Category Archives: Time Travel

Cuba Si! by Chris Marker (1961)

Cuba Si!, Chris Marker’s 1961 film about the late Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution, was produced by Pierre Braunberger and banned in France. It contains much original footage of Castro speaking, and is one of a handful of films not available, to my knowledge, on DVD. It is rarely shown and was not considered by Marker himself as part of his oeuvre that he wished to have projected. He talked about his early films as ‘sketches’ of what was to come, of their being preludes to his later work (post 1962 I believe was his internal dividing line, expressed publicly from time to time). Nonetheless, it is unmistakably a Marker film, bearing his signature, his political engagement, his humour and his curiosity.

And indeed, we witness in the evolution of his work an interesting tendency to revisit topics in a more full-bodied manner, transitioning often from court-métrage to long-métrage.* In this line of thinking, Le Mystère Koumiko (1965) forms a prelude to the more wide-ranging Sans Soleil in its more thorough treatment of Japanese culture. His first film on Alexandr Medvedkin, The Train Rolls On (1972), become the masterpiece letter-film The Last Bolshevik two decades later (1992). Cuba Si! found itself incorporated in part in Le fond de l’air est rouge (1977), itself expanded and revised for the English version Grin Without a Cat in 1988.

La Jetée (1963) also found itself inhabiting – in nuanced references – the expanded space of Sans Soleil, though this case is different, for this film begins the period that Marker embraced and encouraged to be shown, inaugurating what he apparently viewed as his mature period and willing the earlier works to the ‘dustbin of history’ – though there was by then already a sizable and wonderful oeuvre, especially when one considers his collaborative work with Resnais. The same year brought Le Joli mai, Marker’s exploration of Paris and the Parisian Zeitgeist using the new technique of ‘direct cinema’ in the wake of the French war in Algeria (1954 to 1962), and Marker oversaw its remastering and re-release before the end of his life.

With Cuba Si!, La Jetée and Le Joli mai, in effect we have portraits of the aftermaths of three wars, with three wildly different approaches – documentary, science fiction and direct cinema. The subject is omnipresent in Marker’s work, returning forcefully again in Level Five‘s treatment of Okinawa and the brutal end of WWII in the Pacific.

Of course, Marker fans would wish to salvage all of Marker’s films, and have in large part been granted that wish with the ongoing releases on DVD in French and English – though English-speaking fans and followers still await the big-yet-incomplete step towards an Oeuvres complètes of the magnificent Planète Chris Marker collection, still available only in French. Instead, we have the rich Chris Marker Collection, published by Soda Pictures (following the impetus of the Whitechapel exhibition), and many individual releases.

For a inventive thematic look at Marker’s work circa 1963 (but before La Jetée and Joli Mai), take a look at the essay Markeriana by Roger Tailleur, newly added to the site’s core content.

In any case, it seemed like the right moment for this site to track down this YouTube version of Cuba Si!, despite the poor quality and the ads, alas, as Fidel Castro has now passed, and with him the era whose inception this film documents, when Marker was 40 and the Sixties were just beginning their wild inscriptions into history and memory.

Marker, in the “Sixties” essay mentioned above, recollecting 1967, riffs on Cuba and Castro in what could stand as an interesting postscript to Cuba Si!:

Chance having made me born a bit restless and gifted with the insatiable curiosity of the Elephant’s Child, when I browse mentally my diary of 1967 I think on the contrary that one had to be pretty dumb not to catch a glimpse of what was already cooking. Springtime: a trip to Cuba, at its heretic best (to the extent that the sheer name of Cuba never appeared any more in L’Humanité, the French communist newspaper), Fidel thundering against the dogmatism of the Marxist-Leninist manuals, severing ties with all the communist parties in South America, explaining to us that the time had come for ‘non-Party people, new people, who break with that tepid, weakly, pseudo-revolutionary model of some who boast to be revolutionaries …’, wrong-footing his Russian allies in such a way that one year later, on the verge of delivering the famous speech in which he would align with the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia, everybody in Havana was certain that he was to announce the split with the USSR (the icy shower would be but icier, but so goes History).

En France, selon les textes en vigueur du Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, la durée d’un long métrage est supérieure à une heure, plus exactement à 58 minutes et 29 secondes, c’est-à-dire l’équivalent d’une bobine de film de 35 mm standard de 1 600 mètres.
Wikipedia.fr

Time Travel Specialist

chat2000v2

I’m working – and reaching out once again to a friend better qualified – on translating a fine story involving the encounter of Chris Marker and Thoma Vuille, awesome street artist and creator of M. CHAT. The story, “Chats percheurs – La rencontre entre Chris Marker et M. CHAT racontée par Louise Traon,” appears currently in French on Arte.tv’s Creative site, and is accompanied by a short documentary well worth watching, as the story is well worth reading. For now, let’s start with a mysterious quote from Marker. I’m not sure yet if it is an excerpt of a letter to M. Vuille or not, but I presume so.

First we must fill in some background. You may recall that in Sans Soleil, the date 4001 is introduced and has special signifcance:

That’s for a start. Now why this cut in time, this connection of memories? That’s just it, he can’t understand. He hasn’t come from another planet; he comes from our future, 4001: 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.

Sans Soleil, trans. courtesy of markertext.com

Fast forward to 2038, several years before the loss of forgetting and a lone Third Worlder of time, to the epistolary fragment quoted on arte’s page:

« daté du… 19 janvier 2038 à 4h14 du matin.

Pour un spécialiste des voyages dans le temps, c’est impressionnant. Ce serait d’ailleurs une bonne illustration du paradoxe temporel. Si je vous disais (puisqu’il y a de fortes chances que vous passiez un jour par cette date et cette heure) de veiller à ce qui s’y passera, ce serait une façon d’y attirer votre attention, et par conséquent c’est moi qui déclencherais dans le futur l’événement du présent… Encore un anneau de Moebius dont on ne sort pas. »

Chris Marker

The gist of this quote in English:

“dated … January 19th, 2038 at 4:14 a.m.”

“For a specialist in time travel, it’s impressive. This would be moreover a good illustration of temporal paradox. If I told you (because there’s a strong likelihood that you will pass through this date and this hour) to look out for what will happen then, this would be a means of drawing your attention to it, and consequently it is I who would unleash in the future the event of the present… Once again a Möbius strip without exit.”

Chris Marker

I hope to present you with the full story soon. À bientôt!

Update

The translation by Dorna Khazeni is here: The Encounter of M. Chat & Chris Marker as Told By Louise Traon.

Speechless

As many, I am speechless to learn of the passing of Chris Marker. He lives on in our hearts and minds, in his incomparable work, in the inner sanctum of eternity—”au lieu d’un mort, on fait un éternel.” Much will be written; for now we feel.

Guillaume’s Adieu & the Disorder of Time

Chris Marker Copenhagen 3009

Prompted out of a kind of suspended time of my own by several emails from Christophe Payet, “journaliste pigiste,”  I found my one-d and zeroed way to the above image on poptronics’  site, and thought about the strange swirling of time, the wounds of time as they might possibly exist in the New Year within the being named Chris Marker. I wandered simultaneously upon a passage in Roberto Bolano’s 2066, which has been keeping me company late at night:

And then he spied a tremor in the sea, as if the water were sweating too, or as if it were about to boil. A barely perceptible simmer that spilled into ripples, building into waves that came to die on the beach. And then Pelletier felt dizzy and a hum of bees came from outside. And when the hum faded, a silence that was even worse fell over the house and everywhere around. And Pelletier shouted Norton’s name and called to her, but no one answered his calls, as if the silence had swallowed up his cries for help. And then Pelletier began to weep and he watched as what was left of a statue emerged from the bottom of the metallic sea. A formless chunk of stone, gigantic, eroded by time and water, though a hand, a wrist, part of a forearm could still be made out with total clarity. And the statue came out of the sea and rose above the beach and it was horrific and at the same time very beautiful.

With the aforementioned emails came news of Guillaume’s farewell to poptronical submissions, and a kind of rumor wave of retreat or retirement rushed through the markerian emotional landscape at the speed of telepathy, dotted by these sundry asynchronous dates: 3009, the arrival of Guillaume at a ballardian drowned world in his sleek skimming time-travel merkabah vehicle; 2010 the faux-hollywood poster graphic of a kind of adieu – certainly seeming more that than an au revoir – clearly containing within it a parody of the hypertrophic apocalyptical thunderings of the as yet unseen movie 2012, combined with one interpretation, a hopeful one, of a  feline mutation to fit the times, like the origin of Batman or some other superhero, as if Guillaume’s wit and emblematic wry underminings of power in the form of collage barrage that have graced poptronics’ site were no longer enough, could no longer hold at bay another round of disappointment.

More wounds of history, more memories and more oblivion. And a rising from the ashes, a phoenix move on the part of the cat, or a vacation in time, considering… “Considering”* is a bit like the famous bon mot by André Gide when asked about the greatest French poet, his answer of course being “Victor Hugo, hélas”.  Best wishes, alas. And more dates: 2084, 2066, 4001 (the era of perfect memory). In a way, Guillaume takes off like Pacal Wotan takes off, in his spaceship-for-one. Marker may take off the way the Mayans took off, in mystery and grace and full of traces. Meanwhile, the disappearances continue: the world empties itself out, migrating in the manner of bees to an as-yet undisclosed location, a new world. There is a kind of cultural colony collapse disorder happening, as a Mandelstamian cry of “No!”  against those who would hold the suicidal oligarchy together with string and glue. 2010, alas. Happy New Year, horrific and beautiful.

For further reading:

Après l’adieu aux films (Farewell to movies, 2008), ce départ de Guillaume-en-Egypte nous condamne-t-il à un silence définitif de Chris Marker ? N’ayant jamais été bien loquace, Chris Marker a su se faire maître dans l’art du « silence éloquent ». Guillaume, son « double bavard », à son tour retiré, voilà l’humanité privée d’un précieux observateur. N’allons toutefois pas trop vite en besogne. Notre élégie précoce n’est que souffrance amoureuse. Si à la chute de Guillaume, rien ne succède, alors il y a bien quelque chose qui pour nous s’éteindra.

* Marker explains his choice of the word “Considering”: “…considering est le point d’ironie qu’on ajoute à un bilan par ailleurs catastrophique (exemple : dans “Asphalt Jungle”, Louis Calhern à Marilyn Monroe qui vient de le balancer aux flics “You did quite well, considering”) …” [poptronics]

Reeling in the Years

We are so accustomed to viewing all films over and over again, the fictitious ones as well as those pertaining to our lives; we have been so thoroughly contaminated by a retrospective technique that we are quite capable, under the blow of contemporary vertigo, to rethread history as one threads a film wrong side up.

Jean Baudrillard, Reversion of History

Wexner offers Chris Marker’s History of Art Postcards

Chris Marker: How a grinning cat visits the History of Art - 10 PostcardsWhile browsing the Wexner Center Chris Marker Store of late, along with the recent release of the English text of Coréennes with letterpress cover, we came upon an additional collector’s item created by Chris Marker—a set of 10 postcards re-visiting, from a cat’s perspective, the History of Art. The set is published by Peter Blum, curator of the recent extensive gallery show of Marker’s photographs and installations in New York, and offered for sale by Wexner.

While we haven’t seen the postcards yet, we can’t help but think of the virtual gallery tour of “Pictures at an Exhibition,” which also revisits the history of art from an irreverent digital bricoleur’s perspective. Marker’s productions ‘d’ocassion,’ such as these seem to be, each grow from the previous, with modified perspectives and end products—rhizomatically, as it were. The Museum, in the process, reappears in miniaturized and parodic form; the monolithic cultural storehouses of the past seem to receive and inexorably incorporate material from other time zones and other realities. On the level of production-scale, one can see once again the fruits of the ‘caméra-stylo,’ a further avenue of expression for the one-man, many-cats production team.

Chris Marker: how a grinning cat visits the History of Art – 10 Postcards
Chris Marker
Peter Blum Editions

Chris Marker’s trademark grinning yellow cat pops in to works of art by Goya, van Gogh, Picasso, and others in this set of ten postcards collected in a transparent envelope.

We also have a limited number of special signed editions for $60.

$20.00 | Member price: $18.00

La Jetée: Academy One by J.G. Ballard

This strange and poetic film, a fusion of science fiction, psychological fable and photo-montage, creates in its unique way a series of bizarre images of the inner landscapes of time. Apart from a brief three-second sequence—a young woman’s hesitant smile, a moment of extraordinary poignancy, like a fragment of a child’s dream—the thirty-minute film is composed entirely of still photographs. Yet this succession of disconnected images is a perfect means of projecting the quantified memories and movements through time that are the film’s subject matter.

The jetty of the title is the main observation platform at Orly Airport. The long pier reaches out across the concrete no man’s land, the departure-point for other worlds. Giant jets rest on the apron beside the pier, metallic ciphers whose streamlining is a code for their passage through time. The light is powdery. The spectators on the observation platform have the appearance of mannequins. The hero is a small boy, visiting the airport with his parents. Suddenly there is a fragmented glimpse of a man falling. An accident has occurred, but while everyone is running to the dead man the small boy is looking instead at the face of a young woman by the rail. Something about this face, its expression of anxiety, regret and relief, and above all the obvious but unstated involvement of the young woman with the dead man, creates an image of extraordinary power in the boy’s mind.

Years later, World War III breaks out. Paris is almost obliterated by an immense holocaust. A few survivors live in the circular galleries below the Palais de Chaillot, like rats in some sort of abandoned test-maze warped out of its normal time. The victors, distinguished by the strange eye-pieces they wear, begin to conduct a series of experiments on the survivors, among them the hero, now a man of about thirty. Faced with a destroyed world, the experimenters are hoping to send a man through time. They select the young man because of the powerful memory he carries of the pier at Orly. With luck he will hom eon to this. Other volunteers have gone insane, the but extraordinary strength of his memory carries him back to pre-war Paris. The sequence of images here is the most remarkable in the film, the subject lying in a hammock in the underground corridor as if waiting for some inward sun to rise, a bizarre surgical mask over his eyes—in my experience, the only convincing time travel in the whole of science fiction.

Arriving in Paris, he wanders amon the strange crowds, unable to make contact with anyone until he meets the young woman he had seen as a child at Orly Airport. They fall in love, but their relationship is marred by his sense of isolation in time, his awareness that he has committed some kind of psychological crime in pursuing this memory. As if trying to place himself in time, he takes the young woman to museums of paleontology, and they spend days among the fossil plants and animals. They visit Orly Airport, where he decides that he will not go back to the experimenters at Chaillot. At this moment three strange figures appear. Agents from an even more distant future, they are policing the time-ways, and have come to force him back. Rather than leave the young woman, he throws himself from the pier. The falling body is the one he glimpsed as a child.

This familiar theme is treated with remarkable finesse and imagination, its symbols and perspectives continually reinforcing the subject matter. Not once does it make use of the time-honoured conventions of traditional science fiction. Creating its own conventions from scratch, it triumphantly succeeds where science fiction invariably fails.

Transcribed from mat3i.tumblr.com

2058 at the Tate

Strange days have found us. The Tate Modern has published an article from the future (about a current exhibit) called “TH.2058” by Dominique Gonzales-Foerster,* dated October 2058. We like the choice of films and novels offered to the soaked inhabitants of this London to come. We are reminded even of a haunting song: “Lost Rivers of London,” by the late great COIL. In any case, here is an excerpt:

2058 by Dominique Gonzales-Foerster - Tate ModernA giant screen shows a strange film, which seems to be as much experimental cinema as science fiction. Fragments of Solaris, Fahrenheit 451 and Planet of the Apes are mixed with more abstract sequences such as Johanna Vaude’s L’Oeil Sauvage but also images from Chris Marker’s La Jetée. Could this possibly be the last film?

On the beds are books saved from the damp and treated to prevent the pages going mouldy and disintegrating. On every bunk there is at least one book, such as JG Ballard’s The Drowned World, Jeff Noon’s Vurt, Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, but also Jorge Luis Borges’s Ficciones and Roberto Bolaño’s 2666.

It seems Bolaño’s future is more future than this future, and it may well be that La Jetée’s is even further out and farther in. The Man in the High Castle was a novel about a parallel or alternate past, constructed meticulously out of coin tosses at the I Ching.  En plus, it seemed to be raining all the time in Blade Runner. Still, this is all just prehistory to the distant future of 4001, the era of perfect memory. What will the humans or otherwise reigning intelligences be viewing and reading then on their möbius magnetic bible?

The Last Film, which plays on the huge screen overlooking the Turbine Hall, similarly assembles excerpts from the experimental films of Chris Marker and Peter Watkins, and the science fiction of George Lucas and Nicolas Roeg. Scenes of shelter and archives are drawn from Richard Fleischer’s Soylent Green and Alain Resnais’s Toute la mémoire du monde, alongside sequences of urban expectation from Peter Weir’s The Last Wave, the apocalyptic explosion of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point and the dystopian vision of a world without books in François Truffaut’s adaptation of Fahrenheit 451.

* See also: Dominique Gonzalez Foerster: Essays

PsyCat

Memory of the Future

Thank you to DT for bringing this prescient Guillaume moment from 6 November 2004 (!) to our attention. [See comments on post “Guillaume Sends a Message“]. This collage was originally published in Un Regard Moderne.

prescient

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.