Chris Marker, the French filmmaker most famous for his brilliant 1962 short film La Jetée, passed away yesterday. While not the household name of the French New Wave like Jean-Luc Godard or François Truffaut, his influence was felt far and wide in the cinema world. Filmmakers as diverse as Terry Gilliam (whose film Twelve Monkeys is a loose remake of La Jetée), Richard Linklater, Isaki Lacuesta, David Lynch, Andy Warhol and Christopher Nolan have all shown shades of Marker in their work.
Marker was often referred to as a film essayist, as opposed to a dramatist. He frequently worked with other French directors, such as Agnès Varda, Costa Gavras and Godard. His work spans from the fictional to the avant garde; he mixed both tight intimacy with a cold detachment, frequently through the use of photography and voice-over narration. It includes anti-Vietnam War documentary, Loin du Vietnam, A Grin Without a Cat, about the socialist movement in France in the late 1960s, and his other most famous work from 1983, Sans Soleil, what would be termed a philisophical essay as much as a docu-fictional film. Later in life, he turned to multi-media projects for art installations, making film-poems inpired by haiku and T.S.Eliot, and exploring street art of artists such as M. Chat. As you can tell, he is a difficult artist to write about, as his work was diverse, complicated and never less than intriguing. He was also infamous for guarding his private life and rarely granting interviews, preferring to speak through his films.
Below are two videos: the first is a short excerpt from La Jetée (both it and Sans Soleil are available on a single disc from the Criterion Collection;) the second is his short film Cat Listening to Music. Also below is a link to an excerpt of a television tribute to Marker by Varda (in french, with no subtitles.)
Marker joins two other great filmmakers, Ingmar Bergman and Michaelangelo Antonioni, who also died on July 30th in previous years. Evidently, we need to watch out for our greats on this day in the future. And Marker truly was - is - one of the greats.