No film artist, whether living or dead, has shaped my personal love of the cinema more than Chris Marker. On Thursday, September 13th at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, we pay our loving tribute to this man.
A French filmmaker blending documentary with fiction to create a hybrid filmmaking form known as “essay,” Marker was truly in a category all his own. Associated with the Left Bank Cinema movement, named for the political leanings of its members and the tendency towards experimental or genre-bending filmmaking, as much as their literal occupation of the Southern bank of the river Seine, Marker’s filmmaking contemporaries were Agnes Varda, Alain Resnais, as well as the (right bank) New Wave filmmakers (Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, etc.). As with many film artists discovering their field at the time, Marker produced work the likes of which had never been seen before; ruminations on time, history, and human memory that allowed him to infuse his personality into discrete works of art – to make he/it inseparable. His work remains to this day both incredibly personal and strangely universal.
Most audiences first encounter Marker by way of his 1962 short film, LA JETEE (THE PIER). A black-and-white film made almost entirely out of still images, it is a story of time travel, its consequences, and the inevitability of one’s fate or destiny. It is a poetic work that illustrates the power of narrative and the ability of frozen moments in time, if carefully composed, to tell a story. In this sense, it is a kind of a cinematic picture book. Stark and breathtaking in every second of its 28 minutes, Marker tells an unforgettable tale.
Marker often joked that the popularity of this film overshadowed the before and after of his career as a filmmaker, cheekily referring to himself as “the best known author of unknown works.” LA JETEE was, after all, produced at the tail end of his first decade of work – and Marker continued working on short film projects until his death on July 29th. Regrettably, most who see LA JETEE don’t press on to explore his deeper catalogue. Nonetheless, Marker was a figure who famously eschewed success and the trappings that came with it, saying “I am the cat who walks by himself, and if there is something I'm not looking for it's recognition, be it great or small.” Filmmaking was for Marker an act of personal expression, not for anyone but himself, but accessible to anyone who could identify with and see themselves in his work.
That Marker would be so cloistered about his auteur status, notoriously refusing to grant interviews or make public appearances, makes it slightly peculiar that we have chosen to pay him homage. Never in his lifetime would he have allowed or have attended a tribute in his honor. In fact, he might have found such an event downright ridiculous, but now that Marker has passed on, he lives on through his stunning film work.
Please join us this Thursday, 7:00 PM, at our South Lamar location when in partnership with the Austin Film Society we present Chris Marker’s LA JETEE alongside his lesser known, yet profoundly gorgeous, SANS SOLEIL (SUNLESS). For me, these two films achieved that remarkable and rare plateau – they altered, and shaped, my idea of what cinema could be. I have been deeply, powerfully in love ever since. (Sam Prime)