This week the spotlight is on Chris Marker, a French avant-garde director known for his controversial documentaries, who has just died at the age of 91. He steered away from the conventional norms of Hollywood cinema and opted for an experimental approach to his filmmaking. He was the innovator of the essay film, a now accepted genre which unites documentary, narrative and personal reflection.
(Image of Chris Marker)
He was one the industry’s most mysterious filmmakers who would avoid interviews and shy away from the camera. The only time he was ever photographed was when persistent journalists would catch him unaware. Still to this day most details of his life are unknown, even the most fundamental facts such as his place and date of birth remain debatable.
His most notable works include the 1962 film “Cuba Si” which praises the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and was band in the US in the “name of historical truth”. Other works include the cine essay about Siberian culture “Letter from Siberia” (1958); “Le Joli Mali” (1963) which is comprised of interviews with the people of Paris; and “Sans Soleil” (1985) a travelogue about memory and technology.
His greatest work, “La Jetée” (1962), does not conform to the typical requisitions of a film and is made up of nearly only still images. The motivation behind this was to challenge the typical structure of mainstream cinema, debating whether a film has to be a motion picture or whether it can be a medium. It tells the story of a man who travels back in time with the purpose of understanding a disturbing image from his past. This film is often referred to as one of the most influential time travel films ever made, and was the inspiration behind Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys.
(Still image from “La Jetée”, 1962)
The reason that we decided to spotlight Chris Marker is because we here at ÉCU admire his determination to surpass all the traditional criteria of filmmaking and explore other mediums of cinematography. We wanted to celebrate his life and the importance of his indie productions which are said to have inspired a new category of sci-fi films today.