“A curious spirit, a tireless filmmaker, a poet in love with cats, a video director, a secretive character, an immense talent… We are Chris Marker’s orphans.”
Cannes Film Festival president Gilles Jacob announced the death of French writer/director Chris Marker on Twitter today; Marker died at age 91 earlier today.
Chris Marker, who has been credited with inventing the “film essay,” used sound, images and text creatively, to tell poetic documentary stories that centered on the political and the philosophical.
His best known film is probably La jetée (1962) – the 28-minute story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel, shot in black and white, constructed almost entirely from photographs; It won the Prix Jean Vigo for short film and gained him international attention.
The 1962 acclaimed French short film influenced filmmakers to come, including Terry Gilliam’s 1995 sci-fi drama 12 Monkeys, and even, most recently, the Sundance 2012 short film entry, The Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke, starring Luther Campbell of 2 Live Crew.
Marker’s other popular titles include A Grin Without a Cat (1977), and Sans Soleil (1983) – the latter you’ll find packaged on one disk, with La jetée, by Criterion.
But let me draw your attention to Marker’s 1953 French essay film (which he co-directed with Alain Resnais) titled Les Statues meurent aussi, or Statues Also Die – an award-winning 30-minute film essay on African art from years past, and the effects colonialism has had on how that art is perceived.
And because the film was considered by some to be a critique of colonialism, the second half of it (in which the film argues that “colonial presence has compelled African art to lose much of its idiosyncratic expression, in order to appeal to Western consumers,” with a mention of how African currencies had been replaced by European currencies) was censored in France until the 1960s.
For their part, it’s been said that, according to Resnais, their original intent was not to make an anti-colonial film, but rather just a film about African art. However, their research opened them up to realities that they weren’t previously aware of, with respect to European (white) colonial perceptions of African art, which then affected the rest of their research, and thus the overall direction of the film, which also won the Prix Jean Vigo in 1954.
I found the entire film on YouTube, and have embedded it below in 3 parts; however, just the first part (the first 10 minutes) has English CC (close-captioning) available; the other 2 parts do not. It’s said that there’s a DVD for it, but I couldn’t find it anywhere – not on Amazon, Netflix, or other film rental/sale sites):