From 1967 to 1976 Chris Marker was a member of SLON (the “Company for the Launching of New Works”). One of several groups that emerged in those years in which filmmakers, militants, and others came together on a cooperative, parallel basis, SLON was based on the idea that cinema should not be thought of solely in terms of commerce.
1967 was also the year an important strike broke out at Rhodiaceta, a textile plant owned by the Rhone-Poulenc trust in the city of Besançon, France. The strike was unusual in character because the workers refused to disassociate the industrial conflict from a social and cultural agenda. The workers’ demands concerned not only salary and job security, but also the very lifestyle imposed on them by society.
So it was only natural that Chris Marker, along with other technicians and members of SLON, would visit Besançon to document the strike, and the lives and attitudes of the workers.
The film’s most important moments are composed of conversations with workers and their wives. They believe the working class is increasingly at the mercy of a system that gives them no power, a system that would like them to remain powerless. And so it was that their local demands grew into questions about the larger political system.
The strikers eventually returned to work with few gains, but had developed a sense of their power, which helped lay the groundwork for May ’68, when France was rocked by revolutionary protests.
Completed and first shown that year, À bientôt, j’espère (Be Seeing You), is a document of the year, of a moment really, when everything was called into question.
“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
Marret and Marker capture amazing moments of worker's struggle from which they miraculously clarify how the intertwining of capitalism logic and humanist emotional and psychological needs clash on levels beyond a simple strike for money, which further elicit a sadness when these diverse human needs fractionalize (despite the positive harmony suggested in the end). Really amazing balance of politics and emotion.