Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

The Owl’s Legacy — Quick Reference

The Owl's Legacy DVD cover

A long time ago, we received a bundle of texts from the computer scientist and CM researcher DK: an online trove, practically a “Passagenwerk” for the preparation of Marker’s work on Greece. It is and has remained a collection of quotes and notes that went into the organization of the vast investigation of the cultural, mythological, and philological legacy of Greece that comprises Chris Marker’s The Owl’s Legacy / L’Héritage de la chouette. It is unlikely to have been explored yet in the archives of his estate, though not impossible. Just as I was working through the ancient HTML to turn it into modern HTML—a thankless task helped somewhat by HTML Tidy and related technologies— I realized that this site did not have a quick reference to the episodes of this magnificent series.

The Owl's Legacy site

It was at that point this evening that I did a quick search in order to establish the correct names of the episodes in English translation and discovered all of a sudden a new site: The Owl’s Legacy at It’s a pay per view site built on Vimeo OTT, but not expensive, and elegantly designed. It is a showcase site, one might say, from the future, where cinema and web UX meet happily and promote elegant attention to audio-visual masterpieces. The only downside, in my view, is the rental length of 3 days—not as generous as might be expected, and certainly not enough time to use the site as a research source. What’s the harm in letting an IP address return to view anytime? What a bummer, man, as the Dude would say.

So here is a simple TOC of the 13 episodes of the series, and a look forward to presenting the Arcades material one day soon, so that we may see how the Marker Mind went about researching and distilling that research into a series of rubrics. Somehow I don’t think Benjamin would have had the same felicity with computers as Marker had, but he is for sure an inspiration in both the linear and non-linear worlds of cinema and literature.1 This reference to non-linear is another teaser, as news has been sent out to the Marker clan of the urgency to preserve Immemory in a future-proofed format. More on that anon. We must also talk soon of the Nascat that appeared recently in Peru. So much to do… As one person said, it almost seems like Marker is orchestrating something here, from beyond… A collaborative symphony of sorts…

L’Héritage de la chouette: Sommaire

Épisode 1 : Symposium ou les idées reçues
Épisode 2 : Olympisme ou la Grèce imaginaire
Épisode 3 : Démocratie ou la cité des songes
Épisode 4 : Nostalgie ou le retour impossible
Épisode 5 : Amnésie ou le sens de l’histoire
Épisode 6 : Mathématique ou l’empire des signes
Épisode 7 : Logomachie ou les mots de la tribu
Épisode 8 : Musique ou l’espace de dedans
Épisode 9 : Cosmogonie ou l’usage du monde
Épisode 10 : Mythologie ou la vérité du mensonge
Épisode 11 : Misogynie ou les pièges du désir
Épisode 12 : Tragédie ou l’illusion de la mort
Épisode 13 : Philosophie ou le triomphe de la chouette

The Owl’s Legacy: Contents

Episode 1: Symposium—or Accepted Ideas
Episode 2: Olympics—or Imaginary Greece
Episode 3: Democracy—or the City of Dreams
Episode 4: Nostalgia—or the Impossible Return
Episode 5: Amnesia—or History on the March
Episode 6: Mathematics—or the Empire Counts Back
Episode 7: Logomachy—or the Dialect of the Tribe
Episode 8: Music—or Inner Space
Episode 9: Cosmogony—or the Ways of the World
Episode 10: Mythology—or Lies like Truth
Episode 11: Misogyny—or the Snares of Desire
Episode 12: Tragedy—or the Illusion of Death
Episode 13: Philosophy—or the Triumph of the Owl

Directed by enigmatic and brilliant documentary essayist Chris Marker, THE OWL’S LEGACY is an intellectually agile, engaging, and sometimes biting look at ancient Greece, its influences on Western culture—and how many eras have reinterpreted the Greek legacy to reflect their own needs.

Each of the 13 episodes is centered on a potent Greek word: from “democracy” and “philosophy” to “mythology” and “misogyny”. Marker convenes and films symposia—meals featuring wine and thoughtful conversation—in locales including Paris, Tokyo, Tbilisi, Berkeley and an olive grove on the outskirts of Athens. Footage from these banquets is interspersed with archival materials and interviews (often featuring a stylized or distorted owl image looming in the background). Marker’s diverse group of informants includes composers, politicians, classicists, historians, scientists, writers, filmmakers, and actors. Together their contributions form a compelling (and sometimes contradictory) cultural and historical exploration for each theme.

After screening on European television, THE OWL’S LEGACY was unavailable for decades—the result of objections from funders the Onassis Foundation, who took offense at comments made in the series about modern Greece. Now it has been restored and is finally being released. THE OWL’S LEGACY continues to serve as a powerful reminder of the ongoing impact of ancient Greek culture and the ways in which we continually recast it to suit our beliefs.

The Owl’s Legacy


  1. “Yes, Herr Babel, I remember street images, walking with my mother in Berlin, in our ‘theater of purchases.’ I always kept half a step behind her. My habit was intolerable to her. I walked with her in dreamy recalcitrance. On her I blame my inability in practical life. I was pampered, inept, solitary—couldn’t make a cup of coffee, still can’t.” (“The World of Secret Affinities: Remembering Isaac Babel and Walter Benjamin”)

1 comment

  • … and how many eras have reinterpreted to fill their own needs…. i read…. boy do i miss the film world sometimes! Nothing like going out to see somewhere! Your site(s) always so academic, but fun and cool. Will check out some asap

Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

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