Tagged: Chris Marker

(Read) Cinéma Militant Political Filmmaking and May 1968

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This history covers the filmmaking tradition often referred to as cinéma militant, which emerged in France during the events of May 1968 and flourished for a decade. While some films produced were created by established filmmakers, including Chris Marker, Jean-Luc Godard, and William Klein, others were helmed by left-wing filmmakers working in the extreme margins of French cinema. This latter group gave voice to underrepresented populations, such as undocumented immigrants (sans papiers), entry-level factory workers (ouvriers spécialisés), highly intellectual Marxist-Leninist collectives, and militant special interest groups. While this book spans the broad history of this uncharted tradition, it particularly focuses on these lesser-known figures and works and the films of Cinélutte, Les groupes medvedkine, Atelier de recherche cinématographique, Cinéthique, and the influential Marxist filmmaker Jean-Pierre Thorn. Each represent a certain tendency of this movement in French film history, offering an invaluable account of a tradition that also sought to share untold histories.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Douglas Grant is professor of cinema studies and cochair of research at the School of Architecture, Fine Arts, and Design, University of San Carlos, Philippines. He is also the editor of Lilas: A Graphic History of Cinema in Cebu.

Chris Marker’s Description d’un Combat (1960) trailer

Winner of the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, Marker’s documentary film, Description d’un combat/Description of a Struggle, examines the condition and circumstances of the young state of Israel and its citizens. The film was made at the time when the Israeli state was 12 years old, and borrows its title from Kafka’s short story It explores the historical, social, cultural and ethical contexts at the heart of Israel’s existence, and the impact of the tragic and not so distant past on the collective psyche of the nation.

Read more from Boris Trbic ‘s article on Senses of Cinema

Chris Marker prevented the broadcast description of a fight a few years after his shooting. In his article “The film hidden by Chris Marker,” published in Cahiers du Cinema from October 2013 (. No. 693, p 59), Ariel Schweitzer believes that this decision is probably for political reasons; He writes in 1967, Israel no longer represents this utopia which attracted Marker in the early 1960s, during which time he also went to China and Cuba to search for models of alternative society.

 

 

 

VIDEO ESSAY: Reflexive Memories: The Images of the Cine-Essay by Nelson Carvajal

While the video essay form, in regards to its practice of exploring the visual themes in cinematic discourse, has seen a recent surge in popularity with viewers (thanks to invaluable online resources like indieWIRE’s Press Play, Fandor’s Keyframe and the academic peer-reviewed journal [in]Transition), its historical role as a significant filmmaking genre has long been prominent among film scholars and cinephiles.

From the start, the essay film—more affectionately referred to as the “cine-essay”—was a fusion of documentary filmmaking and avant-garde filmmaking by way of appropriation art; it also tended to employ fluid, experimental editing schemes. The first cine-essays were shot and edited on physical film. Significant works like Agnès Varda’s “Salut les Cubains” (1963) and Marc Karlin’s “The Nightcleaners” (1975), which he made in collaboration with the Berwick Street Film Collective, function like normal documentaries: original footage coupled with a voiceover of the filmmaker and an agenda at hand. But if you look closer and begin to study the aesthetics of the work (e.g. the prolific use of still photos in “Cubains,” the transparency of the “filmmaking” at hand in “Nightcleaners”), these films transcend the singular genre that is the documentary form; they became about the process of filmmaking and they aspired to speak to both a past and future state of mind. What the cine-essay began to stand for was our understanding of memory and how we process the images we see everyday. And in a modern technological age of over-content-creation, by way of democratized filmmaking tools (i.e. the video you take on your cell phone), the revitalization of the cine-essayists is ever so crucial and instrumental to the continued curation of the moving images that we manifest.

The leading figure of the cine-essay form, the iconic Chris Marker, really put the politico-stamp of vitality into the cine-essay film with his magnum-opus “Grin Without A Cat” (1977). Running at three hours in length, Marker’s “Grin” took the appropriation art form to the next level, culling countless hours of newsreel and documentary footage that he himself did not shoot, into a seamless, haunting global cross-section of war, social upheaval and political revolution. Yet, what’s miraculous about Marker’s work is that his cine-essays never fell victim to a dependency on the persuasive argument—that was something traditional documentaries hung their hats on. Instead, Marker was much more interested in the reflexive nature of the moving image. If we see newsreel footage of a street riot spliced together with footage from a fictional war film, does that lessen our reaction to the horrific reality of the riot? How do we associate the moving image once it is juxtaposed against something that we once thought to be safe or familiar? At the start of Marker’s “Sans Soleil” (1983), the narrator says, “The first image he told me about was of three children on a road in Iceland, in 1965. He said that for him it was the image of happiness and also that he had tried several times to link it to other images, but it never worked. He wrote me: one day I’ll have to put it all alone at the beginning of a film with a long piece of black leader; if they don’t see happiness in the picture, at least they’ll see the black.” It’s essentially the perfect script for deciphering the cine-essay form in general. It demands that we search and create our own new realities, even if we’re forced to stare at a black screen to conjure up a feeling or memory.

Flash forward to 1995: Harun Farocki creates “Arbeiter verlassen die Fabrik,” a video essay that foils the Lumière brothers’ “Employees Leaving the Lumière Factory” (1895) with countless other film clips of workers in the workplace throughout the century. It’s a significant work: exactly 100 years later, a cine-essayist is speaking to the ideas of filmmakers from 1895 and then those ideas are repurposed to show a historical evolution of employer-employee relations throughout time. What’s also significant about Farocki’s film is the technological aspect. Note how his title at this point in time is a “video essayist.” The advent of video, along with the streamlined workflow to acquiring digital assets of moving images, gave essayist filmmakers like Farocki the opportunity for creating innovative works with faster turnaround times. Not only was it less cumbersome to edit footage digitally, the ways for the works to be presented were altered; Farocki would later repurpose his own video essay into a 12-monitor video installation for exhibition.

Consider Thom Andersen’s epic 2003 video essay “Los Angeles Plays Itself.” In it, Andersen appropriates clips from films set in Los Angeles from over the decades and then criticizes the cinema’s depiction of his beloved city. It’s the most meta of essay films because by the end, Andersen himself has constructed the latest Los Angeles-based film. And although Andersen has more of an obvious thesis at hand than, say something as equally lyrical and dense as Marker’s “Sans Soleil,” both films exist in the same train of thought: the exploration of the way we as viewers embrace the moving image and then how we communicate that feeling to each other. Andersen may be frustrated with the way Hollywood conveys his city but he even he has moments of inspired introspection towards those films. The same could be said of Marker’s work; just as Marker can remain a perplexed and often inquisitive spectator of the moving images of poverty and genocide that surround him, he functions as a gracious, patient guide for the viewer, since it is his essay text that the narrator reads from.

Watching an essay film requires you to fire on all cylinders, even if you watch one with an audience. It’s a different kind of collective viewing because the images and ideas spring from an artifact that is real; that artifact can be newsreel footage or a completed, a released motion picture that is up for deeper examination or anything else that exists as a completed work. In that sense, the cine-essay (or video essay), remains the most potent form of cinematic storytelling because it invites you to challenge its ideas and images and then in turn, it challenges your own ideas by daring you to reevaluate your own memory of those same moving images. It aims for a deeper truth and it dares to repurpose the cinema less as escapist entertainment and more as an instrument to confront our own truths and how we create them.

via Balder & Dash   

(1971) The Train Rolls On Chris Marker Le Train En Marche (1971)

First the eye, then the cinema, which prints the look….

“If Chris asked you to do something you did it: There was no question”, recalls Marc Karlin in one of his last interviews before his death in 1999.  ‘Chris’, needless to say, was Chris Marker, Karlin’s friend who he called ‘le maitre’. The task was to provide an English version of Marker’s recent film Le train en marche (1971) – a celebration of the Soviet era filmmaker Alexander Medvedkin and his mythical ‘kino-poezd’ – a ‘cine train’ re-fitted with cameras, editing tables and processing labs, that travelled the breadth of Russia to make films for and with the workers. Films made on the spot, in collaboration with the local people, (workers in factories, peasants in kolhozs), shot in one, day, processed during the night, edited the following day and screened in front of the very people who had participated to its making… Contrarily to the agit-prop trains which carried official propaganda from the studios to the people, here the people was his own studio. And at the very moment bureaucracy was spreading all over, a film unit could go and produce uncensored material around the country. And it lasted one year (1932)!

This train that pulled out of Moscow January 25th 1932… 

Medvedkin saw his kino-poezd (294 days on the rails, 24,565m of film projected, 1000km covered) as a means of revolutionising the consciousness of the Soviet Union’s rural dwellers. Marker hoped his recent unearthing would incite similar democratic film-making. In tribute, Karlin and other kindred spirits in London joined Cinema Action.” There was a relationship to the Russians. Vertoz, the man and the movie camera, Medvedkin, and his agitprop Russian train; the idea of celebrating life and revolution on film, and communicating that. Medvedkin had done that by train. SLON and Cinema Action both did it by car. Getting a projector, putting films in the boot, and off you went and showed films – which we did”.

The people were brought the filmmaker’s cinema, in the same way they were brought the artist’s art and the expert’s science. But in the case of this train the cinema was to become something created with contact through the people and was to stimulate them to make their own intervention.

…the train of revolution, the train of history has not lacked reverse signals and switched points but the biggest mistake one could make was to believe that it had come to a halt.

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A big thanks you to Espaço Sétima Arte for posting this great find.

https://grunes.wordpress.com/2007/12/23/the-train-rolls-on-chris-marker-1971/

The Last Bolshevik by Chris Marker

http://www.film-philosophy.com/index.php/f-p/article/viewFile/206/204

http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/scope/documents/2011/june-2011/mayer.pdf

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2015: Death to the Selfie

In 2012 the filmmaker Chris Marker died having just created a photo essay framing faces encountered in the claustrophobic spaces of public transport. After a lifetime of storytelling often best evoked as a blend of documentary and personal reflection, the quality of self-effacement that permeates Marker’s practice sometimes characterized as capturing ‘life in the process of becoming history’, raises questions of authorship in current culture. In particular, to make ‘documentary’ must we seek to become less present; more invisible?

With speakers Garth Twa (Ravensbourne), Poppy Stockell, Ulrike Kubatta (Filmmaker) and Daisy Asquith (Filmmaker).

Sponsored by Ravensbourne.

Filmed by Sheffield Hallam University students and edited by Matt Sturdy.

State of the Estate II – Chris Marker

The good folk at chrismarker.org have provided an brief update to the on going acquisition of the Chris Marker estate by the Cinémathèque française. Captured in an interview between journalist Louis Guichard and the Cinémathèque’s head Serge Toubiana, focusing on the Cinémathèque’s current project with Jacques Demy’s archive, Toubiana provides a little glimpse inside the Marker collection.

Chris Marker atelier with Guillaume by Agnès Varda

Here’s the excerpt that fills in some details to the already reported State of the Estate, back in June. You can follow Serge Toubiana’s blog at blog.cinematheque.fr.

L’acquisition d’archives payantes est-elle une option ?

[…]

Il y aussi le cas de Chris Marker, qui n’a pas fait de testament. Au cours des dernières années de sa vie, il était logé chez Costa-Gavras, président de la Cinémathèque, et il avait dit qu’il laisserait une lettre précisant ce qu’il voulait faire de ses archives. Mais on n’a rien trouvé de tel. A sa mort, il y a donc eu un inventaire sommaire et une recherche de descendance qui a identifié six personnes au 5e et 6e degrés… Nous leur avons fait une proposition qui a été retenue et nous avons acquis le fonds pour 40 000 euros. Nous nous sommes trouvés face à une sorte de gigantesque foutoir avec des lots énormes de photos, de négatifs, de disques durs, d’ordinateurs, tout le travail qu’il faisait sur Second Life, des centaines de petits objets, de collages, de journaux… Il gardait tout. Mais qu’en faire ? C’est un travail considérable. Nous avons constitué une équipe en interne chargée de poursuivre l’inventaire et de travailler sur le fonds numérique. De plus, un comité scientifique se réunit régulièrement. Comment montrer l’arborescence de cette œuvre hybride? Chris Marker était un média à lui tout seul. Peut-être faudra-t-il associer des ingénieurs à cette réflexion… Il y aura sans doute un événement Marker à la Cinémathèque en 2017 ou 2018.Serge Toubiana, interviewed by Louis Guichard, “Serge Toubiana : “Le don des archives Demy à la Cinémathèque est un geste de confiance et d’amitié”, www.telerama.fr

        ROUGH ENGLISH TRANSLATION

       Is paying for archival acquisitions an option?

[…]

There is also the case of Chris Marker, who did not create a will. In the course of the last years of his life, he was living with Costa-Gavras, President of the Cinémathèque, and he had said that he             would leave a letter specifying what he wished to do with his archives. But nothing like this was found. With his death, a summary inventory took place, along with research into his heirs that identified six persons removed by 5 or 6 degrees… We made them a proposition that was agreed upon and we acquired the estate for 40,000 Euros. We found ourselves faced with a sort of gigantic shambles, with enormous stacks of photos, negatives, hard drives, computers, all the work that he conducted in/on Second Life, hundreds of small objects, collages, journals… He kept everything. But what to do with it? It’s a considerable piece of work. We put together a team internally, charged with pursuing the inventory and working on the digital archive. In addition, a scientific committee meets regularly. How to present the tree structure of this hybrid work? Chris Marker was a media [enterprise] unto himself. Perhaps it will be necessary to have engineers consider this reflection… There will be without a doubt a Marker event at the Cinémathèque in 2017 or 2018.

Via chrismarker.org Many Thanks.

Memory And Illumination The Films of Marc Karlin – 30 OCT, King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, NYU

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Marc Karlin (1943-1999) is widely regarded as Britain’s most important but least known director of the last half century. His far-reaching essay films deal with working-class and feminist politics, international leftism, historical amnesia and the struggle for collective memory, about the difficulty but also the necessity of political idealism in a darkening world.

Chris Marker hailed him as a key filmmaker, and his work has inspired or been saluted by moving-image artists and historians such as Sally Potter, Sheila Rowbotham, John Akomfrah, Luke Fowler and The Otolith Group. Yet, in large part because his passionate, ideas-rich, formally adventurous films were made for television, until recently they were lost to history.

Memory And Illumination: The Films of Marc Karlin, the first US retrospective of his work, offers a broad survey of what the latest issue of Film Comment calls “the most daring docu-essays the public at large has yet to appreciate”. They include explorations of the emergent women’s liberation movement he made as part of his early membership of the Berwick Street Film Collective, his chronicles of the 1980s aftermath of the Nicaraguan Revolution, and his enduringly resonant meditations on post-1989 politics.

SCHEDULE:

FRIDAY 30 OCTOBER 2015
King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, 53 Washington Square South

6:30pm: NICARAGUA: VOYAGES (1985)
Voyages is composed of stills by renowned Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas taken in 1978 and 1979 during the overthrow of the fifty-year dictatorship of the Somoza family. Written in the form of a letter from Meiselas to Karlin, it is a ruminative and often profound exploration of the ethics of witnessing, the responsibilities of war photography and the politics of the still image.

8pm: SCENES FOR A REVOLUTION (1991)
A film about aftermaths and reckonings. Revisiting material for his earlier four-part series (1985), Karlin returns to Nicaragua to examine the history of the Sandinista government, consider its achievements, and assess the prospects for democracy following its defeat in the general election of 1990. (Sponsored by King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center)

SATURDAY 31 OCTOBER 2015
Room 674, 721 Broadway (at Waverley Place)

12pm: THE SERPENT (dir. Marc Karlin, 1997), 40 min
The Serpent, loosely based on Milton’s Paradise Lost, is a blackly funny drama-documentary about media magnate and fanatical scourge of the Left Rupert Murdoch. A mild-mannered architect dreams of destroying this Dark Prince, but is assailed by his Voice of Reason which reminds him of the complicity of the liberal establishment in allowing Murdoch to dominate public discourse.

2pm: BETWEEN TIMES (dir. Marc Karlin, 1993), 50 min
Room 674, 721 Broadway (at Waverley Place)
A strikingly resonant work, not least in the wake of the recent re-election of the Conservative party in Britain, this is a probing and sometimes agonised essay – partially framed as a debate between socialism and postmodernism – about the paralysis of the Left and the need to locate new energies, spaces and forms of being that speak to emergent realities.

3:30pm: THE OUTRAGE (dir. Marc Karlin, 1995), 50 min
Room 674, 721 Broadway (at Waverley Place)
Echoes abound of Mike Dibb and John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (1972) in this hugely compelling film about Cy Twombly, about art, about television itself. According to director Steve Sprung it’s a film not about “the art of the marketplace, but the art that most of us leave behind somewhere in childhood, in the process of being socialized into the so-called world. The art which still yearns within us.”

5-6:30pm: Roundtable – TBA

7:30pm: FOR MEMORY (dir. Marc Karlin, 1986), 104 min
Room 674, 721 Broadway (at Waverley Place)
Beginning with a powerful interview with members of the British Army Film Unit who recall the images they recorded after the liberation of Belsen concentration camp, and conceived as an antidote to the wildly successful TV series Holocaust, For Memory is a multi-layered exploration – pensive and haunted – of cultural amnesia in the era of late capitalism that features historian E.P. Thompson, anti-fascist activist Charlie Goodman and Alzheimers patients.

SUNDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2015
Room 674, 721 Broadway (at Waverley Place)

2pm: NIGHTCLEANERS (dir. Berwick Street Film Collective, 1975)
Made over three years by the Berwick Street Film Collective (Karlin, Mary Kelly, James Scott, Humphrey Trevelyan), Nightcleaners is a landmark documentary that follows the efforts of the women’s movement to unionize female night workers in London. It eschewed social realism and agit prop in favour of a ghostly, ambient and sonically complex fragmentage that elicited both hostile and ecstatic responses. Screen journal declared it the most “important political film to have been made in this country”, while Jump Cut claimed it was “redefining the struggle for revolutionary cinema”. (Sponsored by Gender and Sexuality Studies)

3:45pm: 36 TO 77 (dir. Berwick Street Film Collective, 1978)
Room 674, 721 Broadway (at Waverley Place)
Very rarely screened since its original release, this film was originally conceived as Nightcleaners Part 2. A portrait of Grenada-born Myrtle Wardally (b.1936), a leader of the Cleaners’ Action Group Strike in 1972, it features her discussing the partial success of that campaign and also her childhood in the Caribbean. It’s also an experiment – as probing as it is rapturous – in the politics of film form, and a fascinating deconstruction of the idea of Myrtle as a “symbol of struggle, the nightcleaners, working women, immigrants, mothers, blacks”.

MORE ON KARLIN:

Look Again

Holly Aylett, Marc Karlin: Look Again (2015) http://liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/products/60519

https://spiritofmarckarlin.com/

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Presented by the Colloquium for Unpopular Culture with the support of the Department of Cinema Studies, New York University

https://memoryandillumination.wordpress.com

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QUERIES: ss162@nyu.edu