Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

Happy Birthday Chris Marker


Bon anniversaire Chris!

What else is there to say? Everything’s been said. Birth and death like an oroborous, the legendary snake eating its tail, where the date July 29, 1921 superimposes itself on another date, July 29, 2012. The two dates merge in an origami fold. Inside the fold is an extraordinary life and a wealth of extraordinary works. Inside is a cat, stretching its paws to the sound emanating from the speakers, a cat reclining on a keyboard. Inside is a love affair with cinema, and a Japanese bow to Kurosawa, Tarkovsky and Hitchcock. Inside is a spiral, a tree trunk, the madness of time. Inside are thousands of photographs, each emanating the gaze of the master spectator, the man behind the camera and very rarely in front of it. Inside the fold are memories and a system of memories, strongholds against the onslaught of history’s wounds, erasures, distortions. Inside the fold is the Zone, a place where images mutate and take on disguises, where seekers wander in search of lost time, where stray dogs pace and owls sit with observant eyes, recording. The birth and the death touch like this, like the creation of Adam. The original breath of the baby, the last breath of the old man, still working, always working. The tears of friends and lovers, innumerable fans for the most famous of the unknowns. A loss is felt, because we care for the visions given to us by a man of vision. We care for the traces, relics, breadcrumbs left as a puzzle for our minds but also our hearts. Mysteries of time and remembrance, tastes of the futures fractal in the micro/macro, traces of the places he traveled. The dogs are crazy on the island of Sal, and all the other islands. “I found my dogs pretty nervous tonight; they were playing with the sea as I had never seen them before. Listening to Radio Hong Kong later on I understood: today was the first day of the lunar new year, and for the first time in sixty years the sign of the dog met the sign of water.” He was an island but also a continent, unfindable on any map. There be dragons. There be mysteries. There be celebration, rueful meditation and admiration.

Here’s an intelligent, fun video compiled by ARTE:


“A more modest and perhaps more fruitful approach might be to consider the fragments of memory in terms of geography. In every life we would find continents, islands, deserts, swamps, overpopulated territories and terrae incognitae. We could draw the map of such a memory and extract images from it with greater ease (and truthfulness) than from tales and legends. That the subject of this memory should be a photographer and a filmmaker does not mean that his memory is essentially more interesting than that of the next man (or the next woman), but only that he has left traces with which one can work, contours to draw up his maps.”

Chris Marker, Immemmory

1 comment

  • Thanks. I will be watching Sans Soleil tonight in honor of Chris Marker day. I will never tire of that film. It’s one of the few films that make me feel like I am entering another world or speaking to an old friend every time I view it.

Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

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