Category Archives: Trace

Studio: A Remembrance of Chris Marker – Bartos, McCabe, Lerner

Ben Lerner, Chris Marker studio

Marker Studio, 2007 © Adam Bartos

He inferred that persons desiring to train this faculty (of memory) must select places and form mental images of the things they wish to remember and store those images in the places, so that the order of the places will preserve the order of the things, and the images of the things will denote the things themselves, and we shall employ the places and images respectively as a wax writing-tablet and the letters written on it.Cicero, De oratore [on Simionides discovery of the art of memory], quoted Frances Yates, The Art of Memory, 2

We have seen some photos on the net of late taken at Chris Marker’s atelier, showing the wealth of memorabilia, books, and technologies of a life of creation & travel that made up the precious space of his atelier, most of which we assume is now in the hands of the Cinémathèque française. It turns out that the photos are by Adam Bartos, and the Paris Review article where they were first glimpsed is just a hint of what is to come – a full book of his photos of Marker’s studio: Studio: A Remembrance of Chris Marker. The book will be published in 2017, so we have to be patient, but it promises innovative layouts including gatefold images, a text by Colin McCabe and an introduction by Lerner. Here’s the information I’ve been able to gather to date:

OR Book Going Rouge

Studio: A Remembrance of Chris Marker

ISBN 9781682190807
$40.00

OR Books
Photographs by Adam Bartos. Text by Colin McCabe. Introduction by Ben Lerner.
Hbk, 6.5 x 9.5 in. / 96 pgs / 21 color.
Pub Date: 5/23/2017 | Awaiting stock
U.S. $40.00 CDN $52.50

Chris Marker (1921–2012) was a celebrated French documentary film director, writer and photographer, best known for his films La Jetée, A Grin Without a Cat and Sans Soleil. He was described by fellow filmmaker Alain Resnais as “the prototype of the 21st-century man.” In this highly original book, Adam Bartos’ exquisite photographs of Marker’s studio, a workspace both extraordinarily cluttered and highly organized, appear alongside a moving reminiscence of his friend by the film theorist, Godard biographer and practitioner Colin MacCabe. The novelist and poet Ben Lerner provides a fulsome introduction to the work of Marker, Bartos and MacCabe. The physical structure of the book, incorporating an array of gatefold images, echoes Marker’s own commitment to radical, innovative form. The result is a compelling homage to one of the most important and original talents in modern cinema.
www.artbook.com

Chris Marker’s Studio – Adam Bartos and Ben Lerner

Chris Marker, whose name was not “Chris Marker,” was a play of masks and avatars, an artist who leapt, like one of his beloved cats, from medium to medium. If, as Walter Benjamin said, a great work either dissolves a genre or invents one, if each great work is a special case, Marker produced a series of special cases. He invented the genre of the essay film; he composed what is widely considered the greatest short film ever made, La Jetée, in 1962; in the late nineties, he issued one of the first major artworks of the digital age, the CD-ROM Immemory. Even Marker’s relation to his own celebrity was an evasive masterpiece: until his death in 2012, at ninety-one, he was everywhere and nowhere, refusing both the haughty fantasy of nonparticipation and the seductions of spectacle. How do you ­memorialize an artist who refused to remain identical to himself? How do you remember one of the great philosopher-artists of memory?

Adam Bartos’s photographs of Marker’s Paris studio offer a powerful answer; they are beautiful portraits from which the subject has gone missing.
www.theparisreview.org

Ben Lerner, Chris Marker studio

Marker Studio, 2007 © Adam Bartos

Ben Lerner, Chris Marker studio

Marker Studio, 2007 © Adam Bartos

Marker’s studio is a kind of (light-flooded) darkroom located off a Parisian boulevard and is as full of formerly futuristic keepsakes as a cosmonaut’s yard sale—that is to say, Bartos has been preparing, without knowing it, to shoot Marker’s studio for decades. The studio is both remarkably cluttered and remarkably clean. There is no trash (although there is plenty of kitsch), no dust; the thousands of books, VHS tapes, and CDs, the multiple computers, monitors, keyboards, and other production technologies all seem in their place. A sense of highly personal order prevails; Marker, I feel, would have just the right texts and images and totems at hand, but anyone else would be at a loss regarding how to navigate his systems. And while Marker isn’t at home, from every corner something gazes at us: his cats and owls, Kim Novak in a signed photograph (Vertigo was Marker’s favorite film), the paused image of an actress on a monitor (in these images, Marker will forever almost be right back), masks of various sorts, stuffed animals, et cetera. Marker’s mind seems spatialized here, as though we were looking into his memory palace, an elaborate, idiosyncratic mnemonic become a memorial. But a joyous memorial: joyous first, because Marker’s signature mix of seriousness and playfulness is palpable—we see a thousand grins and winks—and second, because Marker, instead of becoming the fixed ­object of elegy, has again given us the slip, allowing us an intimate glimpse, but of privacy.
Ben Lerner, Paris Review, No. 218 (Fall 2016).

For those interested in the idea of the memory palace, take a look at Jonathan Spence’s The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. The introduction to Marker’s Immemory is also invaluable, as he articulated there his concepts of mnemonics as an architecture of memory, linking it to a long European tradition most famously explored in Frances Yates’ The Art of Memory. Another great resource on medieval practices of the art of memory can be found in Mary Carruthers’ books: Carruthers, Mary. The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990 & Carruthers, Mary. The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400-1200. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Other sources can be found on our page DocuMemory: A Bibliography.

Chris Marker studio door with cat drawing

Marker Studio Front Door, 2008 © Adam Bartos

Art of Memory – From Chris Marker, Immemory

“L’Art de la Mémoire’ est […] une très ancienne discipline, tombée (c’est un comble) dans l’oubli à mesure que le divorce entre physiologie et psychologie se consommait. Certains auteurs anciens avaient des méandres de l’esprit une vision plus fonctioinnelle, et c’est Filippo Gesualdo, dans sa Plutosofia (1592) qui propose une image de la mémoire en termes d’«arborescence» parfaitement logicielle, si j’ose cet adjectif.”

[‘The art of memory’ is a very ancient discipline, fallen (that takes the cake!) into oblivion as the divorce between physiology and psychology came to pass. Certain antique authors had a more functional vision of the twists and turns of the mind, and it is Filippo Gesualdo, in his Plutosofia (1592) who proposes an image of memory in terms of ‘branching’ that is perfectly “softwary”, [softwarian?] if I dare use this adjective.]

State of the Estate II: The Glorious Shambles

Chris Marker atelier with Guillaume by Agnès Varda

In the middle, on the balcony, the tree has grown, just a little.Chris Marker

Though the article cited below focuses on the archive of Jacques Demy acquired by the Cinémathèque française, this interview, part two of a series between journalist Louis Guichard and the Cinémathèque’s head Serge Toubiana, takes a fascinating if brief detour into the case of the estate of Chris Marker. If it sounds like there’s a mystery novel in there somewhere, there is.

One of the ideas that appears here in nuce is that of mapping a tree structure of Marker’s work. I am led to imagine a majestic infographic showing the main trunk and the branches into bifurcating gardens of media visualizing the fruits of Marker’s bricolage. Immemory, Dialector, Second Life, YouTube. Collective work, personal work, anonymous work. Writing, photography, programming, book design. The branching of names, aliases, pen names, noms de guerre. Guillaume’s poptronics forays into political commentary. The filmic byproducts of Marker’s home away from home in Second Life, Ouvroir, including The Third Cat and Ouvroir: The Movie. Arborescent branchings of a life/work of intelligence and curiosity, ceaseless but ending nonetheless — though continued in all who were en-raptured by his work, echos, reverberations, new generations of artists — other trees that grew up around the central tree of life/work. And underneath the trees, the rhizomes, like the beach beneath the concrete, driving slogan of May ’68…

Here’s the excerpt that fills in some details to the already reported State of the Estate, back in June. You can follow Serge Toubiana’s blog at blog.cinematheque.fr. More of course as we know more.

L’acquisition d’archives payantes est-elle une option ?

[…]

Il y aussi le cas de Chris Marker, qui n’a pas fait de testament. Au cours des dernières années de sa vie, il était logé chez Costa-Gavras, président de la Cinémathèque, et il avait dit qu’il laisserait une lettre précisant ce qu’il voulait faire de ses archives. Mais on n’a rien trouvé de tel. A sa mort, il y a donc eu un inventaire sommaire et une recherche de descendance qui a identifié six personnes au 5e et 6e degrés… Nous leur avons fait une proposition qui a été retenue et nous avons acquis le fonds pour 40 000 euros. Nous nous sommes trouvés face à une sorte de gigantesque foutoir avec des lots énormes de photos, de négatifs, de disques durs, d’ordinateurs, tout le travail qu’il faisait sur Second Life, des centaines de petits objets, de collages, de journaux… Il gardait tout. Mais qu’en faire ? C’est un travail considérable. Nous avons constitué une équipe en interne chargée de poursuivre l’inventaire et de travailler sur le fonds numérique. De plus, un comité scientifique se réunit régulièrement. Comment montrer l’arborescence de cette œuvre hybride? Chris Marker était un média à lui tout seul. Peut-être faudra-t-il associer des ingénieurs à cette réflexion… Il y aura sans doute un événement Marker à la Cinémathèque en 2017 ou 2018.Serge Toubiana, interviewed by Louis Guichard, “Serge Toubiana : “Le don des archives Demy à la Cinémathèque est un geste de confiance et d’amitié”, www.telerama.fr

Rough English Translation

Is paying for archival acquisitions an option?

[…]

There is also the case of Chris Marker, who did not create a will. In the course of the last years of his life, he was living with Costa-Gavras, President of the Cinémathèque, and he had said that he would leave a letter specifying what he wished to do with his archives. But nothing like this was found. With his death, a summary inventory took place, along with research into his heirs that identified six persons removed by 5 or 6 degrees… We made them a proposition that was agreed upon and we acquired the estate for 40,000 Euros. We found ourselves faced with a sort of gigantic shambles, with enormous stacks of photos, negatives, hard drives, computers, all the work that he conducted in/on Second Life, hundreds of small objects, collages, journals… He kept everything. But what to do with it? It’s a considerable piece of work. We put together a team internally, charged with pursuing the inventory and working on the digital archive. In addition, a scientific committee meets regularly. How to present the tree structure of this hybrid work? Chris Marker was a media [enterprise] unto himself. Perhaps it will be necessary to have engineers consider this reflection… There will be without a doubt a Marker event at the Cinémathèque in 2017 or 2018.

Also, please stay tuned for our upcoming article on the new book ZOO, which collects the animals from the Petite Planète series Marker edited into an exciting new work.

L’An 2000 : Chris Marker Book Design

I betrayed Gutenberg for McLuhan a long time ago.Chris Marker

L'An 2000 design Chris Marker

Thanks to Christophe Chazalon, master archivist over at chrismarker.ch, for Christmas in June; CH2 sent a collection of images – page spreads from a curious volume entitled L’An 2000: une anti-histoire de la fin du monde, published in 1975 by Gallimard.  Like 2084, 4001, 3009, 2058, Bolaño’s 2066 (& La Jetée‘s un-numbered future dates), here we find more time travels from the late 20th c. to alternate epochs to come, an envisioned ‘prospectivist’ Y2K in this case. This book comes to my attention as something completely new, on my radar at least… It is a book where Marker’s roles seem to have been lead photographer and lead book designer. These images are further evidence of Marker as designer – one with a potent combo of wit, dark humor, visual acuity, and the unique application of montage to book design.

Recent and needed devotion of attention to Marker’s editorial and design role at Seuil has come out of late surrounding the Petite Planète travel book series. It is in this vein that we can perceive Marker’s mastery of layout, via which he brings the Trojan horse of his unparalleled visual & political wit. The spreads seen here are witty, yes, but not whimsical; some heavy political narratives live within the image concatenations.

To touch on the opening quote, despite the extreme aptness & quotability of the line, Marker was as intimate with Gutenberg as he was with McLuhan. The vast majority of his ‘estate’ consists of books. And he knew how to make them too. He weaves the two ciphers for media stages/epochs, over and over again, into rare media fabrics and a new temporal praxis for media. The book form of La Jetée is the most shining example, truly a ciné-roman (and one that was dear to his heart – he absolutely loved the book). Then we have the two volume Commentaires, the book Le Dépays, the out-of-print book of Le fonds de l’air est rouge, and Staring Back. Perhaps the magnum opus of Marker’s book design is Corréennes. I can’t think of any other cinéastes with this impressive skill set and printed oeuvre.

Marker’s layout genius is linked to the true métier of film editing, the cuts and splices, the choices and juxtapositions that make of Sans Soleil such an invitation au voyage. Gutenberg in motion, if you will, with Baudelaire sulking in the background. The tradition of emblems and ‘world turned upside down’ in French literature & publishing would be well-worth exploring in this connection, as it links Marker with a deeper anti-authoritarian artistic tradition, a grand example of which can be found in the hilarious Le Monde à l’envers carnivalesque visual genre of early modern Europe (18th/19th centuries, though examples date much further back).

For further reading, check the “Related Posts” links below, as well as Rick Poynor’s excellent article on book design & Marker’s Commentaires. For an overview of the life and works of André-Clément Decouflé, ‘sociologue, historien et prospectiviste’, consult this French Wikipedia article.

Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 09 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 08 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 07 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 06 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 05 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 04 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 03 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 02 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 01 Decoufle - An 2000 (1975) 10

La prospective, qu’il contribua à largement à faire reconnaître en France par ses ouvrages et ses interventions à la télévision, fut progressivement délaissée parce qu’il estimait s’être complètement trompé sur sa vision de l’an 2000, vingt cinq ans avant l’avènement du troisième millénaire.André-Clément Decouflé, fr.wikipedia.org

Finally, let’s not forget the unforgetable publication – with Marker’s aid – of William Klein’s Life is good & Good for You in New York: Trance Witness Revels (1956). Subject for another post. Again here, we are witness to the revolution of layout and photography, in a much more extreme manner than Marker’s own work, but certainly not unrelated.

L’idée d’« Album Petite Planète » séduira les patrons du Seuil mais n’aboutie qu’à la sortie d’un volume de photographies de William Klein, Life is good and good for you in New York (1956). L’exceptionnelle qualité des images, de la mise en page et de l’impression singularisent ce livre.Chris Marker au Seuil, Hervé Serry

William Klein, New York New York

State of the Estate

Cinematheque francaise

What follows is a rough translation of an online announcement from the Cinémathèque française on the state of a three year inventory of the estate of Chris Marker, contained in 550 boxes initially upon receipt. The original article can be found at Fonds Chris Marker : où en est l’inventaire ?. This news is, quite simply, unbelievably exciting. My inner archivist wants to take the next plane to Paris.

§

Estate Chris Marker: Where are we at with the inventory?

In the Spring of 2013, the Cinémathèque française took possession to its archives 550 large moving boxes containing the archives of Chris Marker, deceased during the summer of the preceding year. Under the conduct of a scientific committee of individuals close to the filmmaker and familiar with his work, the inventory of the estate began rapidly. The total duration of the operation was estimated at around three years. So where are we, two years later?

The 550 boxes that make up the estate are divided as follows:

5 boxes of posters; 6 boxes of LP records and musical documents; 15 boxes of photographs; 55 boxes of objects, miniatures…; 66 boxes of audiovisual material (Beta, master…); 98 boxes of archives (press documentation, files & folders); 112 boxes of VHS and DVD edits and personal recordings; 137 boxes of periodicals and books.

At this point in time, the boxes of photographs have been thoroughly inventoried, although not all photographs have been identified. Similarly, the inventory of ‘apparatuses/apparatii’ [appareils] is complete. The library of Chris Marker, rich with some 137 boxes, has been made the object of a deeper study and is approaching completion. An actively used library, as opposed to a collector’s library, it presents a singularity in so far as each work is stuffed with diverse documents: letters, press clipings, etc. Each volume therefore has been the object of a precise description of the elements that it contains. To get an idea of this library, the inventory would be certainly instructive, but evidently insufficient. A virtual library project is therefore being considered.

The inventory continues currently with the objects, posters, audiovisual materials and paper archives. This work should be completed by Fall 2015. The inventory of hard drives, on which Marker worked during the course of the last 20 years of his life, has also begun. These discs contain several million files. To bring to fruition the description of their contents will be a long-term work [‘de longue haleine’, literally ‘of long breath’]. Similarly, initial work on the state of more than a thousand digital diskettes [floppies/zip/flash drives presumably] has begun with the help of a digital conservation specialist [digital archivist]. A work of securing and restoring, an indispensible prior step to taking an inventory, will be conducted in the coming months.

During the course of the Fall, the VHS, DVD, CD and vinyl LPs will be inventoried, permitting thereby, with the horizon of Summer 2016, to have analyzed the sum total of the boxes of the estate and to have arrived at an initial, global view of its coherence and richness. Work on cataloging can then begin, with the objective remaining to place the estate at the disposition of researchers starting in 2018, while presenting it as well in the form of a grand exhibition at the Cinémathèque française. The scientific committee is already working toward this goal.

Joël Daire, with the participation of Valérie Sanroma-Kernke and Marie Bergue

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

Fonds Chris Marker – 550 Grands Cartons chez Cinémathèque française

Pleased to see a web presence for the estate of Chris Marker at the Cinémathèque française: www.cinematheque.fr. Here is the current communication available, discussing the reception of 550 large boxes from the Marker’s personal estate, the sum total of his books, harddrives, memorabilia, computers, press clippings, keepsakes from uncountable years of travel. What followed and still follows is an inventory of all these materials. This article represents a ‘state of the estate’ two years in to a three year project of conservation and curation. We will get this translated into English [State of the Estate] as soon as possible.

Fonds Chris Marker : où en est l’inventaire ?

Au printemps 2013, la Cinémathèque française a accueilli dans ses réserves 550 grands cartons de déménagement contenant les archives de Chris Marker, décédé durant l’été de l’année précédente. Sous la conduite d’un comité scientifique composé de personnalités proches du cinéaste et familières de son œuvre, l’inventaire du fonds a débuté rapidement. La durée totale de l’opération était estimée à environ trois années. Où en est-on, deux ans après ?

Les 550 cartons qui composent le fonds se répartissent comme suit :

5 cartons d’affiches ; 6 cartons de disques vinyles, documents sonores ; 15 cartons de photographies ; 39 cartons d’appareils informatiques, vidéo et disques durs ; 55 cartons d’objets, miniatures… ; 66 cartons de supports audiovisuels (Beta, master…) ; 98 cartons d’archives (presse documentation, dossiers) ; 112 cartons de VHS et DVD édités et d’enregistrements personnels ; 137 cartons de périodiques et d’ouvrages.

A ce jour, les cartons de photographies ont été entièrement inventoriés, bien que toutes les photos n’aient pas encore pu être identifiées. De même, l’inventaire des appareils est achevé. La bibliothèque de Chris Marker, riche de quelque 137 cartons, a fait l’objet d’un travail approfondi en voie d’achèvement. Bibliothèque de travail, et non de collectionneur, elle présente la singularité que chaque ouvrage est truffé de documents divers : correspondances, coupures de presse, etc. Chaque volume a ainsi dû faire l’objet d’une description précise des éléments qu’il contenait. Pour rendre compte de cette bibliothèque, le rapport d’inventaire sera certes instructif, mais à l’évidence insuffisant. Un projet de bibliothèque virtuelle est donc à l’étude.

L’inventaire se poursuit actuellement avec les objets, les affiches, les supports audiovisuels et les archives papier. Ce travail devrait être achevé à l’automne 2015. L’inventaire des disques durs, sur lesquels Chris Marker a travaillé au cours des vingt dernières années de sa vie, a également débuté. Ces disques contiennent plusieurs millions de fichiers. Mener à bien la description de ces contenus sera un travail de longue haleine. De même, un premier travail a été mené sur le fonds de près d’un millier de disquettes informatiques, par une conservatrice spécialiste de ce type de support. Un travail de sauvegarde et de restauration, préalable indispensable à l’inventaire des contenus, sera mené dans les prochains mois.

Dans le courant de l’automne, ce sont les collections de VHS, DVD, CD et disques vinyle qui seront inventoriés, permettant ainsi, à l’horizon de l’été 2016, d’avoir analysé l’ensemble des cartons du fonds et d’avoir ainsi une première vue globale de sa cohérence et de sa richesse. Le travail de catalogage pourra alors commencer, l’objectif demeurant de mettre le fonds à la disposition des chercheurs à l’horizon de 2018, en même temps qu’il sera présenté sous forme d’une grande exposition à la Cinémathèque française, sur laquelle le comité scientifique commence déjà à travailler.

Rappelons que ce comité est composé de : Raymond Bellour, écrivain, critique, chercheur et enseignant ; Laurence Braunberger, productrice ; Jean-Michel Frodon, journaliste et enseignant ; Raymonde Morin-Bouche, représentant la succession Chris Marker ; Serge Toubiana, directeur général de la Cinémathèque française ; Christine Van Asche, conservatrice honoraire au Centre Georges Pompidou.Joël Daire, avec le concours de Valérie Sanroma-Kernke et Marie Bergue

Chris Marker Archives Postcard

Letter à Alain de Chris Marker – Exhilaration

Though the context is in absentia, a letter of Chris Marker to Alain Cuny has suddenly appeared on the site www.derives.tv. The letter is from 1991, so the year of Marker’s 70th birthday. The word ‘relics’ somehow comes to mind. It was a Pink Floyd album title, and connotes as well a practice of conserving what remains behind when a great being has departed, often in a saintly or lama-esque context. Somehow the spirit of that being inheres, inhabits the relic. So it is here, though we know that Marker would be the last artist to desire the collection of his own relics. So let us call it a letter, plain and simple, a piece of communication snatched out of time and circumstance. It is a tale in letter form of the magic of cinema, that creates an eternal feeling. Marker had not felt this for a while, then here: an evening of deep emotional engagement in the cinema, triggering all the great films that lived inside him and a moment of heightened awareness that he calls ‘exhilaration’. For he was, like many great filmmakers, a great spectator as well.

Many thanks post-post for an email from one who has done more research on Marker than anyone I can think of – not that it’s a contest, but his work is truly invaluable – Christophe Chazalon. M. Chazalon inquired and received a negative of a page from Libération where this text was originally printed. The film in question turns out to be L’Annonce faite à Marie, directed by M. Cuny. The Libé article’s title: “Chris Marker: ‘De l’ordre du miracle’, with this editorial blurb below: “En 1991, au sortir d’une des première projections de ‘l’Annonce faite à Marie’, Chris Marker écrivait au ‘jeune’ metteur en scène.” I also thank M. Chazalon for delivery of a fully proofed, corrected text of the letter. Merci bien!

You can download the pdf of this newspaper negative here. En plus, Dorna Khazeni has kindly agreed to translate the letter to English, so stay tuned, same cat channel…

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Cher Alain –

Giraudoux écrivait qu’on jugeait une pièce (ou un film) à la façon dont on se réveillait le lendemain matin. De ce point de vue, l’expérience est concluante. Mais en fait elle a commencé dès hier soir quand nous sommes rentrés. Depuis combien de temps n’avais-je pas éprouvé cette espèce d’allégresse physique qui surgit quand quelque chose a bougé en vous pendant le temps d’une projection ? Et combien de films ai-je vus ces dernières années, dont je sortais en égrenant une espèce d’examen comptable : oui, le metteur en scène avait du talent, oui, les acteurs étaient excellents, oui, l’image était belle, oui, l’histoire était intéressante… Et puis ? Et puis rien. Rien n’avait bougé. J’avais vu un film, voilà tout, et il s’enfonçait déjà dans les marécages de l’oubli. Je savais qu’en amont de toutes les critiques et de tous les compliments, il aurait dû y avoir cet ébranlement initial, cette prise de possession par un autre à quoi, dans ma jeunesse, je reconnaissais les œuvres qui me marqueraient pour la vie. J’accusais l’âge, la sclérose de l’enthousiasme, la saturation de la télé… Voyez si je peux vous être reconnaissant de m’avoir rendu d’un coup la joie d’une soirée, et ce goût d’éternité que je savourais quelquefois à la sortie d’un théâtre ou d’un cinéma dans les temps lointains où nous nous étions déjà rencontrés… Que vous soyez arrivé du premier coup à l’essentiel, que vous ayez (j’en suis sûr, d’instinct plus que méditation) trouvé la distance juste, parfaite, avec un texte qui est posé sur le film comme un fil-de-ferriste (un pas de côté, c’est la chute), que vous ayez en somme inventé la seule manière de faire vivre et écouter ces personnages dans l’univers piégé du cinématographe, c’est de l’ordre du miracle. Comme est miraculeuse cette voix de Violaine. Là, nous sommes à des années-lumière du bien dit ou du bien joué. Nous sommes dans la vérité intérieure, dans cette adéquation totale de la voix avec sa parole que seule quelquefois la musique est capable de construire : il ne faudrait pas me pousser beaucoup pour me faire dire que jamais un texte n’a été servi avec autant de droiture, de rayonnante humilité. L’humilité ! Pas une qualité qui déborde dans notre beau métier… Ici elle sous-tend toute l’entreprise, elle donne son véritable contrepoids à la grandeur. Jamais la beauté de l’image (et Dieu sait qu’elle est belle) ne s’exerce aux dépens du texte. Costumes, décor, musique, tout est à sa bonne distance, rien ne cherche à briller pour soi tout seul, cette métaphore de la cathédrale qui embrasse toute la pièce, la voilà qui s’incarne dans le film lui-même, comme une mise en abîme qui s’ouvre vers le haut.

Je viens de me relire, et ces mots me paraissent vains et vides. Ce qu’il faudrait que je vous communique, c’est ce par quoi je commençais, cet état de bien-être physique qui défie le commentaire (l’anglais a un mot pour ça, intraduisible, exhilaration). Quand nous sommes sortis de la vidéothèque, avec mon amie Catherine, nous respirions mieux, nous respirions plus haut.

A vous, fidèlement
Chris Marker (1991)

Alain Cuny, L’Annonce faite à Marie

Finally, here is the film in question, on YouTube, hélas.

Amitié

chris marker photograph aka sandor krasna

Sandor Krasna, Flikr
Amitié | Friendship with the animal kingdom, arguably the source, along with music, of emotional connection in all of Chris Marker’s creations.

For Marker, ‘things that quicken the heart’ always include revered animals, along with music. These are sources of the emotional connection in Chris Marker’s creations, a connection which parallels at a deeper level the intellectual activity of resolving word and image. Emotional emblematics works on the subliminal level so that our minds are expanded while the heart is opened; this emotional symphonics is often only consciously realized later, in the wake of viewing — in the absorption phase. The question has lingered for decades: why do we feel the way we do after watching a Chris Marker film? An image such as this that I call here “Amitié” or “Friendship” specifically with animals may be a clue, an essai… to uncover discover reveal appeal to the emotional power, very unsung, in his films, and alive too, quite alive in his photography as well. With great friendship comes the possibility of great loss. We felt that … we sure did …

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.

Exodus

Happy Birthday Tom Luddy

Tom LuddyHappy Birthday Tom LuddyHappy Birthday wishes go out today to Tom Luddy, longtime Chris Marker friend, director of the Telluride Film Festival, longtime director of the Pacific Film Archive, and a man well worth knowing. Tom’s been a trusted supporter of this site, and has helped answer many questions – my own and others’ – on Marker’s films. When I first met Tom, he let me sit in Sean Penn’s office to view some Marker VHS tapes. I was dumbstruck. I was happy. As we walked to North Beach in San Francisco to find the best espresso ever, he talked of ‘Chris’, of Sans Soleil, of Junkopia, of Tarkovsky, of beings I perhaps did not believe really existed, much less had friendships and drank coffee, slept and got up the next morning. He handed me one of the first books on Chris Marker, a gift. Marker had no use for it, as a small note inside stated. Tom also introduced me to Dorna K., for which I am also eternally grateful – another masterful being. They are real. They have birthdays. A happy one to you Tom!

Here’s an interesting trace of Marker and Luddy.

As you probably know Chris did not make public appearances as a rule, and tried to prevent anyone taking a picture of him too. We were friends and I had also assisted him on three films: “San Soleil,” “The Owl’s Legacy” and “Junktopia.”

I persuaded him to come to Telluride… this was l987. We showed “La Jetee” and “San Soleil.” He would not appear before or after the film inside the theatre — The Sheridan Opera House — but I was allowed to tell the audience that he would be outside on the grass after the film and people could speak to him informally and this happened then, and throughout the weekend with people walking up to him for a chat. Even though he said NO PICTURES, someone did take this picture surreptitiously.Tom Luddy

Telluride Chris Marker at invitation of Tom Luddy

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