Musing on a gem
For me, this priceless gem of a video (a lightly edited recording leaning, like a cat’s paw on a keyboard, on the playback of another recording) takes us, as the image of the three children in Iceland that commences Sans Soleil, into another moment of happiness, or more than a moment – a lazy, timeless dream-stretch of happiness. Happiness here is stretched out over the length of a treasured song, the unclockable duration of a catnap, the extent without end of a loving gaze that could go on forever and yet is somehow captured in time. Time is marked by the pulsing of the lights, the periodic twitching of Guillaume-en-Egypte’s ears during particular sonic surges, the languid shifting of position, the stretching of a paw in a miniature feline yoga. Whereas the children in Iceland were placed at the beginning of a film to represent happiness, a happiness both eclipsed and preserved by the blackness that follows, this piece is placed as the entr’acte in a film about filmmaking, creativity truncated on all sides by the State and a man who once-upon-a-time made a film called Happiness. It is an intermission as détente, but one during which you won’t want to leave your seat. It is nested, an homage within an homage, in the eye of the storm. It is a light step taken out of history and into memory, where time loses its linearity and events dissolve into dreamtime. It is the record of two beings in absolute accord with each other.
History of a gem
The video [Chat écoutant la musique] is actually one of three parts to a ten-minute video anthology called Bestiaire. I haven’t seen the other two segments that follow this one. The middle piece deals with owls (cats with wings) and the final bit apparently shows animals in a zoo, gradually revealing their sad situation. Bestiaire itself was used by Marker as part of a larger video installation piece called Zapping Zone (Proposals for an Imaginary Television), in which Bestiaire and many other short video pieces (including excerpts from Marker’s longer films) played simultaneously on various TV screens stationed throughout the Pompidou Center. ZZ was mounted in 1990, and I believe Bestiaire was compiled in 1988. I’ve seen various resources cite the taping of this particular segment as taking place in 1985. […] I took the video from the European DVD for Marker’s The Last Bolshevik (1992), which uses the three minutes as an intermission [Entr’acte], of sorts, between the feature’s two halves.