DOXA Documentary Film Festival May 4-14, 2017 – Chris Marker, Never Explain, Never Complain

Jean-Marie Barbe and Arnaud Lambert | France | 2016 | 144 minutes

The life and work of Chris Marker could easily fill several documentary portraits, maybe even several freight trains, but directors Jean-Marie Barbe and Arnaud Lambert have kept it to a brisk 144 minutes. As our guest curator Thierry Garrel states in his introductory essay, Never Explain, Never Complain “portrays the cinéaste and his works through testimonies of seven people who knew him and worked with him.”

“Who is Chris Marker?” — is the question posed by the directors/ interlocutors, and every answer reveals a different reality. Some of the recollections are funny and bittersweet, such as Wim Wenders getting blind drunk with Marker at a bar in Tokyo. “That night at La Jetée is the time when we talked most, but we drank so much sake and vodka that we forgot most of it,” says Wenders. As André S. Labarthe states simply: “He was a free spirit.”

One thing is clear, over the length of his career Marker was never content to do or be only one thing. Writer, filmmaker, photographer, polymath, cat lover — there is no single term that quite suffices. Marker was also no stranger to trouble. Statues Also Die (Les Statues meurent aussi), co-directed with Alain Resnais, was immediately banned by the French government. The rest of his major work galloped forth, unpredictable, wildly inventive, fearless, and free-roaming — Le Joli mai (1962), La Jetée (1962), Far from Vietnam (Loin du Viêt-nam) in 1967. In 1977, Marker released Le Fond de l’air est rouge (A Grin Without a Cat), that captured the rise and fall of 1960s radicalism. Patricio Guzman talking about Marker’s masterwork says: “he faces the world, faces history, and seems surprised…You get no answers by the end of the film. Only reflections, words thrown in the air.” In this era of ongoing crises, Marker’s work is more vital, more critical than ever, but the man remains elusive. Slyly winking out from this expansive film portrait with a single word. Can you guess what it is? -DW

via DOXA

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