Sunday In Peking (1956, Chris Marker)

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Marker’s third movie, the one he made right before “Letter From Siberia”.

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Nice to have a fast-paced English voiceover so I can actually tell what is being said, unlike with the washed-out subtitles of “letter from siberia” and “description of a struggle”.

Movie is short, poetic and comical. We reeeally needs a nice dvd set of these travelogues to go with the great current releases of “Sans Soleil.”

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“this isn’t an absent-minded surgeon; it’s a townsman protecting himself against the dust

The narrator remarks that dust, germs and flies are the enemies of the revolution, so there may still be capitalists in China, but there are no more flies. Catherine Lupton: “This remark neatly commends the energy put into overcoming problems, while taking ironic note of the obstacles that may have been overlooked in the rush to cleanliness. This hint of light-hearted subversion wholly escaped the selection committee for the Berlin Film Festival of 1957, who refused to screen Sunday In Peking unless the comment about the vanquished flies and a number of other remarks deemed to be Communist propaganda were removed.”

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“shops covered with characters as if they were huge boxes of tea”

Nice line: “the harsh price of the picturesque”… and history remembers “legendary wars that still resound through the peking opera house today.” Images and writing about the past and future, history meeting present day, the nature of time.

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“the chinese people celebrating their bastille day, their day of revolution”

I don’t remember any owls, and cats were (entirely?) restricted to the title cards, but there was a Siberia-reminiscent bear:
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These movies are all still good, worth watching for enjoyment, not just as academic exercise to probe Chris Marker’s beginnings in film. Wish they’d get a little more attention.

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Senses of Cinema:

In describing Peking/Beijing, Chris Marker understands that, no matter how sincere his intentions may be he will never be more than an outside observer to this or any other culture he visits. Rather than ignore or disguise this problem, he runs with it. Literal performances and cultural displays are made the dominant subject of Dimanche á Pekin’s assembled footage. Gymnasts, dancers, shadow puppets, acrobats all feature to such a degree that, if the film was the viewer’s first exposure to Chinese culture, they could begin to imagine a kind of circus-nation, one in which performance was as common a means of communication as writing or speaking.

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