Chris Marker (1921-2012) is one of the finest examples of an essay-filmmaker. TheCinémathèque Française shows the exhibition ‘Chris Markers and the 7 Lives of a Cineaste’ (until 29 July) and an almost complete retrospective including the films to which he contributed as a friend and collaborator of Joris Ivens …à Valparaiso (commentary), Rotterdam Europort (commentary) and the collective film Loin de Vietnam (producer). Only Le ciel, la terre is lacking (commentary).

A journey of a nomad filmmaker

The exhibition Chris Marker is a journey. A journey in space and time, a journey that accompanies, from the Second World War and the Resistance until his death in 2012, the exceptional journey of a filmmaker and a man out of the ordinary. This trip is at the same time the chronicle of a long and very full existence, and a free movement in the different layers of time alongside an inventive explorer of possible displacements between present, past and future, displacements of which La Jetée offered the best known model. This exhibition is at the same time a journey into space, on the surface of the planet, alongside a tireless globe-trotter, curious about the world and its inhabitants: California, Iceland, Korea, Guinea Bissau, Siberia, China, Latin America from Mexico City to Valparaíso via Havana, mark out those journeys where the love of Japan occupies a singular place. The courses of Chris Marker, on occasion, will have even led him to Mars or to the virtual planet of Second Life …

The Cinémathèque française has collected the immense archives of all kinds and on any medium [format, device] left by Marker at his death. It is from this rich and heterogeneous treasure – both chronological and thematic – that the exhibition was conceived. The material of this legacy is so rich and so complex that the inventory of the one who was also a passionate archivist is not yet complete when opening the exhibition. In particular, we discover the original works that had been offered to him by great artists, his own previously unknown plastic [fine art] creations, as well as his two great installations, Zapping Zone (Proposals for an Imaginary Television) and Owls at Noon Prelude: The Hollow Men, as well as the discussion program with a computer he had designed, Dialector.

The exhibition is accompanied, in theaters of the Cinémathèque, by the complete movies, videos and television programs (the thirteen episodes of The Owl’s Legacy) directed by Chris Marker. Also to be screened are the films he collaborated on, and the recent documentary directed by Jean-Marie Barbe and Arnaud Lambert, Never Explain, Never Complain. And as well a particular program of great classic films particularly loved by Marker and with which his own realizations dialogue.

Upon Marker’s death, there were no direct heirs nor designees to manage his estate, preserve his legacy, and archive his materials. That task was taken up by the archives experts from Cinémathèque française, with the help and guidelines of a few devoted individuals including Jean-Michel Frodon and Raymond Bellour. The result of their tireless efforts and commitment is a double volume publication forthcoming this May, the most comprehensive exhibition ever dedicated to Marker’s multifacted work, and a vast retrospective including all his films and many of those he was inspired by or that were inspired by him, opening at the Cinémathèque Française on May 2. In conversation with Alter, Frodon will discuss the experience and process of archiving Marker, editing his writings and preparing an exhibition—all part of the process of making accessible the work of a deeply private person who vehemently disliked public life.


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