Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

The Lonliness of a Long-Distance Singer: Filmnotes @ PFA


A finely crafted film by the unique film-poet, Chris Marker, The Loneliness Of A Long-Distance Singer aims to convey two aspects of the actor/singer Yves Montand: his political conviction and his artistic integrity. In February 1974, Montand agreed to prepare in one week a performance of some of his best-known songs for the benefit of the Chilean refugees after Allende’s overthrow. In this remarkable film, we see the anxious tension, the moments of relaxation, everything which went into his polished appearance on the stage at the Olympia in Paris. The skillful cuts back and forth between the final performance and the rehearsals the week before allow us to see how carefully the show is put together by Montand. He tests every gesture, goes over and over every rhythm change. His accompanist and friend, Bob Castella, emerges as a warm, appealing personality, who in one excellent scene must stand up to Montand’s explosive anger when there is a discrepancy between the music and the words. As we continue to be entertained by Montand’s virtuoso singing, we are led by Chris Marker into a deeper understanding of the man. Montand talks about politics, about women; we get film clips from some of his best roles (La Guerre Est Finie, Z, The Confession, and so on). In the end, we understand Montand when he says: “I sing today so that we don’t forget the blood of yesterday.”

Directed by Chris Marker. (1974, 60 mins, color, English titles, Print from Icarus Films)


  • Peu à peu, le couloir devient vivant, les musiciens arrivent les uns après les autres, tapent à la porte, entrent et rigolent. C’est la quadrilla qui vient voir le torero avant le début de la course. Il n’y aura de mise à mort de personne, parce qu’il n’y aura pas de taureau; mais il y a le risque de cette petite mort qu’est la mauvaise représentation. Quand le torero commence à revêtir son habit de lumière – en l’occurrence, une tenue de scène marron -, la “groupie-afficionada” se sent tellement inutile, tellement en trop, même si la quadrilla et le torero l’aiment beaucoup, qu’elle va faire un tour dans le couloir. (Et) quand Montand met sa tenue de scène marron, il redevient le solitaire. Qu’on soit fait l’un et l’autre de tout ce que ces années nous ont apporté à l’un et à l’autre, ne change rien à l’affaire. C’est lui qui va rentrer, tout seul. Ce n’est pas par hasard que Chris Marker a appelé le film qu’il a tourné sur lui “La Solitude du chanteur de fond”.
    Simone Signoret
    La Nostalgie n’est plus ce qu’elle était (Editions du Seuil)

  • Sorry for this rough translation :
    Little by little, the corridor becomes alive, the musicians arrive the one after the other, type in the door, enter and laugh. It’s the cuadrilla who comes to see the bullfighter before the beginning of the race. Nobody will be killed because there will be no bull; but there is a risk of this small death that is the bad representation. When the bullfighter begins to get dressed of his bullfighter’s costume – in this case, a brown costume -, the “groupie-afficionada” feels so useless, even if the cuadrilla and the bullfighter like very much her, that she’s going to the corridor. (And) when Montand puts this brown costume, he becomes again the solitary person. That we are made both of all that these years brought us to the one and to the other one, change nothing the matter. It’s him who is going to come on, alone. It’s not accident that Chris Marker called the film which he shot on him “The Lonliness of a Long-Distance Singer”.
    Simone Signoret
    Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be (Paperback)

  • The sun is beginning to shine on me
    But it’s not like the sun that used to be
    The party’s over, and there’s less and less to say
    I got new eyes
    Everything looks far away

    – Bob Dylan, “Highlands,” Time Out of Mind

Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

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