Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

Chris + Andrei


Last Updated on January 16, 2021 by bricoleur

Chris Marker at the funeral of Andrei Tarkovsky

Chris Marker at the funeral of Andrei Arsenevich Tarkovsky. Les deux maîtres. It is au revoir not adieu, one may only hope. If rockstars can reunite in heaven, why not filmmakers? Imagine a film that combines the already fathomless treasures of La Jetée and Stalker

In a wonderful article on the Tate Museum site, Robert Bird rightly emphasizes the metaphysical (I would say spiritual) presence in both Tarkovsky’s films and in Chris Marker’s film tribute to him, One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich.

His quote of Frederic Jameson shows just how easy it can be for his brand of dialectical ‘insight’ to go astray, imposing an aporia where there is a mystery, a cynicism towards the “natural” when captured by a technology, where instead there is a devotional aspect toward the elements—with the camera striving to reach beyond the visible.

Marker’s film beautifully reveals his understanding of Tarkovsky’s connection to the elemental realms.

Speaking of the grand long take at the end of Andrei Tarkovsky’s final film Sacrifice (1986), during which the protagonist’s house burns down to the ground, the French filmmaker and multimedia artist Chris Marker has claimed: ‘This scene had to be shot in a single take in which the tracking shot is no longer a matter of ethics, but of metaphysics’. Marker intriguingly suggests that the distinctive aura surrounding the Russian film director might not be just the afterglow of his personal charisma or the reverential glow inspired in some by his Delphic pronouncements on religion and world destiny, but also a matter of his cinematic technique. Can it be that Tarkovsky’s cinema intervenes in elements, like vision and time, which have traditionally been the province of metaphysics?

Andrei Tarkovsky and Contemporary Art: Medium and Mediation

Bird goes on to explore the importance of the “imprinted image” and its evolution in Tarkovsky’s later films (including coins as currency in the electrical sense). The article goes on to interrogate other meaningful connections between Marker and Tarkovsky, as well as both appropriative and innovative reverberations of their Zones in 21st century cinema and electronic art.

A glance at the Table of Contents of Robert Bird’s 2008 book Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema underscores the commonality of his and Marker’s approach:

earth 1 The System
          2 Space
          3 Screen
fire    4 Word and Image
           5 Story
          6 Imaginary
water  7  Sensorium
           8 Time
           9 Shot
air     10 Atmosphere 

Univ. of Chicago Press
Chris Marker, One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich :: elemental cinema

For another angle on Marker’s nigh-obsessive interest in Russia and his idea to tell the story of the country’s dark century through the filmmaker’s life, be sure to read his inspiring recollections of Alexander Medvedkin in The Last Bolshevik.

Robert Bird is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago. Here is a List of Works. Of note is his Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema. Reaktion (London, UK).

Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

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