From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Chris Marker (29 July 1921 – 29 July 2012) was a French writer, photographer, documentary film director, multimedia artist and film essayist. His best known films are La jetée (1962), A Grin Without a Cat (1977), Sans Soleil (1983) and AK (1985), an essay film on the Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Marker is often associated with the Left Bank Cinema movement that occurred in the late 1950s and included such other filmmakers as Alain Resnais, Agnès Varda, Henri Colpi and Armand Gatti.
His friend and sometime collaborator Alain Resnais has called him "the prototype of the twenty-first-century man." Film theorist Roy Armes has said of him: "Marker is unclassifiable because he is unique...The French Cinema has its dramatists and its poets, its technicians, and its autobiographers, but only has one true essayist: Chris Marker."
Marker studied philosophy under Jean-Paul Sartre with Guy Debord. In World War II he joined the Maquis (FTP). After the war he began to write and make films. He traveled to many socialist countries and documented what he saw in films and books. Les Statues meurent aussi (1953) which he codirected with Alain Resnais was one of the first anticolonial films. Anatole Dauman produced the first films of Chris Marker and later produced two more of his films Sunday in Peking and Letter from Siberia.
He became internationally known for the short film La Jetée (1962). It tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel by using a series of filmed photographs developed as a photomontage of varying pace with limited narration and sound effects. This film was the inspiration for Mamoru Oshii's debut live action feature The Red Spectacles (1987) (later for Avalon) and also inspired Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys (1995).
In 1982 Marker finished Sans Soleil, stretching the limits of what could be called a documentary. It is an essay, a montage, mixing pieces of documentary with fiction and philosophical comments, creating an atmosphere of dream and science fiction. The main themes are Japan, Africa, (the erasing of) memory and travel. A sequence in the middle of the film takes place in San Francisco, and heavily references Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo.
Beginning with Sans Soleil he developed a deep interest in digital technology, which led to his film Level 5 (1996) and IMMEMORY (1998), an interactive multimedia CD-ROM, produced for the Centre Pompidou. Marker created a 19 minute multimedia piece in 2005 for the The Museum of Modern Art in New York titled "Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men" which was influenced by the poem created by T.S. Eliot.
Chris Marker lives in Paris and does not grant interviews. When asked for a picture of himself, he usually offers a photograph of a cat instead. His cat is named Guillaume.
- Olympia 52 (1952)
- Statues Also Die (1953 with Alain Resnais)
- Sundays in Peking (1956)
- Letters from Siberia (1957)
- Les Astronautes (1959 with Walerian Borowczyk)
- Description d'un combat (1960)
- ¡Cuba Sí! (1961)
- La jetée (1962)
- Le joli mai (1963, 2006 re-cut)
- Le Mystère Koumiko (1965)
- Si j'avais quatre dromadaires (1966)
- Loin du Vietnam (1967)
- Rhodiacéta (1967)
- La Sixième face du pentagone (1968 with Reichenbach)
- Cinétracts (1968)
- À bientôt, j'espère (1968 with Marret)
- On vous parle du Brésil: Tortures (1969)
- Jour de tournage (1969)
- Classe de lutte (1969)
- On vous parle de Paris: Maspero, les mots ont un sens (1970)
- On vous parle du Brésil: Carlos Marighela (1970)
- La Bataille des dix millions (1971)
- Le Train en marche (1971)
- On vous parle de Prague: le deuxième procès d'Artur London (1971)
- Vive la baleine (1972)
- L'Ambassade (1973)
- On vous parle du Chili: ce que disait Allende (1973 with Littin)
- Puisqu'on vous dit que c'est possible (1974)
- La Solitude du chanteur de fond (1974)
- La Spirale (1975)
- A Grin Without a Cat (1977)
- Quand le siècle a pris formes (1978)
- Junkopia (1981)
- Sans Soleil (1983)
- 2084 (1984)
- From Chris to Christo (1985)
- Matta (1985)
- A.K. (1985)
- Eclats (1986)
- Mémoires pour Simone (1986)
- Tokyo Days (1988)
- Spectre (1988)
- L'héritage de la chouette (1989)
- Bestiaire (three short video haiku) (1990)
- Getting away with it (1990)
- Berlin 1990 (1990)
- Détour Ceausescu (1991)
- Théorie des ensembles (1991)
- Coin fenètre (1992)
- Azulmoon (1992)
- Le Tombeau d'Alexandre aka The Last Bolshevik (1992)
- Le 20 heurs dans les camps (1993)
- Prime Time in the Camps (1993)
- SLON Tango (1993)
- Bullfight in Okinawa (1994)
- Eclipse (1994)
- Haiku (1994)
- Haiku 1. Petite Ceinture
- Haiku 2. Chaika
- Haiku 3. Owl Gets in Your Eyes
- Casque bleu (1995)
- Silent Movie (1995)
- Level Five (1997)
- Un maire au Kosovo (2000)
- One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich (2000)
- Le facteur sonne toujours cheval (2001)
- Avril inquiet (2001)
- Le souvenir d'un avenir (with Bellon 2003)
- Chats Perchés (2004) - a documentary about M. Chat street art
- Leila Attacks (2006)
- Nuit et Brouillard (Resnais 1955)
- Note: In a 1995 interview Resnais states that the final version of the commentary was a collaboration between Marker and Jean Cayrol (source: Film Comment).
- Les hommes de la baleine (Ruspoli 1956)
- Note: under the pseudonym "Jacopo Berenizi" Marker wrote the commentary for this short about whale hunters in the Azores. The two would return to this topic in 1972's Vive la Baleine (Film Comment).
- Le mystere de l'atelier quinze (Resnais et Heinrich 1957)
- Note: Marker wrote the commentary for this fictional short (Film Comment).
- Le Siècle a soif (Vogel 1958)
- Note: Marker wrote and spoke all the commentary for this short film about fruit juice in Alexandrine verse (Film Comment).
- La Mer et les jours (Vogel et Kaminker 1958)
- Note: Marker present commentary for this "somber work about the daily lives of fishermen on Brittany's Île de Sein" (Film Comment).
- L'Amérique insolite (Reichenbach 1958)
- Note: Marker was eventually credited as a writer for this one, apparently, he wrote the dialogue (Film Comment).
- Django Reinhardt (Paviot 1959)
- Note: Marker narrated this one (Film Comment).
- Jouer à Paris (Varlin 1962)
- Note: This was edited by Marker - essentially, this film is a 27-minute postscript to Le Joli Mai assembled from leftover footage and organized around a new commentary (Film Comment).
- A Valparaiso (Ivens 1963)
- Note: This gem was written by Marker. It feels like a Marker film.
- Les Chemins de la fortune (Kassovitz 1964)
- Note: Marker apparently helped edit and organise this Venezuela travelogue (Film Comment).
- La Douceur du village (Reichenbach 1964)
- Note: Edited by Marker.
- La Brûlure de mille soleils (Kast 1964)
- Note: Marker edited this (mostly) animated science-fiction exstentialist short and (possibly) collaborated on the script (Film Comment).
- Le volcan interdit (Tazieff 1966)
- Note: Marker narrates this volcano documentary.
- Europort-Rotterdam (Ivens 1966)
- Note: Marker did the textual adaptation (Film Comment.
- On vous parle de Flins (Devart 1970)
- Note: Marker helped film and edit this short (Film Comment).
- L'Afrique express (Tessier et Lang 1970)
- Note: Marker wrote the introductory text for this film under the name "Boris Villeneuve" (Film Comment).
- Kashima Paradise (Le Masson et Deswarte 1974)
- Note: Marker collaborated on the commentary on this documentary about the destruction of Kashima and Narita (Film Comment).
- La Batalla de Chile (Guzman, 1975–1976)
- Note: Marker helped produce and contributed to the screenplay for this, perhaps the greatest of all documentary films (Film Comment).
- One Sister and Many Brothers (Makavejev 1994)
- Note: Marker tapes Makavejev circulating among the guests of a party in his honor as much jovial backslapping abounds (Film comment).
Bibliography (self-contained works by Marker)
- Le Cœur Net (1949, Editions du Seuil, Paris)
- Giraudoux Par Lui-Même (1952, Editions du Seuil, Paris)
- Commentaires I (1961, Editions du Seuil, Paris)
- Coréennes (1962, Editions du Seuil, Paris)
- Commentaires II (1967, Editions du Seuil, Paris)
- Le Dépays (1982, Editions Herscher, Paris)
- Silent Movie (1995, Ohio State University Press)
- La Jetée ciné-roman (1996 / 2nd printing 2008, MIT Press, Cambridge; designed by Bruce Mau)
- Staring Back (2007, MIT Press, Cambridge)
- Immemory (CDROM) (1997 / 2nd printing 2008, Exact Change, Cambridge)