23 June 2014

Blu-ray Review - Chris Marker Collection (2014)

Release Date:
23rd June 2014 (UK)
Soda Pictures
DVD, Blu-ray
Rating: 15
Sunday In Peking (1956)
Letter To Siberia (1958)
Description Of A Struggle (1960)
The Sixth Side Of The Pentagon (1968)
The Embassy (1973)
Theory Of Sets (1991)
Three Video Haikus (1994)
Blue Helmet (1996)
E-CLIP-SE (1999)
The Case Of The Grinning Cat
Buy:The Chris Marker Collection [Blu-ray + DVD]

To this day Chris Marker remains one of the most fascinating directors to come out of “the French New Wave”. But in reality, he emerged from the much more political Left-Bank which included filmmakers like Alain Resnais and Agnès Varda. Marker would be the assistant director of Resnais’ seminal film on the holocaust Night & Fog. They weren’t quite the movie-brats that Godard and Truffaut were and tended to see cinema more literally. Despite some differences between the two, more famous French New Wave directors championed the Left-Bank and were comrades in arms.

Soda pictures has compiled a collection of Chris Marker’s work, which spans from the late 1950s up to the 2000s. It comes out in the midst of a fantastic exhibition of his work at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. The majority of Marker’s films, and for the most of the films in the collection for that matter, are documentaries. Despite the fact he is best known for his documentaries, his best-known film is La Jetée which would later become the inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s fantastic 12 Monkeys which Marker approved of.

The set consists of 1 Blu-Ray and 2-Dvds; the Blu-Ray includes the films Sunday in Peking and Letter from Siberia. Marker would, in both of these early films, basically start what would be later become known as the “essay film”. They are, however, to a certain extent -also travelogue films, but in Marker’s characteristic inventive ways. The DVDs include the aforementioned films along with his increasingly more politicised films including the fantastic The Sixth Side of the Pentagon.

The Sixth Side of the Pentagon is one of his films he shot in the United States and it’s almost a fly on the wall documentary about the Anti-Vietnam march on Washington, D.C. It happened only weeks after the death of Che Guevara whom many of the protesters naively take as a martyr. It was also when the protesters finally realised they needed to take direct action rather than just merely marching against the war. It’s a fantastic time capsule of an important time in World History; it’s beautifully filmed and has many great images, much like all of Chris Marker’s work that will similarly never leave you.

There are some films in-between The Sixth Side of the Pentagon, and the final film in the set The Case of the Grinning Cat, but it’s interesting to see how much- or in some cases- how little has changed in the 30+ years between them. It’s a film that is partly about the protests of the war in Iraq and the art and politics of early 2000s. It starts with Chris Marker’s interest in the grinning cat that keeps being painted all over Paris and it soon finds it's way into the protests as a symbol of protest.

Overall, the set is fascinating and the films are some of the most provocative films ever made. The films are a very good indication of Chris Marker’s world view and his obsessions with cinema, the media, politics, travel and felines. It’s a shame the discs only include a booklet as supplementary material but Chris Marker rarely gave interviews and even more rarely photographed.


Ian Schultz

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