Category Archives: Texts

Letter to Alain Cuny by Chris Marker – Exhilaration

Alain Cuny, various portraits, Google images

Here is the English translation of the recently unearthed ‘Lettre à Alain’, originally published in Libération to highlight the 1991 debut of the film L’Annonce faite à Marie, under the title “Chris Marker: ‘Something of a Miracle’, with the sub-title ‘In 1991, for the release of the first projections of L’Annonce faite à Marie [The Announcement Made to Marie], Chris Marker wrote to the ‘young’ filmmaker.’

I take this moment and this space to offer my deep thanks and ongoing gratitude to Dorna Khazeni, who translated this letter for the site’s (majority) English readers. Thanks Dorna! Dorna is also the translator of Marker’s short story Phenomenon (n.), along with a handful of other materials, including the long post on bringing Dialector, Marker’s human-computer interaction machine, to KansasFest. She is one of the reasons I continue to explore Marker, as we share this dedication to his being and his work. What we admire and handle with care is multiple and does not demand defining; it does, however, certainly come across here in Marker’s revelatory moment of heightened awareness, the expressed transformative power of cinema, and his affirmation of friendship.


Dear Alain,

Giraudoux wrote that one judges a play (or a film) by how one wakes up the morning after. From this point of view the experience has proven conclusive. But in fact it began as early as yesterday evening when we came back home. How long had it been since I last experienced that sort of physical lightness that surges when something in you has shifted during a screening? And how many films have I seen these last years that I left enumerating, as though for an accounting exam: yes, the director was talented, yes, the actors had been excellent, yes, the images were beautiful, yes, the story was interesting. And so? And so nothing. Nothing had shifted, I had seen a film, that was all, and it was already burying itself in the swamps of forgetting. I knew that ahead of all critique and all compliment, there needed to have been that initial shudder, that takeover over by another by which, in my youth, I used to recognize the works that would mark me for life. I blamed age, the sclerosis of enthusiasm, saturation by television… Know that I am grateful to you for having all at once returned to me the joy in an evening and that flavor of eternity that I sometimes savored on exiting a theater or cinema in the distant times when we had already come to know each other… That you should have arrived in your first attempt at the essential, that you should have (I am sure of this, more instinct than by premeditation) found the precise distance, the perfect distance, with text placed on film like a delicate web (one step to either side is the fall), that you should have, in short, invented the only way of bringing to life and listening to these characters in the booby-trapped universe of the cinematograph, is on the order of a miracle. Just as Violaine’s voice is miraculous. Here we are light-years from the “well-said” or “well-acted.” We are inside inner truth, inside this total correspondence of voice with that of which it speaks which music alone is sometimes capable of constructing: it would not take much for me to say never has a text been the beneficiary of so much rectitude, radiant humility. Humility! Not a quality that overflows in our great craft… Here it underlies every undertaking, it gives its true counterweight to the grandeur. Never is the beauty of the image—and God knows, it is beautiful—exercised at the expense of the text. Costumes, set, music, everything is at its right distance, nothing seeks to shine for itself alone, and this metaphor of the cathedral that holds the whole play in its embrace, here it incarnates itself in the film, itself, like a mise-en-abime, but the abyss opens skyward.

I have just reread what I wrote and these words appear vain and empty. What I must communicate to you is that with which I began, that state of physical well-being that defies commentary (in English there is a word for it that is untranslatable: exhilaration). When we left the Vidéotheque with my friend Catherine we were breathing easier, we were breathing rarer air. I met a friend who shared his distress over the fate of Russia, which I share, all the more so as I have Russian blood and am currently working on that particular tragedy. To my surprise, I heard myself answer him in a totally different way than the somber tone in which I would have normally expressed myself. I was going out on more of a limb, I was placing bets with greater (if only this word were not a little comical when applied to me) wisdom… And suddenly I realized I was not placing my bet from the basement of Les Halles, from Paris-France, I was placing my bet from the film. You were lending me, for one instant, a platform of grandeur from where I was seeing all things as we should always see them, if we had that strength and that wisdom. Poets are made to create such moments, moments of borrowing a strength that is not ours. The poet Claudel and the poet Cuny came together so that last night such a moment should take place. It is a gift that cannot be forgotten.

Yours, faithfully.
Chris Marker

Trafic and Serge Daney by Raymond Bellour

Published here:

Trafic and Serge Daney

Raymond Bellour

When Serge Daney decided to found Trafic, a ‘cinema review’, at the start of the 1990s, he began from the ‘realisation that the intellectual landscape in which cinema exists has changed a great deal. Changed to the extent that the traditional ways of writing about cinema do not “bite” anymore in relation to the reality of classic literary cinephilic consumption’. (1) Daney aimed thus at the way that we can live the cinema according to its current state, but at the same time attending to it in its largest possible sense. Undetermined, in the first instance, by the appearance of films as they are released in cinemas or at Film Festivals. Rather, a far more multiple ‘currency’, relating as much to the increasingly diverse evolutions of cinema around the world as to all the various modes of reflecting upon films, and to the life that is lived in their company.

For someone like Daney, who in the 1970s had directed the most prestigious monthly in the history of cinephilia (namely, Cahiers du cinéma), then worked for the ‘cinema’ section of a daily newspaper open (like few others) to current events in culture (namely, Libération), it was a matter, above all, with Trafic (a quarterly publication), of finding a different tempo. A time that is essentially free and vagabond, where it was as much a question of re-seeing as of seeing, and above all of composing an unexpected kind of ‘currency’, defined by the ongoing experiences of each Committee member of the journal, and of every author invited to contribute to it. So this presumes that, in Trafic, the desire to write always takes precedence. ‘Which is a way of saying’, according to Daney, ‘that the intrinsic quality of the texts will always win out over the relative opportunity of their subjects’. Thus it is that this ‘cinema review’ becomes – doubtless alone in the entire world of publications of comparable ambition – a magazine bereft of images, apart from a modest vignette on the cover. Because, in Trafic, it is above all a matter of showing how it is possible to think and write images.

In his programmatic text, Daney enumerated eight types of text destined to co-exist in the magazine. ‘1. Highly personal “chronicles” following, from day to day, what is current in cinema. 2. “Letters From …”, written in a deliberately epistolary style, coming from isolated, faraway friends at the ends of the earth. 3. Texts belonging to cinema’s past (whether French or otherwise) that have become unavailable. 4. Texts by filmmakers, of a “work in progress” nature, moments of assessment, stages or elements in the working process. 5. Texts more precisely dedicated to the “image” in general, and to the way in which such images illuminate, or are illuminated by, the cinema. 6. Free interventions by philosophers, writers, novelists. 7. Regular essays, cinephilic but gregarious’. Daney could also have specified that the magazine also pursues, as part of its vocation, the translation of many foreign texts – in order to reverse the dominant tendency in France, especially in approaches to cinema, towards national self-sufficiency. But the presence in the first issue of Trafic, out of fourteen texts, of Giorgio Agamben, Roberto Rossellini (presented by Adriano Aprà), Joao Cesar Monteiro, Robert Kramer and Bill Krohn was enough to make that point. And the ratio, since then, has only increased.

Already consumed by AIDS at the moment of this first issue, Daney only lived long enough to see the first three instalments of this adventure of a magazine which meant more to him than anything else. But a drive had been initiated, which would then be continued, strengthened, developed and varied, thanks to the energy of an Editorial Committee formed as a collective, comprising Jean-Claude Biette, Sylvie Pierre, Patrice Rollet and myself. After Biette’s sudden death in 2003, and the realisation of an enormous 50th issue, both a celebration and a retrospective, the idea of which (titled ‘What is Cinema?’) we had conceived with him, we added an Advisory Committee comprising close friends of the magazine since its inception, people who stood for its many vocations: writer Leslie Kaplan, filmmaker Pierre Léon, philosopher Jacques Rancière, film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, art historian and writer Jean Louis Schefer. Each one helps us, in their own way, to fashion the image of a singular cinema magazine.

If I had to define Trafic in terms of its refusals, they would be positioned at two extremes: on the one hand, the facilities that are far too common in journalistic criticism, and on the other hand the closures of traditional university writing. But both film critics and university teachers write, of course, for Trafic, provided they are carried away by a project of thought and style in which they are deeply engaged, and closely wedded to their choice of object as well as their personal sensibility. Parallel to a continuous reflection on the great works of cinema, whether classical or modern (Mizoguchi, Walsh, Antonioni, Fassbinder, Ozu, Syberberg, Minnelli, Hitchcock, Lang, Ford … with two special issues devoted to these last three names), we have always chosen to support – by asking them to participate, whenever possible, in the life of the magazine – a certain group of filmmakers, as diverse as possible, including (naturally) experimental filmmakers: for example, Manoel de Oliveira, Chris Marker, Stephen Dwoskin, Chantal Akerman, Edgardo Cozarinsky, Ken Jacobs, Pedro Costa, Jonas Mekas, Philippe Garrel, Angela Ricci Lucchi and Yervant Gianikian, Robert Kramer, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, Abbas Kiarostami, Harun Farocki, and Philippe Grandrieux.

Extract from an essay published in the Masterclass booklet of the Jeonju International Film Festival, Korea, 2009.

1. These words by Daney, like those that follow, are extracted from the short programmatic text which accompanied publication of the first issue of Trafic in Winter 1991.
© Raymond Bellour March 2009. English Translation © Adrian Martin March 2009.

Chris Marker Coréennes – English Text

Is there no one
to keep the
moon from
to tie the morning
sun beneath
the horizon?
Then I would live
one more day.
(Story of Sim Chon)

Due to the out of print status of the English translation of Chris Marker’s Coréennes, I have scanned my copy to make this text available to English readers. The photographs from the original French and, subsequently, Korean editions were recently on display at Peter Blum’s Gallery in New York. For those who had the chance to visit the exhibition, this text will prove illuminating. It is also now a piece of rare Marker memorabilia. This edition includes Marker’s 1997 postscript from “Port-Kosinki.”

You may download the pdf here: Chris Marker, Corénnenes, English Text. For another, less typo-prone version, check out the always helpful

Translation: Brian Holmes
Produced by: Wexner Center Store, 2009
Manager: Matt Reber

Note 11.15.14: PDF updated with cover and table of contents.

Coreennes English

The first Korean girl descended from the heavens. A friendly rose, flat and rather far from the archetype (Indigenae candidi sunt, el procerae staturae, says Mercator’s Atlas), she alone among her sisters betrayed the far-off Tunguskan origins that the anthropologists ascribe to her ancestor, the demi-god Tangun (2332 B.C.). No doubt it was this blend of traits that led the Korean employment counselors to glimpse her vocation, the same as the Druggist’s in Giraudoux’s Intermezzo: the gift for transitions. The Far East lines are guarded by young women: Olga in Omsk, a shepherdess of Tupolcv- Macha in Chita, leading the twin-engines out to pasture in the violet dawn of Mongolia. The last relay, the Air-Eastess, skewered us through China: congregations of incredulous camels startled by the shadow of the Ilyushin, squares of Tartar silk drying alongside the yurts, the petrified thunder of the Great Wall to which a train, silent for our ears, laid siege with its white cry. Kalmuki murus contra Tártaros. Another wall of pink and white dust, brick and mercury: on the Taedong river, before the bridge rebuilt by the Chinese volunteers, a fisherman let his net slip between his fingers, grain by grain, like a rosary. Soft morning, city. Tolerant even toward its clichés, Korea greeted us… with morning calm.Chris Marker, Coréennes

Rare Chris Marker Post-War Memory Published

music memoryI just published a text sent by Chris Darke, who has seen to its translation and encouraged its publication here, for which I am profoundly grateful. The text is one Marker wrote at the request of Jean-Jacques Birgé, answering the question Images gravitate around music. Which has marked you the most? You can find the text as An Image Just Appeared by Chris Marker.

The text shows the remarkable blend of keen memory, eye for emblematic images, and historical consciousness that we find inscribed in many of Marker’s films and installations (Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men comes to mind, for one). Once again, as in Sans Soleil, the wounds of history meet the compassionate gaze of memory. En plus, the text reminds us of Marker’s deep attachment to music – in this case, jazz. It is an attachment that works subliminally in many of his films to deepen the emotional reach of the projection and audition for the spectator. It’s what made Chat écoutant la musique possible: another treasure of memory and music.

In prefacing his remarks, Marker hints at how large ‘memory’ can become – stretching space and time like an expanding universe, an impossible architecture – within a single lifetime.

The image below is of one of the ships that Marker references in this memory text.


Clicquez ici at Claire de Rouen Books

Cliquez ici – an illustrated journey through the pages of Chris Marker

Chris Marker Harem

Claire de Rouen Books, First Floor
125 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H OEW
Friday 30 May, 6-9pm

Chris Darke will talk on the significance of the book format for the French filmmaker’s methodology. He’ll look especially at Petite Planète, the series of travel books that Marker edited from the 1950s to the early 1960s.

Featuring: the printed page, sound, projection, still and moving image… and wine.

Chris Marker in Siberia

This event has been organised by Lucy Moore with Richard Bevan, Tamsin Clark and Chris Darke.

Texts on Petite Planète by Tamsin Clark and Lucy Moore can be viewed on the ICA’s blog (Institute of Contemporary Arts, a supporter of ‘radical art and culture’*).

A rare complete set of the books will be offered for sale at Room&Book, a new art book fair for London. It will be on view at the bookshop from 30 May – 3 June.

In 1954 the 33 year old filmmaker had been hired as an editor by Parisian publishing house Editions de Seuil, known for its radical titles, including Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book and Frantz Fanon’s doctorial thesis Black Skin, White Masks. At Seuil, Marker was given free rein, devising and directing a collection of 31 travel books with the title Petite Planète. His aspiration for the series was to avoid the propaganda familiar to the guidebook genre, imagining instead the intimacy of his film script style, or a ‘conversation with an individual who is well informed about the country in question’.

Marker’s cinematographic eye focused attentively on book design and layout, creating dynamic relationships between images, with photographs of street life and people at work given equal attention to those of eminent historical figures. This surprising use of imagery and montage brought a sense of movement and momentum to the book form that Marker would eventually employ as a simple way to orchestrate a film.
Tasmin Clarke

Thanks to Tasmin Clarke

About Claire de Rouen Books

Claire de Rouen Books is the only specialist photography and fashion bookshop in London.

We stock photobooks, fashion monographs, micropublishing, rare, signed and limited edition books, international magazines, lookbooks and artist publications. We sell unique prints and limited editions – currently these include a Polaroid of Andy Warhol taken in 1986 and a Hiroshi Sugimoto Theatre print.

Claire de Rouen was the original director of the bookshop. Born in Alexandria in the early 1930s, she moved to London in her twenties, where she studied art and also

About the ICA

The ICA was one of the first venues to present The Clash and The Smiths, as well as bands such as Throbbing Gristle. The inaugural ICA / LUX Biennial of Moving Images was launched in 2012, and the ICA Cinema continues to screen rare artists’ film, support independent releases and partner with leading film festivals.

Room and Book

Etienne Sandrin & Catherine Belkhodja to Perform Chris Marker’s Le Dépays

Lecteurs : Etienne Sandrin, Catherine Belkhodja
Musique Live : Rainier Lericolais – Piano : David Sanson
Texte et photos : Chris Marker

10 Avr. 2014 : 20h | Grand auditorium, Collège des Bernardins

Etienne Sandrin and Catherine Belkhodja

Disparu l’été dernier à 91 ans, Chris Marker demeure une figure majeure de la modernité depuis les années cinquante. Dans son œuvre immense, il y a, outre maints films marquants (La Jetée, Sans Soleil, Level five, Chats Perchés) des pièces multimédias, des photographies, des collages, ainsi que des livres.

Parmi ceux-ci, Le Dépays, presque introuvable aujourd’hui, est un livre de photos et de textes consacrés au Japon, dans lequel, selon les mots de Marker, le texte ne commente pas plus les images que les images n’illustrent le texte.

En accord avec l’artiste, Etienne Sandrin a mis en place une version scénique de ce livre, qui a été présentée au Japon en 2012. Il s’agit d’une lecture à deux voix, qu’il présentera à Paris avec Catherine Belkhodja, actrice pour Chris Marker notamment dans Level Five et Silent Movie. La lecture s’accompagne d’un ‘slide show’ des photos du livre, ainsi que du piano et des sons – enregistrés à Tokyo – retravaillés en direct par Rainier Lericolais, compositeur et plasticien.

Une belle – et interdisciplinaire – manière de célébrer ce grand artiste, qui n’a cessé de remuer dans son travail des questionnements essentiels…

Desceased last summer at age 91, Chris Marker remains a major figure of modernity since the fifties. In his immense work, there are, in addition to many memorable films (La Jetée, Sans Soleil, Level Five, Chats Perchés), multimedia pieces, photographs, collages, as well as books.

Among these, Le Dépays, almost unfindable today, is a book of photos and texts devoted to Japan, in which – in the words of Marker – the text comments on the images as much as the images illustrate the text.

In agreement with the artist, Étienne Sandrin has implemented a stage version of this book, which was presented in Japan in 2012. The piece is a reading for two voices, which he will present in Paris with Catherine Belkhodja, actress for Chris Marker notably in Level Five and Silent Movie. The reading is accompanied by a slide show of photos of the book, as well as piano and sounds recorded in Tokyo, reworked live by Rainier Lericolais, composer and visual artist.

A beautiful – and interdisciplinary – way to celebrate this great artist, who has continued to stir in his work some very essential question(ing)s…


Bouquin Rare + Kashima Paradise


Here is a photograph, slightly (mis)treated, of a hard to find 1951 edition of Chris Marker’s The Forthright Spirit, published by Allan Wingate Ltd., London. A man came across this book at an antique book fair in Dublin ‘about 8 years ago.’ He has done his homework and is now cognizent of the rarity of the book. He wrote me an email expressing his desire to sell it. If anyone is interested, please let me know via the contact form. For me, I was content to play a bit in Photoshop with one of the various images he sent, as I love the embossing on the spine and wanted to attempt to bring that out more…

Another note: there are several new pages on the site. One of particular interest is Marker’s very personal summation of the film Kashima Paradise made by Bénie Deswarte and Yann Le Masson in 1973 in Kashima, Japan, for which Marker is credited as the writer and narrator.

Farewell’s Arrival

This small book arrived yesterday in the post. Just like film, snail mail still has its charms. The book was much more petite than I had expected: something you could put in the back pocket of your jeans while you rode the metro around, pulling it out to accompany an espresso once in a while, to keep up your mental and adrenal stamina, or to attract other Marker otaku. It’s another little addition to the archive of Markeriana, a rather precious one at that. I guess I have a penchant for small things – half hour films and books of 64 pages, aphorisms and Kata frames and shot glasses and thin silver rings…  But I digress. So, without further adieu, here is some text from Abschied vom Kino / A Farewell to Movies, by  “CHRIS MARKER THE BEST KNOWN AUTHOR OF UNKNOWN MOVIES” (as the inner front cover proclaims in a grungy all caps font).

A Farewell to Movies
Under that cryptic formula, cognoscenti will identify a familiar path to YouTube, and specifically toward my very latest opus: a one-minute-sixteen-second video piece titled Leila Attacks, featuring a lovable fighting she-rat. I guess I may say I’m not exactly the self-complimenting type, yet when considering the work I did there, I can but call it perfect. Linearity of action, frugality of editing, sobriety of dialogs, all that enhanced by the performance of an exceptional leading lady, who can beat it? Not me anyway. Hence the conclusion that if I were sure never to be able to do better, just as well stop filmmaking once and for all. That by itself could justify the title of this exhibition, but there is a more subtle twist. The original French title, Cinématographie sans films (an assonant play of words with télégraphie sans fil – aka TSF, the name of radio broadcasting in its pristine youth) was impossible to translate. Browsing through English approximations, Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms suddenly jumped to my mind, and it appeared that it could work also in German. After all, it has been said that the film camera could be a weapon… The amusing part is that the former title was much less radical in its implications. It meant nothing more than “look, folks, here are a few things I did outside movies.” Now it sounded like an adieu. As if the Angels (I don’t believe in God, I believe in the Angels – Cocteau, Rilke, Wim Wenders and Gitta Mallasz have something to do with it) had used that moment of openness to deliver me a message: “Hey kid (don’t forget they are eternal), you did play long enough with the toys of the XXth century, now it’s time to concentrate on the XXIst.” Who am I to disagree with the Angels?  So let it be a farewell. Yet don’t be surprised if I come back next month with a blockbuster: the right to contradict oneself was coined by Baudelaire in his project for a Constitution.

Chris Marker, A Farewell to Movies Abschied vom Kino. Hrsg. Andres Janser. Zürich: Museum für Gestaltung Zürich. 2008

Letter to the Minister

Le Joli mai by Chris Marker (1963)

Thanks to Lucien Bookmite for providing the original material for this translation of a letter from François Truffaut to the Minister of Information Alain Peyrefitte regarding the potential censorship of Chris Marker’s film Le Joli mai in the Spring of 1963. Honestly, we found this piece of history too interesting to leave buried in a comment. If you like, please consult the French original and comment thread.

To Alain Peyrefitte,
Paris, 25 april 1963

Sir Minister,

It may be that this letter will surprise you. We would certainly have greatly preferred to ask you to receive us in person, but, for the moment, we choose to write you to share with you our emotion and our hope.

We are told that you go, within some hours, to decide on the fate of a film which is very dear to us and whose projection moved us all. Le Joli mai appeared to us as a major film in an era when, as you said last year, “the forces of pressure on the individual conscience have become so numerous.” Our friend Chris Marker gives the floor directly to dozens of cornered, uncertain, anxious, at times mystified people, with a loyalty which touches us profoundly. You also said: “It is the plurality of perspectives, it is the confrontation of different opinions which can protect the fundamental liberties of citizens.”

Your comments, it is true, applied to the press. We believe in a cinema of personal expression. And Chris Marker is, for us, one of this cinema’s most brilliant directors. Freedom, in the cinema, encounters large and severe obstacles. Aside from economic pressures and commercial interests, it seems to us essential that the various families of mind can manifest themselves on the big screen.

We do not consider the cinema as an underdeveloped sector of culture. What is right for the press can, we believe, be right for the the cinema. For some years now, a new public has come into being. It reactions have become personalized. It judges. It has became an adult. As you go to decide on the public encounter with this difficult, ambitious film, and on this new type of spectator, we wanted to say to you that we consider this encounter essential, and that upon it depends a whole segment of the future of the French cinema.

We are persuaded, Sir Minister, that you will forgive the freedom which we took in informing you of our anxiety: the fate of Le Joli mai rests in your hands.

We emplore you to accept, Sir Minister, the expression of our great respect.

François Truffaut, Extrait de Corréspondance 1945–1984, Editions Hatier, 1988.

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