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One Day with Chris Marker, Film Essayist and Influencer

by Howard Rodman
July 31, 2012 4:29 PM
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The day rolled from the restaurant to a long stroll through North Beach to some time spent talking.  (Gorin and Marker were old comrades, and indulged in fabulous catch-up; Luddy was, among his other insufficiently noted achievements, one of Santa’s elves for the San Francisco sections of "Sans Soleil.")  

Eventually it was time for Gorin and me to head back south.  I’ve rarely stepped onto a plane wanting so little to depart.  I felt that if I could have just stayed in the Marker world, not intruding, two or three steps behind, I would have access to all the wisdom I would ever need.  I can’t think of anyone who better embodied Gramsci’s dictum: “Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.”

There were always filmmakers whose work one treasured.  But Marker’s older work seemed more central in retrospect, and his newer work more vital.  Whether it was the essay films he continued to make, or the videos, or the museum installations (Bill Horrigan of the Wexner seemed especially adept at bringing forth the best in Marker), or the thoughtful and deeply knowing portraits of fellow filmmakers (Kurosawa; Medvedkin), or the volumes of photographs, or the Guillaume-en-Égypte cartoons (an homage to his beloved cat), Marker never stopped working, never stopped being engaged with the world (and the emerging technologies via which that world might be interrogated, depicted, understood).  He never became cranky, or merely idiosyncratic, or a caricature of himself.  The work demanded his engagement, and he gave it: wryly, generously, with perception and real heart.  No one saw the world like Marker did, or more effectively put a sensibility – over the course of a lifetime – on film.  

His death – on his birthday, at age 91 – leaves a hole in the world.

(with thanks to the extraordinary J.-P. Gorin, for making this and much else possible)

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More: Obit


  • Lisa Nesselson | August 2, 2012 5:06 AMReply

    "La Jetée" is the magnificent embodiment of what can be achieved with a nimble imagination and some film stock. It is precisely the right length (much as "Un Chien Andalou" is precisely the right length). Chris Marker knew the value of privacy. I suspect that's an equally profound component of his artistic legacy.

  • Larry Jackson | July 31, 2012 6:02 PMReply

    Howard, this is a beautiful and touching piece. Though I had a close relationship with his producer for many years, I never had the privilege to meet Chris. Some seem surprised when I tell them that SANS SOLEIL is one of my favorite films, but I've stood by that for three decades. Thanks for your recollections.

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