Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

Image [&] Narrative Issues Chris Marker v2


The second installment in a series of articles devoted to the work of Chris Marker has been released by the online journal Image [&] Narrative, Vol. 11, No. 1 (2010). The journal, with abstracts and pdfs of each article, is available at Below is a list of articles, with article abstracts and links to bi-lingual abstracts and PDF downloads for each article.

Image + Narrative

Thematic Cluster

Introduction – Peter Kravanja

Pour ce deuxième numéro consacré à l’œuvre signé Chris Marker j’ai le plaisir de présenter aux lecteurs les contributions (par ordre alphabétique) de Christa Blümlinger, de Sarah Cooper, de Matthias De Groof, de Sylvain Dreyer, de Sarah French, d’Adrian Martin et de Susana S. Martins.

The Imaginary in the Documentary Image: Chris Marker’s Level Five – Christa Blümlinger

This approach of Level Five by Chris Marker aims to grasp the theoretical status of “found” words and images, which are integrated by the filmmaker into a “semi-documentary” research, within a setting that is linked to the new media. Rather than considering them as pure documents, Marker is interested in their imaginary and discursive dimension. He integrates them into fragmentary writing that one could compare to modern forms of literature and historiography. Thus, the word “Okinawa” is the starting point of the research of a name, a discourse, an iconography and a myth. In the film, the discourse on the deaths refers to rituals of remembrance and repression ; the images take the corresponding form of this labour: repetition and stoppage. For Marker the term «archeology» takes its foucauldian dimension, in the sense that it considers facts of discourse (and of images) not as documents, but rather as monuments.

Montage, Militancy, Metaphysics: Chris Marker and André Bazin – Sarah Cooper

This article focuses on the relationship between the work of André Bazin and Chris Marker from the late 1940s through to the late 1950s and beyond. The division between Bazin’s Right Bank affiliation with Les Cahiers du Cinéma on the one hand, and Marker’s Left Bank allegiances on the other, is called into question here as my argument seeks to muddy the waters of their conventional ideological separation across the river Seine. Working alliteratively through Marker’s well-known talent for deft montage along with his militancy, I consider Bazin’s praise for Marker’s editing technique in spite of famously expressing a preference elsewhere for the long take, and deep focus cinematography and I address their political differences and convergences. Yet I also explore the rather more unexpected question of metaphysics in order to further emphasize a closer relationship between these two figures. I chart the emergence of an enduring spiritual bond between critic and filmmaker that surfaces first in Marker’s writings for the left-wing Catholic journal L’Esprit, but that continues beyond Bazin’s death, in Marker’s two films made on the crest of the French New Wave: Le Joli Mai and La Jetée.

Statues Also Die – But Their Death is not the Final Word – Matthias De Groof

Along with people like Césaire, Sartre and Howlett, Chris Marker cherished in 1953 the hope that African artefacts would be removed from the museum. In the film Les Statues meurent aussi (Statues Also Die 1950-53) Marker as director and writer, accompanied by Resnais as co-director, Ghislain Cloquet as cameraman and Guy Bernard as composer, took up the mission to challenge the prevailing gaze on African artefacts. How does Marker‘s Les Statues meurent aussi look upon African art?

Autour de 1968, en France et ailleurs : Le Fond de l’air était rouge – Sylvain Dreyer

The reception of Le Fond de l’air est rouge (Grin Without a Cat) by Chris. Marker (1978-2008) turned the film into an emblem of May ’68, which is given much attention, but only to propose an analysis full of contrasts. In this film, which remembers the “red years”, Marker puts the political commitment of his generation into perspective and tackles the problem of the relationship between the French movements and the struggles of the Third World. The solidarity as expressed by French militants seldom goes beyond a statement of principles and the fascination for revolutions abroad is a substitute for a disappointing local situation. Le Fond de l’air est rouge however pays tribute to the spirit of May ’68, in particular in its collective modes of realization and enunciation, which allow a new definition of the committed artwork in the “era of suspicion”.

“If they don’t see happiness in the picture at least they’ll see the black”:Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil and the Lyotardian Sublime – Sarah French

This paper examines Chris Marker’s film Sans Soleil in relation to Jean-François Lyotard’s theory of the sublime. Through an analysis of the film’s representation of memory, time and temporality it will argue that Marker’s film effectively “invokes the unpresentable in presentation itself” (Lyotard, 1992: 15).

Crossing Chris: Some Markerian Affinities – Adrian Martin

This essay creatively explores a group of artists, writers, and other special individuals whose work or life story can be described as having an intriguing affinity with the protean career of Chris Marker. Avoiding the ‘usual suspects’ (such as Godard or Sebald), it discusses gossip columnist Milt Machlin, record collector Harry Smith, painter Gianfranco Baruchello, writer-filmmaker Edgardo Cozarinsky, and several others. From this constellation, a particular view of Markerian poetics emerges, touching upon the meanings of anonymity, storytelling, history and archiving.

Petit Cinéma of the World or the Mysteries of Chris Marker – Susana S. Martins

From 1954 to 1958, Chris Marker edited the travel books series Petite Planète, providing an alternative to more conventional guidebooks. The aim of this article is to pay special attention to the photographic dimension of these books, particularly in their essayistic composition. Starting from the concrete analysis of a short photo-sequence included in the book on Portugal, I propose here to investigate the central role of the ‘essay’ in the work of Chris Marker, not only as an aesthetical choice but fundamentally as a privileged form of political commitment.

Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

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