Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

No Complaints, More Explanations on Chris Marker: Never Explain, Never Complain


Last Updated on January 16, 2021 by bricoleur

Chris Marker Never Explain Never Complain
Chris Marker: Never Explain, Never Complain, a film by Jean-Marie Barbe and Arnaud Lambert

Chris Marker, Never Explain, Never Complain
Un film documentaire de Jean-Marie Barbe et Arnaud Lambert


The French film about Chris Marker, realized in 2016, has been released on DVD (, in docnet films’ “Collection Lumière de Notre Temps” series.

It will be shown, among other venues, at the Cinémathèque française during their comprehensive exhibtion–retrospective Chris Marker: Les 7 vies d’un cinéaste, opening in May. The auteurs will present the film there on May 21st, 2018 in the Salle Georges Franju. A previous post here discusses last year’s screening at DOXA.


Écrivain, cinéaste, essayiste, grand voyageur, photographe, un peu pianiste, un peu peintre, ami des bêtes, intellectuel engagé et chantre de l’imaginaire, Chris Marker a, soixante ans durant, exploré la plupart des moyens d’expression.

Mêlant les témoignages de certains de ses plus proches compagnons à de nombreux extraits de ses films, Chris Marker, Never Explain, Never Complain retrace les grands temps de cette cinématographie unique, épousant à travers elle, les formes et les questionnements de l’engagement cinématographique et politique de la seconde moitié du vingtième siècle.

Marker on the monitors
Still from Never Explain, Never Complain


Writer, cineaste, essayist, great traveler, photographer, a bit of a pianist, a bit of a painter, friend to animals, an engaged intellectual and bard of the imaginary, Chris Marker has, for sixty years, explored almost all means of artistic expression.

Mixing the testimonies of a number of his closest companions with numerous extracts from his films, Chris Marker, Never Explain, Never Complain retraces the high points of this unique cinematography, marrying through it the forms and the questioning of cinematic and political engagement in the second half of the twentieth century.

The Motto

According to a Quora answer, the motto in its reverse form, “Never complain; never explain” comes Benjamin Disraeli: “This pithy little maxim was first coined by the British politician and prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, and adopted as a motto by many other high-ranking Brits — from members of royalty, to navy admirals, to fellow prime ministers Stanley Baldwin and Winston Churchill.” One can only imagine the degree of irony impressed in Marker’s own use of this maxim. Consider the following.*

In the book Imagining Reality, Kevin Macdonald and Mark Cousins pose two questions to documentarists: 1. What in the most general terms do you try to achieve in your documentaries? 2. What is the future of the documentary?

Chris Marker’s answer — as often — questions the questions, evades while diving into the heart of the matter, mercilessly… including the détournement of the book title itself:

Writing is always a nightmare for me. Writing about my difficulty to write doubles the nightmare, especially when I’m supposed to express it in a polite way. So I warmly thank you for making matters easier for me by asking questions I simply can’t answer (frankly, I doubt that anyone could answer the first question sincerely). I practiced cinema just as I practiced other, less visible, things, and I never thought it necessary to brood over them. Never explain, never complain

Besides, I don’t feel I belong to the realm of documentaries.

Sorry to disappoint you… But I’m sure you’ll understand. My best wishes for your book: rarely has reality needed so much to be imagined.

Chris Marker in Imagining Reality


Jean-Marie Barbe is the president of Tënk, the first online platform dedicated solely to auteur documentary. The goal is to provide access to the very best in nonfiction cinema to the widest possible audience. Tënk’s curatorial team of discerning documentary professionals selects films, drawn from festivals, and organizes them thematically.

Arnaud Lambert is the author of the book Also Known as Chris Marker (Le point du jour, 2013). He earned a Master’s degree in Art History, writing on Chris Marker. Lambert is both cineaste and a critic. Member of the collective simple appareil that unites writers, artists, videographers, he has published in the reviews Éclipse, Images de la Culture, and Vertigo.
(Source: back cover of Also Known As Chris Marker)

* For a dialectical wrangling with the antinomy of irony, see Adorno’s “Juvenal’s error”, aphorism 134 in Minima Moralia. Writing is a nightmare? Difficile est satyras non scribere.

AKACM cover photo
Arnaud Lambert, Also Known as Chris Marker

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Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory
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