Sunday, August 26, 2012
For Chris Marker

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

The Sorbonne should be razed and Chris Marker put up in its place. - Henri Michaux

As a tribute to Chris Marker, who passed away last month, Light Industry is hosting a free, all-day screening of his films, with introductory remarks and remembrances by Paul Chan, Thomas Keenan, Tom McDonough, Molly Nesbit, Martha Rosler, Jason Simon, and Amy Taubin, among others.

Marker began filmmaking in Paris in the 1950s, after working as a journalist and photographer in the years following the war. Among his earliest efforts were collaborations with Alain Resnais, which include Statues Also Die, an anti-colonialist meditation on African art, and All the Memory of the World, a portrait of France’s Bibliotheque Nationale. Memory—its fugitive nature, its emotional power, its political implications—would become be a major theme of his work, providing the conceptual core of his most widely known film, La Jetée. A post-apocalyptic time-travel tale told primarily in still images, it was praised by J.G. Ballard, William Gibson and others as one of the greatest achievements of science-fiction cinema. Most of Marker’s oeuvre, however, presents the most advanced developments in the essay film, a hybrid genre that Marker might as well have invented. His first feature film, Letter from Siberia, already constitutes the basics of the essay film à la Marker: an epistolary travelogue, allusive, elliptical and digressive, unfolding through a mixture of black-and-white and color footage, archival documentary, still photos, and animation. Marker’s penchant for presenting images of reality through intricately constructed fictions reaches its apogee with Sans Soleil, a philosophical masterwork told via a nested set of invented personae who narrate journeys through Japan, Iceland, France, Cape Verde, and Guinea-Bissau.

The ongoing travails of the Left would serve as another major concern in Marker’s work, seen early on in Le Joli mai, which attempts to give a picture of France’s collective psyche at the end of the Algerian War through citizen-on-the-street interviews, and later in A Grin Without a Cat, his response to the global revolutionary movements of the 1960s and 70s that J. Hoberman dubbed a “montage film with a mass hero” in the Eisensteinian tradition. The question of cinema’s revolutionary potential is raised in The Last Bolshevik, an extended analysis of the work of Soviet director Aleksandr Medvedkin, who went from crafting idiosyncratic works of socialist-surrealism to producing anonymous propaganda under Stalin. In his 80s, Marker returned to the streets of Paris to shoot The Case of the Grinning Cat, which investigates the mysterious spread of a smiling feline graffito as a way to think about the after-effects of September 11, the rise of French right-wing extremism, and the enduring possibility for radical action. His response to the political situation of the 21st century calls to mind a Marker quote that circulated widely following his death: “Rarely has reality needed so much to be imagined.”

Collaborations with Alain Resnais
Statues Also Die, digital projection, 1953, 30 mins
All the Memory of the World, digital projection, 1955, 22 mins
Introduced by Tom McDonough

Sans soleil, 16mm, 1982, 100 mins
Introduced by Amy Taubin

La Jetée, 16mm, 1962, 28 mins
Introduced by Molly Nesbit

Le Joli mai, digital projection, 1963, 165 mins
Introduced by Jason Simon

A Grin Without a Cat, digital projection, 1977, 180 mins
Introduced by Thomas Keenan

Letter from Siberia, digital projection, 1957, 62 mins
Introduced by Martha Rosler

The Last Bolshevik, digital projection, 1992, 120 mins
Introduced by Paul Chan

The Case of the Grinning Cat, digital projection, 2004, 58 mins

All shows are free. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 9am. Marker's 1997 CD-Rom project Immemory and a selection of materials related to his work—posters, books—will be on view in Light Industry's office before and after screenings.

Special thanks to Icarus Films, Institut Francais, and New Yorker Films.