Category Archives: Pacific Film Archive

Chris Marker, Never Explain, Never Complain @ DOXA

There is a new film out entitled Chris Marker, Never Explain, Never Complain, by Jean-Marie Barbe & Arnaud Lambert. The film is to be shown as part of the 2017 DOXA Festival called “French, French” taking place 4-14 Mai 2017 at the Cinémathèque in Vancouver, BC, and will move to theh Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley after that (not sure of dates yet). For the news and the PDF of the DOXA press booklet I am grateful to Christine van Assche.

The festival will show recent French documentary films alongside a selection of Marker’s work, including Une Journée d’Andrei Arsenevitch, Le Souvenir d’un avenir, Chats perchés, Le Tombeau d’Alexandre, Le Fond de l’air est rouge, and L’Héritage de la chouette.

The program is curated by Thierry Garrel. If you dig a bit, you can find a Marker-related essay by Garrel on the DOXA site called “Two Cats, An Owl and a Lot of Nice Human Beings.” Garell writes:

As an opening to this retrospective, Chris Marker, Never Explain, Never Complain (2016), by Jean-Marie Barbe and Arnaud Lambert, portrays the cinéaste and his works through the testimonies of seven people who knew him and worked with him – including Wim Wenders, Patricio Guzman, and … yours truly, as I had the privilege to collaborate on the production side while working for French Television at INA, La Sept and ARTE, with all the films presented!

Here’s the text from the program on the new bio-essay-doc:

Chris Marker, Never Explain, Never Complain

Jean-Marie Barbe & Arnaud Lambert, France, 2016, 144mn

La vie et l’oeuvre de Chris Marker pourraient remplir plusieurs volumes — même un train de marchandises ! — mais Jean-Marie Barbe et Arnaud Lambert les brossent allègrement en tout juste 144 minutes. En répondant à la question : “Qui est Chris Marker ?”, chacun de leurs interlocuteurs convoquent à chaque fois un univers et des réalités différentes. Comme Wim Wenders, qui s’est saoulé à mort avec Marker dans un bar de Tokyo : “Cette nuit à La Jetée, nous avons parlé, parlé, mais nous avons bu tant de sake et de vodka… que j’ai presque tout oublié”. Ou André S. Labarthe, qui résume : “c’était un esprit libre.” Ce qui est sûr, c’est que tout au long de sa carrière, Marker ne s’est jamais satisfait de n’être qu’un ni de ne faire qu’une seule chose. Écrivain, cinéaste, photographe, érudit, dessinateur, amoureux des chats – on ne saurait le qualifier en un mot. Sinon peut-être : génie.

The life and work of Chris Marker could easily fill several documentary portraits, maybe even several freight trains, but directors Jean-Marie Barbe and Arnaud Lambert have kept it to a brisk 144 minutes. “Who is Chris Marker?” — is the question posed by the directors/interlocutors, and every answer reveals a different reality. Some of the recollections are funny and bittersweet, such as Wim Wenders getting blind drunk with Marker at a bar in Tokyo. “That night at La Jetée is the time when we talked most, but we drank so much sake and vodka that we forgot most of it,” says Wenders. As André S. Labarthe states simply: “He was a free spirit.” One thing is clear, over the length of his career, Marker was never content to do or be only one thing. Writer, filmmaker, photographer, polymath, cartoonist, cat lover — there is no single term that quite suffices. Except, perhaps, genius. -DW

Download Program (PDF)

Check out the DOXA site for more information.

Here’s the page for the Chris Marker retrospective.

According to the DOXA site, “Jean-Marie Barbe is the president of Tënk, the first online platform dedicated solely to auteur documentary. The goal is to provide access to the very best in nonfiction cinema to the widest possible audience. Tënk’s curatorial team of discerning documentary professionals selects films, drawn from festivals, and organizes them thematically.” [source]

Arnaud Lambert is no newcomer to Chris Marker investigations. He is the author of the brilliant, comprehensive volume – in French despite its English title – Also Known as Chris Marker, published in 2013 by LePointduJour.

Level Five: Filmnotes @ PFA + argos/arte

Pacific Film Archive Notes

A woman, a computer, an invisible contact: this is where Marker’s new film begins. Laura’s job is to design a video game based on the battle of Okinawa, a tragedy little known in the West but which played a determining role in the outcome of World War II, in the postwar period, and even in our own day. But unlike classic strategy games, where the goal is to change the course of history, the aim of this game is to recreate the events of history exactly as they happened. Working on "Okinawa," Laura meets informers and actual witnesses of the battle (among them filmmaker Nagisa Oshima) on a mysterious Internet-like network. She gradually assembles pieces of the puzzle until one day they begin interfering with her life.

Written by Marker. Photographed by Marker, Gérard de Battista. With Catherine Belkhodja, Kenji Tokitsu, Nagisa Oshima. (106 mins)

LEVEL FIVE

Argos / Arte VHS Notes

LEVEL FIVE
un film de Chris Marker avec Catherine Belkhodja, la participation de Oshima Nagisa, Tokitsu Kenji, Ushiyama Ju’nishi et le témoignage du Révérend Shigeaki Kinjo

Une femme (Laura), un ordinateur, un interlocuteur invisible : tel est le dispositif à partir duquel LEVEL FIVE se construit. Cette femme a “hérité” d’une tâche : terminer l’écriture d’un jeu vidéo consacré à la bataille d’Okinawa – une tragédie pratiquement inconnue en Occident, mais dont le déroulement a joué un rôle décisif dans la façon dont la Deuxième Guerre mondiale s’est achevée, et même, on le verra, dans ce que fut l’après-guerre, dans ce qu’est notre présent.

Singulier jeu en vérité. A l’inverse des jeux de stratégie classiques dont le propos est de renverser le cours de l’Histoire telle qu’elle s’est accomplie. Mais en travaillant sur Okinawa, en rencontrant par l’intermeédiaire d’un mysterieux réseau parallèlle à Internet des informateurs et même des témoins de la bataillle (parmi le cinéaste Nagisa Oshima), Laura accumule les pièces de la tragédie, jusqu’au moment où elles commencent à interférer avec sa propre vie.

Comme tous les jeux vidéo, celui-ci avance par “niveau”. Laura et son interlocuteur, intoxiqués par leur entreprise, ont fini par en faire une métaphore de la vie elle-même, et distribuent des levels à tout ce qui les entoure. Atteindra-t-elle LEVEL FIVE ?

1997 · COULEURS · 106 MIN

For a perceptive essay on Level Five, see Andrew Tracy’s piece on Reverse Shot, from which we have gratefully borrowed the image used above.
«“I’ll have to give these images to my friend Chris one day, see if he can make any sense of them,” says Laura (Catherine Belkhodja), the protagonist of Level Five; “Chris, the editing wunderkind,” she slyly adds.»

The Owl’s Legacy: Filmnotes @ PFA

The Owl’s Legacy Chris Marker (France, 1989) Parts 1, 2 and 3 (L’héritage de la chouette).

“He must have been a royal pain in the ass. It’s just unbearable to have a man like that in a city.” This is how George Steiner describes Socrates in one of the many provocative moments in Chris Marker (Sans Soleil)’s latest “cultural documentary,” a television series based on Greek culture and its rich, often troublesome heritage. Topics include the unique nature of Athenian democracy, the grammar of myths, sexuality and pleasure, the invention of the self, music, Pythagoras, and the ever-dominant importance of language. Athenian OwlMarker’s ability to document the relatively abstract and often specialized nature of such subjects covered during scores of interviews with scholars, philosophers, artists, scientists, politicians in Athens, Berkeley, Paris, Tbilisi, and sustain it without ever being dull or repetitive is truly remarkable. And alternating with the answers to Marker’s persistant questions are literally hundreds of inserts: montage sequences of statues, film excerpts, computer graphics and landscapes, all illustrating or contextualizing the replies. It is difficult to imagine a more perfect illustration of one of Castoriadis’ final remarks about what he considers one of Greek philosophy’s major contributions: “What should I think?” In its very structure, and the dialectics woven across many thinkers, it is also “a critique of the representation of the tribe,” in this instance, the legacy of Greek culture to the world.–Bertrand Augst

Written by Marker. Photographed by Emiko Omori, Peter Chapell, et al. Edited by Khadicha Bariha, Nedjma Scialom. With Iannis Xenakis, George Steiner, Elia Kazan, Theo Angelopoulos, Cornelius Castoriadis. (In English, and French, Georgian, Greek with English subtitles, Color, 3/4″ Video, projected, Cassettes courtesy Chris Marker with permission of Film International Television Production and La Sept) (Total running time, parts 1, 2, 3: 75 mins)

Loin de Vietnam: Filmnotes @ PFA

Far from Vietnam Jean-Luc Godard, Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, Agnès Varda (France, 1967).

Loin de VietnamRarely shown in its entirety, Far from Vietnam is a unique collaboration by seven noted directors that, incredibly, looks like a unified work. Much of the credit for this goes to Chris Marker, who put it all together. But there was also a team spirit created by the situation in Vietnam that led the artists to want to speak out, directly and boldly, in a group work. Resnais: “Far from Vietnam is a film of question marks, of questions we ask ourselves as often perhaps as you. Agnes VardaIt’s for that reason that we put them on the screen: after all, it is as natural for filmmakers to speak on a white canvas as in a cafe.” Klein: “On the corner of 42nd Street and 8th Avenue in New York, a guy is reciting a poem consisting of the syllables na-palm. And no one knows what napalm is. It showed me how blind people become to something they hear referred to all day long. So, we decided to do something a little like Picasso confronted by the bombing of Guernica.” The result is a provocative treatment of footage shot in Vietnam, France, the U.S., and Cuba.

Commentary by Jean Lecouture. (120 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W/Color, 35mm)

The Lonliness of a Long-Distance Singer: Filmnotes @ PFA

A finely crafted film by the unique film-poet, Chris Marker, The Loneliness Of A Long-Distance Singer aims to convey two aspects of the actor/singer Yves Montand: his political conviction and his artistic integrity. In February 1974, Montand agreed to prepare in one week a performance of some of his best-known songs for the benefit of the Chilean refugees after Allende’s overthrow. In this remarkable film, we see the anxious tension, the moments of relaxation, everything which went into his polished appearance on the stage at the Olympia in Paris. The skillful cuts back and forth between the final performance and the rehearsals the week before allow us to see how carefully the show is put together by Montand. He tests every gesture, goes over and over every rhythm change. His accompanist and friend, Bob Castella, emerges as a warm, appealing personality, who in one excellent scene must stand up to Montand’s explosive anger when there is a discrepancy between the music and the words. As we continue to be entertained by Montand’s virtuoso singing, we are led by Chris Marker into a deeper understanding of the man. Montand talks about politics, about women; we get film clips from some of his best roles (La Guerre Est Finie, Z, The Confession, and so on). In the end, we understand Montand when he says: “I sing today so that we don’t forget the blood of yesterday.”

Directed by Chris Marker. (1974, 60 mins, color, English titles, Print from Icarus Films)

Sans Soleil Geo-temporal Map

Sans Soleil Geo-temporal Map

This enigmatic diagram was found at the Pacific Film Archive in 1990. It seems to provide a kind of map for the locations and temporal flow of Sans Soleil. We welcome your interpretations. Click the image for a larger view.

The Koumiko Mystery: Filmnotes @ PFA

The Koumiko Mystery (La Mystère Koumiko)

Koumiko MysteryMarker studies a young Japanese woman, wandering about Tokyo during the 1964 Olympic games, asking her questions about how she feels about herself and the world. Koumiko comments vaguely on her feelings of separation from people and animals, of drifting with the tide of an anxious world. Amid the transience of a futuristic World’s Fair-like atmosphere, Marker may exoticize Koumiko’s ancient beauty but the “mystery” of the film’s title is, quite simply, the mystery of individuality. Please note: We regret that the color has faded to pink on our print and all prints of this film existing in the U.S.

A film by Chris Marker. (1965, 47 mins, In French with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, Print from PFA Collection/New Yorker Films Deposit)

Lettre de Sibérie: Filmnotes @ PFA

Letter from Siberia (Lettre de Sibérie)

Chris Marker’s ethnographic essay-documentary on Siberia, made in 1957, remains fresh and relevant today. Combining fantasy animation (of woolly mammoths and mammoth buildings) and documentary photography shot by Sacha Vierny, Marker displays above all his amazement at the diversity of Siberia, at once almost pre-historic and post-revolutionary. On the film’s revival at the 1982 New York Film Festival, Village Voice critic Carrie Rickey called it “compassionately detached, playful and eclectic…. What still thrills about Letter from Siberia 25 years after it was made is Marker’s sympathetic ethnography, so much against the grain of the partisan American documentaries of the ’50s where the omniscient voice told you how to read each image.” In one hilarious segment, Marker does include that voice – repeating a scene with a Capitalist-propaganda voice-over and then with a Soviet one.

Directed and Written by Chris Marker. Photographed by Sacha Vierny. Music by Pierre Barbaud. Edited by Anne Sarraute. (1957, 60 mins, In French with English titles, 35mm, color, Print from New Yorker Films)

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A propos: On the website www.ac-nancy-metz.fr, there is a useful structural breakdown, for pedagogical purposes, of the famous montage-commentary sensorium phase shifting contained in Lettre de Sibérie. The image sequence reproduced above is lifted (with gratitude, bien sûr) from that site. The site also presents the three voiceover narration bits that “interpret” this sequence of images in three radically different manners (for these texts, see comments). Here’s what film students are ostensibly supposed to learn:

Objectifs:

  • établir une relation entre les différents éléments d’un message audio-visuel
  • mettre en évidence le poids des mots par rapport aux images
  • introduire la notion de point de vue

Les Statues meurent aussi: Filmnotes @ PFA

Marker & Alain Resnais Direct: Statues Also Die (Les Statues Meurent Aussi)

“This is a profoundly humanistic study of African art and its decline under colonialism, introducing two themes that have remained central in Marker’s work-the belief that all great human societies represent a victory over adversity and posit a view of man as potential ‘master of the world’; and the belief that such mastery is only possible if man is at one with the natural world. Marker believes that art should seek to ‘guarantee’ this harmony, as early African art does, rather than reflect its loss. This deeply felt film was banned by the censors as an attack on French colonialism, finally appearing ten years later in a truncated version.”
John Wakeman, World Film Directors

A film by Chris Marker, Alain Resnais. (1953, 21 mins, In French with written English synopsis, B&W, 16mm, Print from Cinémathèque Quebeçoise)

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