chris marker

Chris Marker Goes

The digital/internet age creates a plethora of simultaneous obituaries of those in the know when they pass; often they are the same, re-written, wiki-pediated down to highlights obit pieces; whereas past passings would have had longer effect and more word of mouth spreadings where people would share with one another their personal favorite films or stories or screenings rather than be told what an establishment viewed as important.

Often this sudden obituary blitz effect via the internet will produce a sudden boost of “fame” and notoriety for the one, now gone, who, ironically is now unable to enjoy his new found recognition and appreciation.

Sometimes the deceased is elevated to greater grandeur than ever before. Mike Kelley suddenly became known as “L.A.’s most important artist”, a sentiment not often heard before his passing (and sadly if as much recognition was granted him the months before he chose to end it, it would likely serve as at least a distraction to his depression, possibly increasing his years).

Jeff Keen became elevated as a filmmaker now known and recognized in the U.S., something that should have happened decades ago while alive.

I propose for all artists reaching a certain age or milestone of sorts in their endeavors that a fake obituary occurs, wherein we all “act” as if the person has died, yet full knowing he hasn’t, yet celebrate as if he/she has died, which is essentially what we do anyway when they do pass. We celebrate. Let’s stop playing the “they’re dead, now we can talk more about their work” game.

And with that said, as hypocrisy would have it, I contribute to the above by the mention of Chris Marker being the latest in a seemingly string of experimenters to go this year.

Marker was a longtime experimental French filmmaker with a long list of films, photography, and writing. Essay style films was where his work really shined for me and many others, and yes Absurdism made it’s way into his work in various ways.

La Jetée tells the tale of a man haunted by memory in post-apocalyptic Paris. The entire 28 minutes of La Jetée is composed from photographs, apart from a single shot, showing the female protagonist of the film blink and wake up suddenly. Exploring themes of memory, time, and history, Marker’s time-travel tale is loved for its ability to effortlessly combine poetry and philosophy with science fiction; two seemingly oppositional themes that marry in many of Marker’s other films.  – From ArtFAGcity

Yet from nearly all the blogger obits, you can’t get away from the first and foremost mention of La jetee, a 30 minute or so short, and while experimental very much, also used as source/basis for a Hollywood feature film number. Some of  these news and blogger obits cast the idea that this was his only film made as the title would read something to the effect of “Director of La jatee, Chris Marker dies”, when in fact much more was done, and as ArtFagCity, cited above, points out some of his films were banned in both France and the U.S.

Perhaps the best write up on Markers passing was from the CinemaElectronica blog, where Jon Jost simply wrote the following, which allows, encourages, the viewer to do his own discovering:

A profound influence on many – and not just as film/media maker.  But things more important than that, though that was the tool he used.   Our brief sojourn on the planet was made richer by his.

Absurdism was more apparent in Chris’s life, as for as much recognition as he did get, he never was easily plopped into a nice, neat category. To add to this Chris rarely did interviews, and even photos of the man were rare. He was a cat lover and often used a cartoon cat image to take the place of his own (I believe an actual documentary he was in, he made the filmmakers use a cat image with altered voice in place of his own.)

Marker continued to work all the way towards the end, and was one of the few experimental filmmakers of his time to actually embrace digital technology when it first came out.

Not only that, Marker also committed perhaps the cardinal sin of the higher than thou experimental so called avant film crowd of the time. He had his own YouTube Channel in which he uploaded new experiments to.

“In another time I guess I would have been content with filming girls and cats. But you don’t choose your time” – Chris Marker