“La photo, c’est la chasse, c’est l’instinct de chasse sans l’envie de tuer. C’est la chasse des anges… On traque, on vise, on tire et — clac! au lieu d’un mort, on fait un éternel.”
“The photo is the hunt, it’s the instinct of hunting without the desire to kill. It’s the hunt of angels. You trail, you aim, you fire and — clic! — instead of a dead man, you make him everlasting.”
Chris Marker, Commentaires 2, 87
The registration of images is also a hunt for the spectator. I’ve been tracking down the productions of Chris. Marker for quite a while now… I still remember the fascination with which I watched Sans Soleil about 30 years ago in the Roxie Cinema in San Francisco; this type of film-making didn’t have a name for me yet, but produced a new type of thought pattern in my brain: creative cognitive dissonance, intellectual & emotional stimulation, appetite for more…
Whenever a Marker film was shown, I would make the pilgrimage. Later, in graduate school (the ultimate alibi), I set out more systematically to study the history of European documentary film, focusing on directors who were equally authors, having fulfilled the predictions of Alexandre Astruc formulating a new cinema, that of the “camera-stylo,” the camera-pen.
Those like myself, possessed (even in states of what approached near cultural starvation imposed by distribution practices) by the most intriguing zones of personal documentary film practice, have grown to perceive the contours of the essay film, and to investigate the conjunction of writing and filmmaking that a variety of craftspersons (Marker, Alexander Kluge, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Harun Farocki, Hartmut Bitomski, Johan van der Keuken, Robert Kramer, Jem Cohen and many others) pursued with interdisciplinary fervor.
Studying Marker leads one into time travel, such as the hero of La Jetée is subjected to. The “moment of happiness” was the viewing of the film, the time travel a search to understand it. For me, it was back to Montaigne and the traditions of rhetoric and the art of memory, and forward to the era of “future libraries” and online audio-visual archives.
Of course, it is nearly impossible to keep up with the intensity and productivity of Chris Marker. As we approach the year 4001, the year of perfect memory, we also approach the immensity of Marker’s work, which incessantly looks toward the future for changes that history has left incomplete.
– Daniel L. Potter
Image: Chris Marker, “Roma, 1956” [from Staring Back, limited edition postcard set accompanying book, Wexner Center Store]