On the fifth anniversary of the deaths of Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni comes the loss of another master filmmaker, albeit one more associated with documentary. Chris Marker, who was a pioneer of the essay film genre and gave us such seminal works as Sans Soleil, Le Joli Mai and Grin Without a Cat, died today in Paris, just one day after turning 91.
The filmmaker is actually best known for his 1962 sci-fi short La Jetee, which earned enormous notoriety thirty years later when it inspired the plot of Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. Sans Soleil, which people say stretches the rules of documentary with its fictionalized narration style, has become fairly well known in being paired with Jetee in a Criterion Collection release. Early in his filmmaking career he worked with Alain Resnais, serving as assistant director on Night and Fog and co-director of the short doc Statues Also Die.
News of Marker’s death comes at an interesting time, since I’ve been thinking about movies involving the Olympics. His first feature, Olympia 52, shows us record of the Summer Games held in Helsinki 60 years ago. A decade later he included material from the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo in Le Mystere Koumiko. With the event now seemingly obligated to hire filmmakers as artistic directors, I can’t help wonder what Marker could have done if in charge of an opening ceremony. Not that he would ever have done it.
More than the Olympics, things that come to mind when one thinks of Marker include cats, memory, time and travel. He made a “making of” doc that isn’t really a “making of doc” — the Akira Kurosawa profile A.K., which was made during the production of Ran. Later he made an homage to Aleksandr Medvedkin with The Last Bolshevik and another to Andrei Tarkovsky with One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich. By this time, he had also ventured into digital and multimedia concepts and methods that continue to signal one potential future for documentary.
For such a long life and with so much written in depth on Marker, academically and around the web, I won’t nor can I do his life and work and influence justice with this post. And I admit, I haven’t seen enough of his films to consider myself any kind of authority or expert. Not sure I can even rightly call myself a fan. So here’s what some friends and other filmmakers had to say in response to his death this morning:
“Cinema will never be the same.” - Distributor of nine of Marker’s titles, Icarus FIlms (@IcarusFilms)
“R.I.P. filmmaker Chris Marker. His ‘Sans Soleil’ continues to influence the way I think about film.” - Helvetica director Gary Hustwit (@gary_hustwit)
“One of the greatest artists that ever lived. […] I needed Chris Marker in my life like others need air. His intelligence and daring and humor and poetry made me want to make movies. […] If you haven’t seen THE LAST BOLSHEVIK, watch it for the most amazing, playful and truly uplifting ending in movie history. […] That’s the thing about great cinematic artists (and dinosaurs)… kids love em. […] To understand cinema, just watch the Marx Bros’ MONKEY BUSINESS and SAN SOLEIL.” - Kati with an I director Robert Greene (@prewarcinema)
“RIP Chris Marker. If you’ve not seen his film The Last Bolshevik, about Soviet director Aleksandr Medvedkin, it’s well worth the time.” - Guardian writer Juliet Jacques (@julietjacques)
“What an amazing inspiration Chris Marker has been to so many. I Love love love his films […] A big loss. RIP. What a great filmmaker he was […] Absolutely remarkable.” - Sheffield Doc/Fest director Heather Croall (@heathercroall)
“The world is indeed a poorer place.” - Raindance Film Festival (@Raindance)
Sad to hear Chris Marker has died, the day after his 91st birthday. His films and his sensibility meant a great deal to me. L.A. Weekly film critic Karina Longworth (@KarinaLongworth)
“From LA JETEE to GRINNING CAT, seemingly everything Chris Marker made was an intimate poetic gesture.” - Indiewire film critic Eric Kohn (@erickohn)
“I’ll get on board with this one - RIP Chris Marker, SANS SOLEIL one of my faves” - Jon Kelland, @DocCritic
“R.I.P. Chris Marker, even though he would likely despise social media memorials like this one.” - Matt Dentler @mattdentler
From Landon Palmer at Film School Rejects:
Marker’s most underappreciated works are probably his documentaries about other filmmakers. In A.K. (1985), his film about Akira Kurosawa making his late-career masterpiece Ran, and One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich (2000), a reflection on Andrei Tarkovsky’s late life and career, Marker’s skills at montage provide a surprisingly effective means for examining the work of two very different filmmakers who exercised remarkably different approaches to the medium.
From Tambay A. Obenson, who shares an untranslated and otherwise unavailable lesser known film via YouTube, at Shadows and Act:
let me draw your attention to Marker’s 1953 French essay film (which he co-directed with Alain Resnais) titled Les Statues meurent aussi, or Statues Also Die - an award-winning 30-minute film essay on African art from years past, and the effects colonialism has had on how that art is perceived. […] For their part, it’s been said that, according to Resnais, their original intent was not to make an anti-colonial film, but rather just a film about African art. However, their research opened them up to realities that they weren’t previously aware of, with respect to European (white) colonial perceptions of African art, which then affected the rest of their research, and thus the overall direction of the film, which also won the Prix Jean Vigo in 1954.
And finally, here is a bit from my interview last fall with Goran Olsson about influences on his doc The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975:
There is a film, I can’t remember the English title [“A Grin Without a Cat”], but the original is “Le fond de l’air est rouge,” by Chris Marker. It’s not a very good film, but it was inspiration. Sometimes you’re inspired not by the best things, just something that sparks something.
Wave goodbye, little Maneki-neko figurines, and rest in peace, Chris Marker!
- marseacorrea reblogged this from documentarychannel
- marseacorrea likes this
- imabeabelieberforever reblogged this from documentarychannel
- imabeabelieberforever likes this
- edwardiansnow likes this
- delightx reblogged this from documentarychannel
- delightx likes this
- nixskits likes this
- documentarychannel posted this