepompidou

Par Raymond Bellour, écrivain et théoricien de cinéma.
Le Centre Pompidou et la Bibliothèque publique d’information (Bpi) rendent hommage à Chris Marker, à travers ses films bien sûr mais aussi en suivant la piste de ses inspirations, de ses amitiés et de ses rencontres… Au coeur de ce voyage, l’exposition de ses installations et des oeuvres multimédias rassemblées dans la collection du Centre Pompidou, ses films et vidéos et un salon de lecture à la Bpi.dailymotion.com/video | Centre Pompidou channel

2084 Remix

Just realizing now how much Dialector appears as the UI of this future imagined by Marker as a commissioned piece for syndicalism. More in a bit. For now, here is a strange remix of the short film of Marker’s, 2084. We also see Hayao, the Zone man, credited – Marker’s reality distortion engine taken here to another level, in homage… It’s called 2084 “Through the mirrorshades glasses of Chris Marker” REMIX .

2084 Info by Chazalon

1984 – France – 9’46 – vidéo / 16 et 35mm – Couleur
A travers 2084, video clip pour une réflexion syndicale et pour le plaisir, court métrage collectif réalisé à l’occasion des 100 ans du syndicalisme en France, Chris Marker et le groupe confédéral audiovisuel CFDT ne choisissent pas tant de retracer l’histoire d’un siècle d’action syndicale que de lui signifier, par trois hypothèses, ce qu’il lui reste à entreprendre. Ils imaginent la fiction d’une émission de télévision intergalactique qui, en 2084, ferait un sujet sur le deuxième centenaire du mouvement syndical.
Cette commande de la CFDT a été diffusée sur Antenne 2, le 29 mars 1984.

Générique (fin, dans l’ordre de d’apparition)
2084
Une réalisation de Chris. Marker et du Groupe Confédéral Audiovisuel CFDT
avec: Sophie Garnier, Bibiane Kirby, Atika Tahiri
Image: Robert Millie, Christian Bordes, Pascal Le Moal
Assistant: Pierre Camus
Directeur de production: Claude Gilaizeau
Effets spéciaux: Hayao Yamaneko
Ordinateur Sinclair
Avec la voix de François Perier
… un raton laveeur (sic)!

Distribution: ISKRA

Commentaire / scénario: en allemand, dans Revolver, n° 27 (automne 2012), n.p.

2084 CH2_2013.pdf

Bibliographie

Eric HASSAN, “Et-vive-le-vidéo-syndicalisme”, Libération, n° 889 (29 mars 1984), p. 37
* Liù CHAMORIN, “Clermont-Ferrand 1986”, Positif, n° 302 (avril 1986), p. 61Christophe Chazalon, chrismarker.ch

L’Original 2084

Si j’avais quatre dromadaires

Composed entirely of still photographs shot by Marker himself over the course of his restless travel through twenty-six countries, If I Had Four Dromedaries stages a probing, at times agitated, search for the meanings of the photographic image.MUBI

Avec ses quatre dromadaires
Don Pedro d’Alfaroubeira
Courut le monde et I’admira
II fit ce que je voudrais faire
Si j’avais quatre dromadaires.
Apollinaire

Marker Littéraire: Quoting & Naming

La culture de Marker est grande, qu’il s’agisse de musique ou de littérature, d’art ou de cinéma. Donc rien d’étonnant à ce choix. Mais si ici il donne directement sa source, comme il le fera plus tard pour Une journée d’Andrei Arsenevitch (1999) dont il précisera lui-même le lien avec le premier roman d’Alexandre Soljenitsyne intitulé Une journée d’Ivan Denissovitch, publié dans la revue littéraire Novy Mir pour la première fois en décembre 1962, ou encore avec cette phrase “Je vous écris d’un pays lointain” tirée d’un poème des Lointains intérieurs (1938) d’Henri Michaux et qui ponctue Lettre de Sibérie (1958), la filiation n’est pas toujours évidente ou confirmée, même si on imagine mal une simple coïncidence. C’est le cas de Description d’un combat (Beschreibung eines Kampfes) (1909), le premier écrit conservé de Franz Kafka, une nouvelle entreprise vers 1904 et qui se trouve être le titre du film de Marker sur Israël (1960).Christophe Chazalon, “Courts métrages de Chris Marker”, chrismarker.ch

Marker’s cultural range is great, whether it pertains to music or literature, art or cinema. Therefore there is nothing shocking in this choice [of titles]. But if here he directly cites his source, as he would later for A Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevitch (1999) – in which he notes himself the connection with the first novel of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn entitled A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, published in the review Novy Mir for the first time in December 1962 – or again with the phrase “I write to you from a distant country”, taken from a poem in Lointains interieurs [Interior Distances] (1938) by Henri Michaux and which punctuates Letter from Siberia (1958), the [literary] connection is not always evident or explicit, even if it’s hard to imagine a simple coincidence. This is the case with Description of a Combat (Beschreibung eines Kampfes) (1909), the first preserved writing of Franz Kafka, a new enterprise around 1904 and one that finds itself as the title of Marker’s film on Israel (1960).

There are other examples: Sans Soleil from Mussorgsky. The Zone from Tarkovsky’s Stalker. Marker’s animated gallery stroll, Pictures from an Exhibition, again from Mussorgsky. The noted references in Coréennes original back cover to Satie’s Gnossiennes and Pascal’s Provinciales… Marker’s abode in Second Life, Ouvroir, contains a subterranean connection to Oulipo, short for French: Ouvroir de littérature potentielle (the connotations of work, workshop and opening bouncing off each other). Ouvroir also references Bioy Cesares’ Island of Morel, to which Marker refered interested parties when asked to explain Ouvroir. So it was not just in his own naming and alter egos that Marker played with reference and elision; his works too are haunted, littered, scattered, seeded with unmarked references that make fun work for inquiring minds. Though it has gone more or less unexplored in the growing critical literature, Michaux in particular seems to gaze out from between the lines of Marker’s written work and between the frames of his filmed work.

Structure: The Castle & The Garden

The terrain covered in If I Had Four Camelsis organized in two parts, “The Castle” and “The Garden”. Each explores different facets of human achievement and experience, and revisits the utopian ideals that Marker had admired in the work of Giradoux, and figured through African art and the Olympic Games in his earliest films. “The Castle” leans towards the pinnacles of human culture and civilization: cities, societies, art, religion and commerce. […] The photographer confesses that he cannot resist films that pass from country to country at a single moment in time, and, in narrating his own journey around the world via photographs, nods implicitly at those passages in Le Coeur net, Letter from Siberia and Cuba si that had established the route before it.

If “The Castle” leans toward culture, “The Garden” focuses upon human nature, treated as a native impulse towards fulfilment and happiness. Children and animals are shown as ideal representatives of ‘the law of the garden’, but the desire to achieve balance and satisfaction in the human condition is also expressed through the aspirations of revolutionary politics.Catherine Lupton, Chris Marker: Memories of the Future, 103-104

Credits

Director
Chris Marker

Cinematography
Chris Marker

Editing
Chris Marker

Sound
Antoine Bonfanti

Music
Lalan
Trio Barney Wilson

Narration
Pierre Vaneck
Nicolas Yumatov
Catherine Le Couey

Production
Norddeutscher Rundfunk
Apec, Slon

Further Reading

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

Level Five Trailer

A woman (Laura), a computer, an invisible interlocutor: such is the setup on which LEVEL FIVE is built. She “inherits” a task: to finish writing a video game centered on the Battle of Okinawa – a tragedy practically unknown in the West, but whose development played a decisive role in the way World War II ended, as well as in postwar times and even our present.

A strange game, in fact. Contrary to classical strategy games whose purpose is to turn back the tide of history, this one seems willing only to reproduce history as it happened. While working on Okinawa and meeting through a rather unusual network – parallel to Internet – informants and even eye-witnesses to the battle (including film director Nagisa Oshima), Laura gathers pieces of the tragedy, until they start to interfere with her own life.

As in any self-respecting video game, this one proceeds by “levels”. Laura and her interlocutor, intoxicated by their enterprise, use this as a metaphor for life itself, and gladly attribute levels to everything around them. Will she attain LEVEL FIVE?


“A mesmerizing fusion of fact and (science) fiction!” —Toronto Star

“A cinematic gem!” —National Post

“A passionate and cerebral science-fiction adventure…there is nothing else in theaters now that feels quite as new.” —The New York Times

“A fascinating glimpse of a historical event that’s still little known in the West.” —Variety

“Its digressive, elliptic, self-referential approach to depicting the atrocities of war feels like the only true response to such unimaginable horrors. At one point the narrator refers to ‘the ethics of imagery’, and few filmmakers have probed this field with such acuity and sensitivity as Marker has.” —Time Out London

“Too complicated for words – yet unforgettable – Chris Marker signs a masterful historic-fantastic thriller, a vital reflection on death and image… A film on memory and the refusal to forget. An unforgettable film.” —Pierre Murat, Telerama

“An exceptional film!” —Jean-Michel Frodon, Le Monde

“A film full of intelligence and generosity.” —Gerard Lefort, Liberation

“A bit in the same way as Resnais’ HIROSHIMA, MON AMOUR, LEVEL FIVE unwinds the three entangled threads of a ball of yarn: transmission of History, reflection on image and film matter, intimate dialogue.” —Serge Kaganski, Les Inrockuptibles

“Should rightly take its place among the late director’s best work.” —LA Times

“This is a fin de siècle masterpiece crafted with life-worn hope for the new millennium just around the corner and a rueful awareness that the world remains as evanescent as ever.” —Mubi Notebook
Icarus Films

Afrique 50 by René Vautier

René Vautier was a part of Chris Marker’s Groupe Medvedkine and a famous/infamous director whose film Afrique 50 prefigured in some ways Marker and Resnais’ Les Statues meurent aussi, and offered a convex mirror in other ways to the work of Jean Rouch.

Vautier just passed away. This film was banned for many years, many of its reels held by customs and Vautier even sentenced to a year of prison for violations against the state for its depiction of colonialism.

I learned of his passing via a post to the Facebook Chris Marker group by another great filmmaker, John Burgan, earlier today.

I know very little of Vautier and am kicking myself for that (how can this happen!), but I’ll let this film speak for itself, with a little help from a wonderful article Burgan points us to by Sara Thelle: News from Paris: René Vautier 1928-2015, published by filmkommentaren.dk.

Grand old man and enfant terrible of French militant cinema René Vautier died Sunday January 4th in his home in Cancale, Brittany, at the age of 86. Originally from Brittany, René Vautier fought the Germans as a very young member of the French Resistance during the Second World War, at 16 he was decorated with the Croix de Guerre and honoured by de Gaulle. After the war he wanted to pursue the combat but not with arms and his friends then encourage him to take up a new weapon: the camera. His battle was to last a life long.

Vautier graduated in 1948 from the film school IDHEC in Paris. In 1949 he gets a command to make a film for the Ligue de l’enseignement about the benefits of the French educational mission in the West African colonies. The result, Afrique 50, became, on the contrary, a violent critique of the French colonial system. Vautier’s first film was also the first anticolonial film ever to be made in France and the reaction was violent in return: Vautier was faced with 13 charges and sentenced to one year of prison!

The film has an incredible story. To escape the limitations of the 1934 decree of the Minister of the Colonies Pierre Laval (forbidding any filming in the colonies without the presence of a an administration official) Vautier went on to film in secret. He almost got his film rolls confiscated for destruction in Africa but managed to get his work back to France where he finally had to illegally retrieve the reels kept under seizure by the board of censors (he got 17 of 50 reels). The film was finished in secret and stayed censured in France for over 40 years though it was awarded as one of the best documentaries of the year at the World Festival of Youth and Students in Warsaw in 1955 (with Joris Ivens as president of the jury). In 1996, a copy of the film was finally handed over to Vautier by the Foreign Ministry during the first official screening in France and only in 2003 the film was broadcasted on French television. The Cinémathèque française has recently made new copies of the film as part of their effort to safeguard the entire oeuvre of René Vautier initiated in 2007.

Afrique 50 is a short powerful outburst, a rhythmic pamphlet, swiftly edited with an attacking voice-over. Playing with the genre of educational state propaganda documentary but turning it against the government, the film pinpoints, with humour and great seriousness, the link between capitalism and racism. Film historian Nicole Brenez, specialist of avant-garde cinema at la Cinémathèque française, has called it the greatest film in the history of cinema. Go see it, it’s on YouTube!
Sara Thelle, filmkommentaren.dk

It By Others by Duncan Campbell Responds to Marker & Resnais’ Statues Also Die

Dublin-born artist Duncan Campbell has been nominated for his contribution to Scotland’s 2013 Venice Biennale pavilion. The feature work is a film entitled “It for Others” which responds to Chris Marker and Alan Resnais’ 1953 film essay about historical African art and colonialism, “Statues Also Die.”Who Will Win Tate’s Turner Prize in 2014?

For more on Duncan Campbell, including a gallery and video interviews, see Generation Arts Scotland. Another piece of interest comes from the Guardian, Artist of the week 163: Duncan Campbell.

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