“Who is Chris Marker?” — is the question posed by the directors/ interlocutors, and every answer reveals a different reality. Some of the recollections are funny and bittersweet, such as Wim Wenders getting blind drunk with Marker at a bar in Tokyo.
Chris Marker’s expansive, nay, insanely encompassing portrait of his friend and colleague, Aleksandr Ivanovich Medvedkin begins with Medvedkin assailing the screen and stating: “Chris, you lazy bastard, why don’t you ever write to me, send me a letter, even that short...” So begins this epistolary film, composed of six different letters, each corresponding to a period of Medvedkin’s life and work. The film is Marker’s post-mortem answer (and tribute).
Two of Chris Marker’s remarkable film portraits, including his masterful and deeply personal analysis of the work of Andrei Tarkovsky. Edited some twelve years after Tarkovsky’s death for the collection Cinéma, de notre temps (Cinema of Our Times), Une Journée d’Andrei Arsenevitch (One Day In The Life Of Andrei Arsenevich) is an extraordinary love letter from one filmmaker to another, and a memento mori of the most profound kind.
Here is Chris Marker’s magnum opus in all its ferocious intelligence and scale Originally released in 1977, and reedited in 1996, the rise and fall of the Left is ostensibly Marker’s subject, the great political revolutions of the 60s and 70s, totemic figures like Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, composed like a heaving orchestra of archival material, demonstrations, occupations, and blood in the streets.
The legendary 13-part series, commissioned by Arte and the Onassis Foundation (that kept Marker’s work unavailable for twenty years), alights at DOXA in its first three episodes Interviews were filmed in Tbilisi, Athens, Paris, Berkeley, and Tokyo. The cast of character is equally expansive with composers, filmmakers, philosophers, and friends including Iannis Xenakis, Michel Serres, Cornelius Castoriadis, George Steiner, Oswyn Murray, Michel Jobert, and Elia Kazan. But what is most startling are the ideas examined.
A portrait of photographer Denise Bellon, who pioneered the art of photojournalism, Remembrance of Things to Come is bookended by two Surrealist exhibitions (1938 and 1947). Or, as Marker terms them: “Two small Islands of strangeness, as between two hands.” Circuitous and discursive, the narrative is pinned in place by Bellon’s extraordinary eye.
A more fitting film for our electoral moment is hard to imagine than Chris Marker’s Chats perchés (The Case of the Grinning Cat). The film has the serendipitous timing that is the hallmark of great art: it is always relevant, and au courant — sometimes painfully so.