I admit I’ve only seen two of his films (La Jetee and Sans Soleil, of which I consider both to be masterpieces) but they strike me both as relying heavily on narration, more than other films or other directors that I’ve encountered, yet the narration never acts like a crutch, telling us things instead of showing (like some rather mediocre films adapted from novels).
I’m not trying to make the claim that films must be pure or “cinematic” but I do recall having read a quote of Chris Marker’s that went something like “film is an unique medium in that it has allowed me to essays, Jean-Luc Godard to make novels and (a name I forget) to make theater” which provides an interesting vantage point to view his films and the way he views the medium.
It would be interesting to hear whether or not some of you think Marker succeeds in spite of his literary qualities, because of them, or that he fuses them both to create something cinematic and fitting to both his content and form (something akin to the way Bresson handles reading and writing in A Diary of a Country Priest).
So, Chris Marker, literary or cinematic? Both, neither, unclassifiable?
Also, what’s up with all the cats?
I don’t understand how any film can be considered literary beyond the use of narration. Literature and cinema are composed in different languages, that while sharing some parallels, can’t be faithfully translated from one to the other.
I love some Marker too, but let’s be honest: La Jetee is a glorified slide show. It barely fit the definition of moving pictures. Still, being an audio-visual-temporal presentation, I would still consider it cinema and cinematic.
“Literature and cinema are composed in different languages, that while sharing some parallels, can’t be faithfully translated from one to the other.”
I wish more people understood this.
In spite of his literary qualities?
Do other filmmakers succeed in spite of their photographic qualities? (Still photography existed way before film did)
Do other filmmakers succeed in spite of their theatric qualities?
Do other filmmakers succeed in spite of their compositional qualities?
Under this argument isn’t any film that uses sound at all uncinematic?
Why can a filmmaker make the blandest narrative genre crap stolen from countless better novels over and over again and be heralded as a genius but if he includes voiceover suddenly he’s relying way too much on other artforms to create his own vision?
Marker’s the essence of cinema, not because he makes narrative works but because he defies them and creates art of the moment for time immemorial (which is the only real thing cinema can do that other artforms can’t). I think it might be smart to become more acquainted with the “essay” film and that form of documentary cinema.
San Soleil and La Jetee may be his most famous works but it’s hardly all he has to offer. Grin Without a Cat is one of the greatest things ever made.
I appreciate Sandwiches effort to begin a fruitful discussion but, like Wu Yong, I think the premise is a little… misguided? Would the OP mind if we broadened the discussion or do people think it would be more helpful to start a new thread?
Literate. (Not you, Kang; Chris Marker.)
La Jetée is the epitome of cinematic
“I love some Marker too, but let’s be honest: La Jetee is a glorified slide show. It barely fit the definition of moving pictures. Still, being an audio-visual-temporal presentation, I would still consider it cinema and cinematic.”
Images on a timeline. The cinematic apparatus. Peter Hutton makes films that are the moving equivalent of still landscape photos, typically in black and white. The shot cuts right as the quality of the light changes. Essentialized definitions of cinema lead down recursive paths, going nowhere.
Chris Marker, if I am not mistaken, does not consider himself a filmmaker as much as a multimedia artist. I own a CD-Rom of his called Immemory which features film clips, guided tours, writing and poetry, photography, Easter eggs, and minigames. My former professor almost got an interview with him that was to be held over Second Life. Marker can and will pull from whatever established artform and platform he finds useful to create whatever he wants. In film, the essay quality attracts him—one of my favorite movies by him is actually a documentary about Tarkovsky at the end of his life, named A Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenivich . At one point he discusses pointillism, I forget the exact context, and uses a cheap video effect called “Mosaic” to present it—the most effective use of Mosaic I have ever seen. Homefry does not shy away from whatever tools he needs, so if a voice over is the most effective way for him to make a point, he does so. This does not make him a novelist, per se.
“Also, what’s up with all the cats?”
They, and owls, are Marker’s favorite animals.
Whether a film is cinematic isn’t to be measured by how much narration or dialogue there is.
Literature and cinema are complimentary. As for “languages” have you read Christian Metz> He tried to prove there was a cinematic “language.” He failed.
The fact that Chris Marker doesn’t traffic in conventional drama is apparently disturbing to some of you. My advice?
As for the cats, Chris Marker loves them — as do other “fet bank” filmmakers (Varda, Resnais, Colpi, et.al.)
I have been thinking a lot about Marker lately.
What I find most interesting about Marker’s process is that he will use whatever medium that best suits the subject of his work at the time. He has done work in photography, film/video, writing, and CD-Rom. He is not bound to one medium which I find refreshing.
Throughout his work, Marker consistently returns to the problems of the idea of memory. Memory, for Marker, is not a collection of crystallized absolute images of an individual’s experiences Rather, they are images that are always evolving due to other experiences and outside influences. For Marker, to remember is to (re)create.
I think this is why Marker references Vertigo in La Jetee, Sans soleil and Immemory. The theme of trying to (re)create reality based on imperfect memories is central to the journey of that film.
In Sans soleil, Marker has the narrator say “I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember. We rewrite memory much as history is rewritten. How can one remember thirst?”. I think you could take this quote and use it as a starting point for understanding much of his work.
This is not an absolute theory that exists throughout his work. I believe Marker’s ideas on memory have been evolving over time. La Jetee, for instance, doesn’t touch on this theory but does deal with memory and time. In that sense, Marker, like Godard, is using the medium to ask questions about his theories rather than just illustrate them.
There are many people that write theories about media. Marker uses media to work through his theories. Not a philosophy in or of film but film as philosophy perhaps.
When will people (especially critics) finally learn to understand that you can’t just devide audio and image? The fact that there’s a lot of text in Marker’s films doesn’t make them literary. Removing the commentary from a Marker film would be as random as taking out half the frame because you don’t like the upper part of the image.
His both is both Cinematic and Literary. Gotta love them cats.
The captioned image: word and image conspire in symbiotic transmigrations. Wicked cinematic.
The reason for the cats is that cats are just genuinely cinematic creatures.
I’m not sure if I was clear. I’m not vouching for cinematic purity by any means but I think it makes for interesting discussion to see how filmmakers (Marker in this case) consciously blend both formats. I think we can all agree that “purity” is not important and if not, it is non-existent.
The fact that Marker has called he has called some of his films “essays” and “cine-romans” and there’s a book version of La Jetee makes me think he does find a certain quality in his films akin to literature. I’m not trying to say that Marker succeeds in spite of his literate qualities, but rather, he succeeds because he IS trying to be literate and this is not unimaginative but on the contrary pretty revolutionary.
I like the “glorified slideshow” quality of La Jetee because it seems to really fit with the idea that the protagonist is stuck in time yet the combination of still photos and sound is always suggesting a presence outside the frame.
Forgive me if I’m not remembering correctly but the most frequent phrase in Sans Soleil is “he wrote me.” With that in mind, who’s POV are we seeing? Are we seeing some sort of imagined letter? Or rather a filmmaker trying to retrace someone’s steps, thereby filming literature?
Anyway, it always seems to me that if anyone could film the most unfilmable of Borges’ stories it would be Marker.