Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

Farewell’s Arrival

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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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iParBp8cS0w
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.
C.M.

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

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Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

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