French filmmaker Chris Marker (b. 1921) is best known for politically engaged documentaries (A Grin without a Cat, Le Joli Mai and Cuba Si! ), for his personalized “cine-essay” films (Sans Soleil, Remembrance of Things to Come and The Case of the Grinning Cat) and the science-fiction classic La Jetée. No matter the subject, however, his films always reflect his deep and abiding love for animals. Indeed, virtually all of his work is suffused with images of animals—real ones as well as fine-art and pop-culture representations—especially cats, owls, wolves, horses, and elephants.
CHRIS MARKER’S BESTIARY for the first time collects his short films devoted exclusively to animals.
Cat Listening to Music
Marker fans are familiar with the cartoon representation of Guillaume-en-Egypte, Marker’s beloved pet cat, which has become the reclusive filmmaker’s alter ego. In this charming short, Marker reveals the real-life Guillaume, stretched out lazily in the filmmaker’s apartment, as he listens to the lilting rhythms of a piano sonata by Federico Mompou.
An Owl is an Owl is an Owl
A visit to an aviary yields a rhythmically edited series of close-ups of the rapidly rotating or intently staring feathered heads of a colorful variety of owls, accompanied by an ambient electronic soundtrack.
A leisurely-paced montage of animals, many of them confined in cages or enclosures-including seals, kangaroos, leopards, gorillas, wolves, monkeys, ostriches, and a sleeping rhinoceros.
Bullfight in Okinawa
Two enormous black bulls engage in a contest of brute force, egged on by their screaming handlers, as they butt heads and lock horns in an attempt to rout their opponent.
In this astonishing, sustained shot, an elephant in the Ljubjana Zoo ambles around its enclosure, performing syncopated dance steps to the accompaniment of Igor Stravinsky’s “Tango.”
Animals in Chris Marker’s films often function as cultural or political metaphors (“A cat is never on the side of power,” Marker has explained). In this anthology of short films, however, Marker avoids the commercial cinema’s tendency to anthropomorphize animals in favor of a simple celebration of their exotic beauty, primal nature and mystery. —Icarus Films
“I write to you from a far-off country…”
Information regarding the early life of Chris Marker, photographer, filmmaker, videographer, poet, journalist, multimedia/installation artist, designer, and world traveler, is scarce and conflicting. The year to which his movies, videos, and multimedia projects are dated depends on which source you use, and in which country you live. Personal data is in a state of complete disarray: Derek Malcolm, writing about ¡Cuba Sí! (1961) for The Guardian, reports that Marker was born in Mongolia, of aristocratic descent. Geoff Andrew of Time Out London isn’t sure (Andrew, 146), and most sources, along with the Internet Movie Database, use the location I’ve listed above as his place of birth. Some say his father was an American soldier, others that he (Marker) was a paratrooper in the Second World War. Still others, that he comes to us from an alien planet. Or the future. Throughout his career, he has rarely been interviewed, and even more rarely… read more
Human and animal relationships and the interchange of personalities and cultures thereof are incompletely considered in humanity's anthropocentric attitudes toward nature, and here Chris Marker scratches the surface by several shorts visiting human-constructed and framed livelihoods of animals... and the utterly depressing history of whale hunting. --PolarisdiB