Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

Touché Times

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Dennis Lim, “Chris Marker’s Obsessions,” Special to the LA Times, August 31, 2008.

This piece belies its intriguing title by presenting a very factual and summary account of official Icarus releases of The Last Bolchevik, Remembrance of Things to Come, The Case of the Grinning Cat and The Sixth Side of the Pentagon / The Embassy. These releases had been available exclusively from the Wexner Center for the Arts, and have now entered the main stream, if not the mainstream.

It seems like every time La Jetée is mentioned in the press, it is regarded chiefly as the inspiration for 12 Monkeys. In 100 years, long before the future accessed in La Jetée, no one will remember the latter, and the former will be played on goggles while you’re teleporting to work.

As far as obsessions go, they are barely touched on in this piece of lightweight journalism. I wish the reporter had been more obsessed himself, or at least chosen a different title. But as the Germans say, na ja, which sure beats the California-ism “it’s all good.” It ain’t all good, and Marker knows it as clearly as anyone thinking, scribbling and creating today.

Guillaume has become his spokesperson for this die-hard unwillingness to let things slide, and Marker the model of finding ever new means and media as outlets for expression (political cartoons, Second Life mini-worlds, multi-dimensional installations, photographs that look people right in the eye, YouTube channels – you name it). Marker’s obsessions are alive and well, but not stagnant or stale, ever. They are like miniature mobile armies of truth, small stabs that bring down giants, just as La Jetée is a half-hour movie that can outshine 3 hour epics in its sleep.

8 comments

  • This exact Last Bolshevik DVD set, with english subtitles, has actually been available for 3 years in France… it was always a mystery to me why its existence wasn’t promoted in the english speaking world.

    I hope the trend continues! Letter from Siberia and 2084 would be marvelous…

    I sent an email to Criterion when they released Sans Soleil/La Jetee last year asking if any more Marker titles were in the works and they said:

    “There are a variety of reasons that his films are not available. He absolutely forbids certain early films – like LETTER FROM SIBERIA – from being released, and I’m told that he would like to do some re-editing of LE JOLI MAI before it makes its way out there. First Run/Icarus does have a few of his films available on VHS but I think they might only sell to educational markets.

    We’d love to do more. Sorry I can’t be of more help right now.”

  • Thanks for the correction and the useful information from your correspondence with Criterion. Personally I am hoping the most for a DVD release that would throw together Les Statures meurent aussi and Si j’avais quatre dromedaires, with an extra of Resnais’ Toute la mémoire du monde, which is so Marker-esque one could be forgiven for thinking CM might have had a hand, eye or ear in it… The Owl’s Heritage, which I have never to this day seen, I can only dream about.

  • I have a copy of The Owl’s Heritage… it’s a VHS capture but pretty watchable.. apart from the last episode being missing… d’oh.. Drop me a mail if you want it.

  • fwiw, Resnais’ Toute la memoire… is available on the UK DVD of Marienbad. And my understanding is that Marker did, in fact, have a hand in it (credited as ‘Chris and Magic Marker’). Les Statues would be nice though…

    Owl’s Heritage episodes are often downloadable from eMule if you’re not opposed to p2p.

Chris Marker Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory

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