Category Archives: Sans Soleil

Indecipherable

For this encounter between thought and image, as staged throughout all films explored by these pages, also discovers particular significance via Sans Soleil. Unlike the films of this book’s earlier chapters that each emerge from a certain definitive horror – the Holocaust, Hiroshima, an atomic apocalypse – Sans Soleil marks a shift towards a more comprehensive, layered interrogation of both strangely familiar and indecipherable aspects of life that exist in relation to sufferings past and yet to come. Sans Soleil’s acute scrutinisation of the banal does indeed reveal unexpected horrors and excesses that bespeak not a single monumental historic event but countless unique injustices and sorrows and their everlasting reverberations.
Nadine Boljkovac, Untimely Affects

Nadine’s book is to be re-released in paperback on June 1, 2015: Untimely Affects: Gilles Deleuze and an Ethics of Cinema [Plateaus – New Directions in Deleuze Studies]

80:81 Chris Marker in Conversation

I’ve added a rare Chris Marker interview with Colin Maccabe to the site. You can find it under pages as 80:81 Chris Marker Speaks with Colin Maccabe. In this talk, Marker discusses his travels to Japan and Guinea-Bissau, his filming of what would become Sans Soleil, the transition of eras from Le fond de l’air est rouge to Sans Soleil, and the four language versions of the latter.

We get a glimpse of the four year time-frame that encompasses the work on Sans Soleil, and its crucial moment of clarity when Marker put the narrative commentary into the past tense, allowing the film to take on the singular quality that we know but still seek to understand.

Sans Soleil brochure cover

Cover of original brochure for Sans Soleil, courtesy Pacific Film Archive

Ça fait longtemps

Sans Soleil
Без солнца Mussorgsky

Fronticepiece, Modest Mussorgsky’s Без солнца [‘Sans Soleil’], as printed in Sans Soleil original brochure, 1982

ça fait longtemps
que l’on a visité
le salle Roxie
à San Francisco
et s’est trouvé
tombé
sous le charme
d’un film
qui s’intitule
simplement
Sans Soleil

ça fait longtemps
trente ans aujourd’hui
ou pas
peu importe
parce que
la mémoire
vaut mieux
que le temps

ça fait longtemps
comme le bon vin
qui chaque année
s’améliore
même si
son créateur
est disparu

—–

Here is the full commentary in the original French for Chris Marker, Sans Soleil:
Commentaire—Sans Soleil

For English and Japanese versions, please visit markertext.com, where you can also find commentary/voice-over texts for À Valpariso, Description of a Struggle, La Jetée and Letter from Siberia, as well as the English version of the text for Marker’s book Coréennes.

Thanks to CMontel & ac-nancy-metz-fr’s servers & the Pacific Film Archive

Criterion Releases La Jetée & Sans Soleil on Blu-Ray

Criterion Collection La Jetee + Sans SoleilAs you probably know by now, swimming as we are in era of no news is new news, Chris Marker’s incomparable masterworks La Jetée and Sans Soleil have been released again, this time on Blu-Ray by Criterion. Originally paired on DVD in a French edition by Arte Video in 2003, the films came to Criterion DVD in 2007.

I believe some of the extras on the Blu-Ray edition, released last week on February 7, 2012, are new, others appearing already on the earlier release (and, indeed, some already on the Arte DVD). Junkopia‘s inclusion is, I believe, new. I’m going to have to spend some money to find out for sure. A partial list of extras is presented by Criterion for the GUILLAUME-APPROVED EDITION:

  • Restored high-definition digital transfers, approved by director Chris Marker, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks
  • Two interviews with filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin
  • Chris on Chris, a video piece on Marker by filmmaker and critic Chris Darke
  • Two excerpts from the French television series Court-circuit (le magazine): a look at David Bowie’s music video for the song “Jump They Say,” inspired by La Jetée, and an analysis of Hitchcock’s Vertigo and its influence on Marker
  • Junkopia, a six-minute film by Marker, Frank Simone, and John Chapman about the Emeryville Mudflats
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by Marker scholar Catherine Lupton, an interview with Marker, notes on the films and filmmaking by Marker, and more

For a (technical) review of the Blu-Ray with some nice screen captures, see: criterionforum.org. This reviewer, Chris Galloway, is most impressed by the high-definition transfer of La Jetée: “contrast is perfect with rich blacks and distinct gray levels…” He is, however, left wanting to know more about Marker himself. Clearly, that’s going to take more work than viewing the extras. As Montaigne said, “All the world knows me in my book, and my book in me.”  The work is the life-mirror. Convex or concave, this mirror is the gateway to the man, biographies be damned.

Speaking of biography, Marker fans will perhaps know of the far-ranging new website on Marker located at chrismarker.ch (sub-titled “On a Quest from Switzerland”). It’s quite an experience—full of arcane research, humour and crazy little graphics, hard on the eye and surely subject for a different post—but en bref, directly on the home page we’re presented with a wild ride of phantasmagorical biography, that goes from Mongolia to Chinese pirates to the Himalaya, then Argentina (“pour ses études, en échange Nostradamus des écoles primaires”), before arriving in Paris. If you read French, definitely take this new site for a weekend Harley (or Ducati) ride through the Alps. Don’t miss the great page on censorship and the fascinating one on music in Marker’s films.

But back to the Blu-Ray. You can get a look at the packaging on a different page of the Criterion Forum. Guillaume holds a sign above the Blu-Ray mark on the sticker, partially obscuring a revered Japanese cat (the nerve).

The Criterion Collection is known to cinéphiles throughout the world. I was curious how they summarized their work, and found this passage on their site, criterion.com:

Each film is presented uncut, in its original aspect ratio, as its maker intended it to be seen. Every time we start work on a film, we track down the best available film elements in the world, use state-of-the-art telecine equipment and a select few colorists capable of meeting our rigorous standards, then take time during the film-to-video digital transfer to create the most pristine possible image and sound. Whenever possible, we work with directors and cinematographers to ensure that the look of our releases does justice to their intentions. Our supplements enable viewers to appreciate Criterion films in context, through audio commentaries by filmmakers and scholars, restored director’s cuts, deleted scenes, documentaries, shooting scripts, early shorts, and storyboards.

So, what exactly is Blu-Ray? Guillaume may know more than we do, but maybe it’s worth defining a term once in a while. So off to Wikipedia:

Blu-ray Disc (official abbreviation BD) is an optical disc storage medium designed to supersede the DVD format. The plastic disc is 120 mm in diameter and 1.2 mm thick, the same size as DVDs and CDs. Blu-ray Discs contain 25 GB per layer, with dual layer discs (50 GB) being the norm for feature-length video discs. Triple layer discs (100 GB) and quadruple layers (128 GB) are available for BD-XL re-writer drives.

The name Blu-ray Disc refers to the blue laser used to read the disc, which allows information to be stored at a greater density than is possible with the longer-wavelength red laser used for DVDs.

So now you know nothing new about the films themselves, but suffice to say they will look as good as it gets outside of real screenings (real reels, real projectors, real audience, fake popcorn). Enjoy, and let us know what you think. O, and one more thing: have you noticed how Chat écoutant la musique has begun to go viral? 44,272 views (and counting) on YouTube in this upload. If you search twitter for Chris Marker, you’ll see what I mean. Even Criterion tweeted about it recently. Maybe this short, exquisite rêverie is on its way to becoming the 3rd most famous film by the most famous of unknown filmmakers.

Take Two

We received this thoughtful reprise of the “moment of happiness” in Sans Soleil via email today:

Cet été en Islande j’ai vu sur les îles vestmann une image qui m’a fait penser au premier plan de Sans Soleil. C’était un groupe de jeunes filles blondes + un petit garçon. J’ai pensé “c’est la même image”. Je viens de revisionner votre film et découvre que vous aviez tourné ce plan sur la même île, je ne me rappelais pas de ce détail. En visionnant ce plan de nouveau j’ai pensé : “on dirait que c’est au même endroit”. Peut-être est-ce les petits-enfants de vos enfants ?

Avec respect,
Bien à vous,
B.D.

Krasna Detective

Remember the borgesian-style story ‘Ate onde le sabe’ from Brazil (featuring Sandor Krasna, the dreamer)? Well, here comes another lusophonic snippet. Lead, garden path, dead end? Who cares. Alas, the smooth, sensual quality … of the Portuguese ‘nos gusta’ is lost in the translation that follows.

q-significa-krasna

1st message (request):

> necesito saber e significado del nombre krasna lo q si se es
> q es de origen checo.

“I need to know the meaning of the name ‘Krasna’ in its original Czech form.”

2nd message (answer):

> krasna es de origen Croata, pero tambien esta presente en otros
> paises como rusia etc. significa algo lindo. algo bonito o algo
> hermoso. es para referirse a alguna cosa o alguna persona que
> nos gusta. ;-D

“Krasna is of Croatian provenience, but also crops up in other countries such as Russia etc. It denotes something nice, pleasant, handsome. It is used to refer to something or someone we like / approve of / suiting our taste.”

Which invites us to read ‘Krasna’ as yet another name for something or someone that / who makes our heart beat faster.

I re-read what I just wrote, and it looks suspiciously familiar. Is it possible that it’s just a paraphrase of something I posted before?

– DK

Untergang des Abendlandes

Sans Soleil - New Yorker VideoWe thought Chris Marker fans would like to know. Many of us learned the text of Sans Soleil forwards, backwards and sideways – down to identifying the lone still self-portrait frame in a Tokyo television monitor – by playing the New Yorker Video release of Sans Soleil on VHS over and over (and over) again, until it was as worn out as, say, Katy Lied.

New Yorker Films, the distributor that helped introduce American moviegoers to the works of Bernardo Bertolucci, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Ousmane Sembène, announced on Monday that it was going out of business after 44 years.

NY Times

Other reflections on this event:

Spiral Staircase into the Zone

It’s an off week in the waning era of imperfect memory. So in weak association to the spiral trope in Chris Marker’s vision of time, we offer you a link to spiral images on a site dedicated exclusively to . . . stairs: Justin Anthony’s www.stairporn.org/spiral_stairs/

Hotel Josef in Prague

Sans Soleil Spirals

He wrote me that only one film had been capable of portraying impossible memory—insane memory: Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. In the spiral of the titles he saw time covering a field ever wider as it moved away, a cyclone whose present moment contains motionless the eye.

He had driven up and down the hills of San Francisco where Jimmy Stewart, Scotty, follows Kim Novak, Madeline. It seems to be a question of trailing, of enigma, of murder, but in truth it’s a question of power and freedom, of melancholy and dazzlement, so carefully coded within the spiral that you could miss it, and not discover immediately that this vertigo of space in reality stands for the vertigo of time.

He had followed all the trails. Even to the cemetery at Mission Dolores where Madeline came to pray at the grave of a woman long since dead, whom she should not have known. He followed Madeline—as Scotty had done—to the Museum at the Legion of Honor, before the portrait of a dead woman she should not have known. And on the portrait, as in Madeline’s hair, the spiral of time.

And then in its turn the journey entered the ‘zone,’ and Hayao showed me my images already affected by the moss of time, freed of the lie that had prolonged the existence of those moments swallowed by the spiral.

PS: Here’s another tidbit on the 50th anniversary celebration of Vertigo held recently last month in San Francisco: sfcitizen.com.

Texts courtesy of markertext.com. Photo of Hotel Josef in Prague courtesy of stairporn.org. Thanks to our photographer and feline-loving friend mica for the spiral staircase link. For more on sacred geometry, here’s a jump start.

Discoveries

Catkins Valasquez, courtesy fogblogWe received a thoughtful note from Don Livoni @ fogblog regarding his recent discovery of Chris Marker. Crafting a haunting film from stills is a discovery that evidently can be made without prior knowledge of La Jetée. It’s a bit like Leibniz and Newton, albeit with a time “differential,” if you like ;). While Mr. Livoni’s films (for example, “Rosie’s Girls” and “DNYK Dreamer”) evoke La Jetée by the skillful sequencing of stills, they also display a stunning sense of chromatic hypersensitivity and palimpsest layering. Meanwhile, the site’s motto – it is without sun, it is memory – aptly summons the spirit of Sans Soleil. Here’s a bit of the note we received, a brief homage to Chris Marker’s sensibilities by a new-found fan:

i love his sense of wonder at what the camera sees and what we remember. i so admire the enigmatic intellect of the narrations, the beauty of the images and the sound juxtaposition, the economy of the technique. it’s all so personal and masterful, mysterious yet historically mindful. i’m looking forward to “discovering” more of his work.

If that were not enough, fogblog presents a stunning set of faux High-Renaissance portraits of (in large part) aristoc(r)atic felines: “L’Histoire des Grands Chats—Religious Leaders, generals, courtesans and clowns” which would no doubt offer a pleasing Sunday afternoon virtual museum expedition for M. Marker himself.

4001 is the new 2012, or vice versa

Pacal II Tomb LidI found a poetic evocation of Chris Marker and his trans-temporal take on earth history, memory and compassion in Sans Soleil on a blog today called simply politics. The entry starts out by making an auspicious connection between the Zapatistas of Chiapas, who “call their gatherings to build international solidarity ‘Intergalactic,'” and the spirit of Marker’s films. It goes on to point out that Marker is known to film buffs much more widely than revolutionaries, noting that voice-over narration has at times been associated with a maligned “Voice of God,” but that ain’t necessarily so, and Marker has provided the template for a true alternative. I’m in tune with this blog man; Marker is not Euripides; his commentaries come at the image track not as a deus ex machina to explain all and wrap all up, but to infuse questions, associations, parables and compassion to the mix, always leaving space (and time) for the viewer to travel back and forth and make new connections.

He riffs on, quoting a famous section of Sans Soleil:

That’s just it, he can’t understand. 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.
“Marker, again,” June 16, 2008, politics-live.blogspot.com

How close the phrase “long and painful pre-history” is to the current hullabaloo around 2012, earth rebirth and the shift to the Mayan calendar (Carl Johan Calleman, Daniel Pinchbeck, José Argüelles, Barbara Hand-Clow et alii). With these writers, prophets and mystics we again encounter the themes of time travel, co-existing time patterns, non-linear time and the role of suffering, personal and historical, as experience redeemed through cataclysmic change. Marker has never been explicit about our future, but he provided, well before the new century and its eschatologist-prophets of Earth Apotheosis, a diverse set of audio-visual documents about history and memory, and a few poetic clues about where the Earth Experiment might be heading.

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