“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
Thanks to Christophe Chazalon (CH2) of chrismarker.ch for breaking the news on several upcoming exciting re-releases and re-publications in Chris Marker land, all dovetailing on the temporal horizon with the Cinémathèque française exhibition + retrospective, itself publishing a two-volume catalogue.
First off, Commentaires I and Commentaires II are to be combined and republished in an expanded new edition, due out April 18, 2018 by Editions Actes Sud. Marker’s novel Le coeur net, long out of print, is set to be republished by Seuil (his old employer where he worked on the Petite Planète books) on April 26, 2018. Update: News of re-issues of both Coréennes and Le Fond de l’air est rouge, announced in the original post, turn out to be premature, but we will of course stay tuned. Thanks for keeping us apprised, CH2.
SI J’AVAIS QUATRE DROMEDAIRES
One of the films that always seemed to escape the great anthologies that we do have, in French and in English, was always Si j’avais quatre dromedaires (1966).
The film is summarized as “a succession of 800 still images taken in 26 countries between 1955 and 1965, from Tokyo to Havanna, in passing through Peking, Moscow, Stockholm, Rome and Paris… commented by Chris Marker and his friends in voice-off.” [« Une succession de 800 images fixes prises dans 26 pays entre 1955 et 1965, de Tokyo à La Havane, en passant par Pékin, Moscou, Stockholm, Rome et Paris… commentées par Chris Marker et ses amis en voix off. »]
For a non-native French speaker, the soundtrack is so hard to decipher as to present a kind of audio puzzle that must be assembled over time, over many times of rewatching. I did this first in the summer of 1991 at the Beaubourg on a VHS copy they had, and my notes from that frantic session are lost. Not a big loss. But I suspect that even for some native French speakers, it’s a bit difficult, and intentionally so, to navigate the density of what you are hearing (a conversation among friends, with overlaps and interruptions, as with many conversations) with the density and flow of what you are seeing, a series of photographs that the off-screen interlocutors comment upon. You have to keep up; like Sans Soleil, the film tests the metabolic threshold to the subliminal. Consciously or not, Marker assumed a particular type of viewer, one who would stay rather intensely focused. This unstated precondition of spectation is one of the reasons to take any chance to see his work in a real live film theatre.
The flow of the editing shows Marker as master editor, with visual and thematic patterns emerging and submerging, recalling Marker and Resnais’ Les Statues meurent ausssi. The black and white tone of the film, along with the use of ‘photograms’, recalls La Jetée. The photographs selected for the accordion insert are some of the best.
Despite its obscurity, the film is famous for two of its quotes, both reproduced on this page announcing the new DVD (lesmutins.org).
Avec ses quatre dromadaires
Don Pedro d’Alfaroubeira
Courut le monde et l’admira.
Il fit ce que je voudrais faire
Si j’avais quatre dromadaires.
Le Bestiaire, ou Cortège d’Orphée, 1911
“La photo c’est la chasse.
C’est l’instinct de la 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 DVD looks to be a collector’s dream, carefully assembled by someone with an eye for design, with a unique accordion insert and gorgeous, minimal black and white cover and back cover. The release date is set for April 2018.