L'Héritage de la chouette (The Owl’s Legacy)

L'Héritage de la chouette (The Owl’s Legacy)

Saturday, May 13, 2017 - 4:30pm
Community Partner(s)
Screening Sponsor(s)
Chris Marker | 
France |
 1989 | 
80 minutes

THIS FILM IS PART OF THE FRENCH FRENCH PROGRAM. 

CINEMATHEQUE MEMBERS WILL RECEIVE A DOXA MEMBERSHIP FOR ALL 7 FOIS CHRIS MARKER SCREENINGS. 

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: SYMPOSIUM or Accepted Ideas, OLYMPISM or Imaginary Greece, DEMOCRACY or The City of Dreams. Interviews were filmed in Tbilisi, Athens, Paris, Berkeley, and Tokyo. The cast of characters 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. Whether it is the Nazi appropriation of Ancient Greek gods and ideology, perverted from their origins to fit the Third Reich, or George Steiner stating that “the Greek civilization enhanced the whole human race,” but describing Socrates as “a royal pain in the ass.”

Passions run high as the assembled minds debate and drink, talking about the foundational concepts of Western culture. Every interview is attended, perhaps witnessed by the enigmatic gaze of a different owl, Minerva’s bird that looms large in the background. What is most curious, as with a great deal of Marker’s work, is the timeliness of his ideas and their respective focus. In Episode 3: DEMOCRACY or the City of Dreams, Cornelius Castoriadis argues that the modern concept of democracy and that of Ancient Greece bear little resemblance to each other. Or as Oswyn Murray states, “There are no democracies, only oligarchies.” As John Winkler talks about the continuity between the Athenian and the American idea of ‘the political bluff,’ and the peculiar fascination with the personal, private, even sexual lives of political leaders, he relates it back to a concept in ancient Greece called the dokimasia, a McCarthy-like process that was launched by one’s political enemies. Angélique Ionatos theorizes that Ancient Greece must have been “a very violent, and also very vulgar place with kicking and fighting. But this makes them more human, it fleshes them out.” Looking again at L’Héritage de la chouette (The Owl’s Legacy), in this, our current fraught moment, there is much to be learned. Or as Castoriadis says at the series’ end: “What should I think?” -DW