In Description d’un Combat, Marker’s idiosyncratic style, combining location footage with archival material, builds a complex and personal portrayal. Israel’s demography is explored, from the kibbutzim to the Arab minorities, the orthodox Jews, and the tourists.
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A mix of documentary, social commentary and photo essay I believe this to be an invaluable historical record of the birth of a nation. Israel was only 12 years old when Chris Marker made this film. That he foresaw in 1960 so much of what would happen and the way Israel would go is almost prophetic.
Marker is an artist alone in a novel field, and everything is at all times so modulated and precise as to beggar belief. It is utterly humbling to see an artist again and again remain so utterly in control of the residue of chaos and drift. He is an impressionist who encounters and synthesizes. He is an essayist, naturally. But he is also a poet of incomparable reach and singularity. This movie is a crystal.
Undeniable historical value of the footage, we witness Israel in its early years - fresh, filled with hope, but without a clear direction. Chris Marker manages to notice and capture the importance of that decisive moment, and in some regards it is hauntingly prophetic. There are hints of Marker's poetic dreaminess that I love, but not fully developed - the narration feels monotonous and unnecessary at times.
2.5 Great to see the historical footage. The narration was filled with odd bits ("their sheep-herding instincts"? "there are Chagalls among the Rubens"? "Christmas was spent aboard the ship"?) that made me question the omniscient voice's ideological underpinnings. Attempts at wryness or pure snark? Did appreciate a couple succinct gems of truth about Israel's moral dilemma.
He's able to capture a lot of incredible stuff. I wish it'd lingered on a single subject or idea instead of bouncing around attempting to be comprehensive. I enjoyed the narration, lots of lines fucked with my head, but found my attention to the narration drifting back and forth.
Though not as deep, this film anticipates "Sans Soleil" both aesthetically and stylistically. It also shows how much the hypnotic quality of Ms. Stewart's narration aided the mood of "Sans Soleil" while the man's narration detracted a bit in this one.