CinémAction n°165 – Chris Marker : pionnier et novateur

CinemAction 165 Chris MarkerThanks to Chris Darke for alerting us to this new publication with some familiar names contributing articles to CinémAction 165: Chris Marker: pionnier et novateure.

L’interactivité filmique, initiée de manière radicale dès 1950, permet d’appréhender une démarche polyphonique qui n’a cessé de montrer et commenter l’histoire du XXe siècle. Ciné-voyageur, Chris Marker reste, de fait, pionnier et novateur dans toute une série de domaines ici explorés. L’originalité de ce numéro s’est construite autour de ces pistes et de ces regards pluriels.

Sommaire

Préambule : Chris Marker, pionnier et novateur, Kristian Feigelson

I. Pionnier

  • Magicien du flou, Christophe Chazalon
  • Le fond de l’air est rouge : Le NU et les morts. Et l’espoir, Jean-Michel Frodon
  • Un producteur franc-tireur : l’expérience coopérative SLON (1968-1973), Catherine Roudé
  • Du temps des images à l’écriture mémorielle, André Habib

II. Filiations

  • Marker et le revue Esprit. A l’origine du film-essai, Sylvain Dreyer
  • Rive droite, rive gauche : face à la « Nouvelle Vague », Vincent Lowy
  • Du chat percheur aux chats marqueurs, Louise Traon
  • Les villes, itinéraires de chiffonnier : De Chats perchés à L’OuvroirShiho Azuma
  • La voix des autres, Johanne Villeneuve

III. Ciné-voyageur

  • Lettre de SibérieKristian Feigelson
  • Description d’un combatRégine-Mihal Friedman
  • Les filiations à l’Amérique latine, Maria Luisa Ortega
  • On vous parle de Tchécoslovaquie, David Cenek
  • Le tombeau d’Alexandre : la fin du cinéaste rouge, François Lecointe
  • Les images fantômes du Japon, Emi Koide

IV. Novateur

  • Sans soleil : une phénoménologie des apparences, Jarmo Valkola
  • L’héritage de la chouette : une matrice sérielle, Barbara Laborde
  • Story tellings : cinq installations, Etienne Sandrin
  • L’utopie électronique : une nouvelle mobilisation, Bamchade Pourvali

Post-scriptum

  • Anagramme, Catherine Belkhodja

Bibliographie sélectiveKristian Feigelson et Bamchade Pourvali
FilmographieChristophe Chazalon et Kristian Feigelson

For more information, go to cinemaction-collection.com.

On CinémAction

CinémAction : une collection thématique de parution trimestrielle

Défrichant de manière le plus souvent collective de nombreux thèmes, la collection CinémAction explore les liens du cinéma avec la société et les évènements historique. Elle fournit une véritable boite à outils pour l’étude du cinéma : histoire, théories, scénario, décors, genres, enseignement, liens avec les autres arts. Elle dresse le portrait de nombreux cinéastes et explore la production mondiale.

Le Coeur net + The Forthright Spirit

LE COEUR NET

Thanks to John H. for the gift of this PDF scan of the French original of Marker’s early novel Le Coeur net, published  in 1950 when Marker was 29 or so. 

We append to it the English translation from the following year.

Chris Marker, Le Coeur Net, Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1950. Préface de Jean Cayrol.

Chris Marker, The Forthright Spirit, trans. Robert Kee and Terence Kilmartin, London: Allan Wingate, 1951.

Here’s how it starts:

Un accident, ce n’est rien, ce n’est très exactement rien. Il y a le moment d’avant, où l’avion quitte le piste, où certaine qualité de silence autour de lui, certaine attente de la lumière autour de lui, le dérobent au mouvement, fontaine pétrifiante, (comme un ange pressé qui dépouillerait l’homme de son âme, comme le bandeau mis sur les yeux du condamné, une seconde avant la morte) — et le moment d’après, où l’avion n’est plus qu’une fléchette piquée dans la terre, une sauterelle grillée, une croix… Entre les deux, rien.

An accident—it’s nothing, it is quite literally nothing. There’s the moment just before, when the aircraft leaves the runway, when a certain quality of silence, something static about the light all round it, seems to immobilise it, to make of it a petrifying fountain (so might a hurried angel strip a man of his soul a second before death, so is a bandage put over the eyes of a condemned man)—and the moment afterwards, when the aircraft is no more than a dart stuck in the earth, a burnt-out grasshopper, a crucifix. Between the two moments—nothing.

Cross My Heart by Chris Marker

Wooden Cross & Iron Path

Translation © Sophie Kovel, 2017
Original: “Croix de bois et chemin de fer,” Esprit, (Jan. 1951), 88-90.

At Ploen (Schles-wig-Holstein) I ride the Kiel train. The Baltic rain transports lavender, as everyone knows, and just enough melancholy to make souls conquerors. Die Haare, die Haare, sind grau von Baltikum. He is there, in my compartment, the conqueror. He’s the conductor. He belongs to this generation, almost nowhere to be found in Germany today – people who had twenty aps in 1940. Apart from that his small, very clear eyes, a very pink complexion, the visor of the Deutsche Reischsbahn split like that of the mountain troops – and this inimitable air of a military baby – he is shamefully conventional. The moment he spotted my accent, he sat down in front of me, offered me a cigarette and declared: “I do not know France.”

Too bad; but his acknowledgement actually pleased me. I was already resigned to undergo the account of his garrisons at Bayonne or at Deauville-the thirtieth since the beginning of my journey. To believe that others imagine it gives us pleasure to hear about their country. Like another in Lübeck: “I arrived in Paris in July ‘44, but we had to leave immediately,” and, calling me as witness: “No luck!”

He does not know France, but no matter: from ’40 to ’45 he’d done Belgium, Holland, Italy, Greece, Ukraine. He had been mobilized since ‘38, a prisoner for one year: in all eight years of war. Worse yet, his parents were buried under the pieces of their house, his inaccessible province, his unemployment for two years, the impossibility of resuming his studies, and now the railway. A recruit of choice for the Stockholm draft. But I do not need to talk to him about all this. Without any transition he got to the heart of the matter: “The Russian,” he said (in Germany, the Americans are said to be like mosquitoes, and the Russian – der Russe, der Ivan – like thunder. In Germany, all that counts, even in the order of fear, must be abstract), the Russian reduces us to slavery in the East. He expected the dignity of man… “Five minutes devoted to the list of the misdeeds of Russians “and we are formally opposed!”

Chris Marker, 1951

It was a Strange Thing by Chris Marker

It was a strange thing. A small box of metal with irregularly rounded corners, with a rectangular opening in the middle and in front of it a tiny lens, the size of a euro. We had to slip a piece of film – real film, with perforations – that was pressed by a rubber wheel, and by turning a button connected to the roulette, the film was unrolled one by one. Actually, each image represented a different scene, so that it seemed more like a slideshow than home theater, but these scenes were beautifully reproduced shots of famous films, Chaplin, Ben Hur, The Napoleon of Abel Gance … If you were rich you could put the little box into a kind of magic lantern and project onto the wall (or onto a screen, if you were very rich). I had to be satisfied with the minimal version: press the eye against the lens, and look. This now-forgotten gizmo was called a Pathéorama. It could be read in gold letters on a black background with the legendary rooster Pathé singing before a rising sun.

objet

The egotistic joy of being able to look at images that belonged to the inaccessible realm of cinema just for myself quickly produced a dialectical by-product. While I could not even imagine having anything in common with the art of filming (whose basic principles were naturally far beyond my comprehension), I grasped something of the film itself, a piece of celluloid not so different from the negatives that came back from the lab. Something I could feel and touch, something of the real world. And why then, (dialectically insinuated my own Jiminy Cricket), could I in turn do something similar? It was enough to have translucent material and the right dimensions. (The perforation was there to be pretty, the roulette ignored it). So, with scissors, glue and crystal paper, I made a faithful copy of the actual Pathéorama reel. After that, frame by frame, I began to draw a series of poses of my cat (who else?), inserting a few comment boxes. In one fell swoop, the cat began to belong to the same universe as the characters of Ben Hur or Napoleon. I was on the other side of the mirror.

Out of my schoolmates, Jonathan was the most prestigious. He had the gift of mechanics and inventiveness, he made models of theaters with moving curtains, flashing lights, and a miniature orchestra that emerged from a pit while a wind-up Gramophone played a triumphant march. It was therefore natural that he should be the first to see my masterpiece. I was quite proud of the result, and by unwinding the adventures of the cat Riri I announced “my movie” (my Movie). Jonathan quickly brought me back to sobriety. “But, silly, movies are moving images,” he said. “You can’t make a movie with still pictures.”

Thirty years passed. Then I made La Jetée.

– Chris Marker


Post-script: Text from the French edition booklet of La Jetée – Sans Soleil DVD, 2003. Translation © Sophie Kovel, 2017.

Many thanks Sofie! The original French piece can be found here: C’était un drôle d’objet.

Another Villeneuve

L’essai proposé ici se prend au jeu de la compagnie des images. Il propose l’invention d’un aller-retour sur Chris Marker. Nous sommes à bord d’un train : les images défilent au rythme de la machine ; elles évoquent d’autres images, des pensées et des souvenirs. Disons, par utopisme, que l’on dispose à volonté de toutes les images de Marker et de leurs commentaires – chose apparemment utopique tant le cinéaste lui-même a contribué à la difficulté de les rassembler. Le compartiment est une salle de projection, là où le défilement du paysage croise une œuvre aussi singulière que nécessaire. Le trajet se découpe en deux temps. Le voyage est éternel.

Excerpt From: Johanne Villeneuve. “Chris Marker.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/dVEAJ.l [also available as kindle book]

The essay proposed here takes on the game of the enterprise [company, club, society] of images. It proposes the invention of a round trip through (the landscape of) Chris Marker. We are on board a train: the images stretch out to the rhythm of the machine; they evoque other images, thoughts and memories. Let us say, as utopianists, that we are in possession at will of all the images of Marker and of their commentaries – a thing apparently utopian not least as the filmmaker himself contributed to the difficulty of assembling them. The compartment is a film theatre, there where the stretch of the landscape crosses a body of work as singular as necessary. The trajectory divides itself into two times. The trip is everlasting.

Le train en marche - Alexandre Medvedkin

Chris Marker, Never Explain, Never Complain @ DOXA

There is a new film out entitled Chris Marker, Never Explain, Never Complain, by Jean-Marie Barbe & Arnaud Lambert. The film is to be shown as part of the 2017 DOXA Festival called “French, French” taking place 4-14 Mai 2017 at the Cinémathèque in Vancouver, BC, and will move to theh Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley after that (not sure of dates yet). For the news and the PDF of the DOXA press booklet I am grateful to Christine van Assche.

The festival will show recent French documentary films alongside a selection of Marker’s work, including Une Journée d’Andrei Arsenevitch, Le Souvenir d’un avenir, Chats perchés, Le Tombeau d’Alexandre, Le Fond de l’air est rouge, and L’Héritage de la chouette.

The program is curated by Thierry Garrel. If you dig a bit, you can find a Marker-related essay by Garrel on the DOXA site called “Two Cats, An Owl and a Lot of Nice Human Beings.” Garell writes:

As an opening to this retrospective, Chris Marker, Never Explain, Never Complain (2016), by Jean-Marie Barbe and Arnaud Lambert, portrays the cinéaste and his works through the testimonies of seven people who knew him and worked with him – including Wim Wenders, Patricio Guzman, and … yours truly, as I had the privilege to collaborate on the production side while working for French Television at INA, La Sept and ARTE, with all the films presented!

Here’s the text from the program on the new bio-essay-doc:

Chris Marker, Never Explain, Never Complain

Jean-Marie Barbe & Arnaud Lambert, France, 2016, 144mn

La vie et l’oeuvre de Chris Marker pourraient remplir plusieurs volumes — même un train de marchandises ! — mais Jean-Marie Barbe et Arnaud Lambert les brossent allègrement en tout juste 144 minutes. En répondant à la question : “Qui est Chris Marker ?”, chacun de leurs interlocuteurs convoquent à chaque fois un univers et des réalités différentes. Comme Wim Wenders, qui s’est saoulé à mort avec Marker dans un bar de Tokyo : “Cette nuit à La Jetée, nous avons parlé, parlé, mais nous avons bu tant de sake et de vodka… que j’ai presque tout oublié”. Ou André S. Labarthe, qui résume : “c’était un esprit libre.” Ce qui est sûr, c’est que tout au long de sa carrière, Marker ne s’est jamais satisfait de n’être qu’un ni de ne faire qu’une seule chose. Écrivain, cinéaste, photographe, érudit, dessinateur, amoureux des chats – on ne saurait le qualifier en un mot. Sinon peut-être : génie.

The life and work of Chris Marker could easily fill several documentary portraits, maybe even several freight trains, but directors Jean-Marie Barbe and Arnaud Lambert have kept it to a brisk 144 minutes. “Who is Chris Marker?” — is the question posed by the directors/interlocutors, and every answer reveals a different reality. Some of the recollections are funny and bittersweet, such as Wim Wenders getting blind drunk with Marker at a bar in Tokyo. “That night at La Jetée is the time when we talked most, but we drank so much sake and vodka that we forgot most of it,” says Wenders. As André S. Labarthe states simply: “He was a free spirit.” One thing is clear, over the length of his career, Marker was never content to do or be only one thing. Writer, filmmaker, photographer, polymath, cartoonist, cat lover — there is no single term that quite suffices. Except, perhaps, genius. -DW

Download Program (PDF)

Check out the DOXA site for more information.

Here’s the page for the Chris Marker retrospective.

According to the DOXA site, “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.” [source]

Arnaud Lambert is no newcomer to Chris Marker investigations. He is the author of the brilliant, comprehensive volume – in French despite its English title – Also Known as Chris Marker, published in 2013 by LePointduJour.