This page from the Catherine Lupton book gives a good intro to this post on three Chris Marker movies I just watched, and this other post on some Chris Marker movies I did not watch.
Marker has also continued to engage directly with contemporary political events and debates. In The Last Bolshevik and in Berliner Ballade (1990), a report produced for a French television current affairs strand, Marker reflects on the political ideals that collapsed at a stroke with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Communist rule over the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and attempts to hold open a space for those who still believe in the founding principles of Socialism. Coinciding with this abrupt shift in the political landscape of Europe, the welter of savage inter-ethnic conflicts triggered by ultra-nationalist movements in the former Yugoslavia during the early 1990s (and again more recently in Kosovo) has focused Marker’s attention through a series of candid engagements with people caught up in the long drawn-out war. Les 20 heures dans les camps (1993, Prime Time in the Camps) focuses on a group of Bosnian refugees who are producing their own television broadcasts. Casque bleu (1996, Blue Helmet) is an extended interview with a French soldier who served with the UN peacekeeping force in the former Yugoslavia, and now voices his disillusion with UN policy towards the region. Two as yet unreleased works, Un Maire au Kosovo (2000, A Mayor in Kosovo) and Avril inquiet (2001, currently unfinished, Worried April), are built around interviews with Kosovans involved in the most recent stage of the conflict. This cluster of short, pointed, interview-driven videos is the direct descendant of Marker’s unsigned political films of the 1960s and ’70s, and retains the same ambition: to give a voice to people who are spoken about, but never heard, in mainstream news reporting.
Tokyo Days, 1986
Twenty minutes long, seems very much like outtakes from Sans Soleil. We watch people dreaming on the subway, check out Japanese television… all very familiar. Of course I’m not complaining. There’s always room for more Sans Soleil. Wish this had been an extra on its DVD, instead of a hyper-obscure oddity on a bittorrent site.
No dialogue except in this part – French, of course, so I’m not sure what she said. This girl is Arielle Dombasle – an actress in the films of Raoul Ruiz, Eric Rohmer and Alain Robbe-Grillet (she’s the one labeled “one goofy actress” in my La Belle Captive entry), who also appeared in Sans Soleil and The Owl’s Legacy. I think we hear Marker himself talking to her in this segment.
I thought this was the same film as Berliner Ballade but apparently this is its sequel which accompanied Tokyo Days in the installation project Zapping Zone. I wasn’t always sure what was going on… yeah, the Berlin Wall and elections, but I didn’t get as much out of it as other viewers have. Nothing wrong with it, just some news/reportage footage.
“Berlin 1990 travels the streets and the political landscape of the recently re-unified Berlin. In the tumultuous atmosphere of 1990, we watch Berliners walk through check points manned by soldiers, past street vendors selling sausages and “actual” pieces of the Berlin Wall, and watch as they watch the election results come in for another “new” Germany.”
“Berlin (1990) records daily life by the Berlin wall during its dismantling. Formerly capitalism’s outer limit and the most striking emblem of world economic division, the wall itself became just another commodity, as pieces of it sprayed with fake graffiti were sold next to East German police uniforms and frankfurters. Though Marker documents the optimism of the first East German elections, a stunning montage to the lilting melody I Can Hardly Wait for Spring suddenly evokes the darker memories hiding behind German reunification: flowers strewn along the streets for Hitler, and the burning of Berlin.”
Prime Time in the Camps, 1993
In the Bosnian refugee camps during the war in Sarajevo, some amateurs take over a TV station, dedicated to collecting the news, sorting out the truth and re-broadcasting along with their own reportage to fellow refugees. “They are young people who never imagined that one day they’d be behind a television camera or holding a microphone.” One of the reporters: “People had a particular model in their heads of what television was. So we had to make the news look like the news, which meant making it look like what people are used to seeing. It was then that it became credible.”
At the end we see people watching the show that their neighbors had just finished assembling, a la Medvedkin on his train. If there was a topic in ’93 more custom-made for the interests of Chris Marker, I can’t think of it. Peter Watkins should have been there too (see Frieze quote below).
Wikipedia: “The Siege of Sarajevo was the longest siege in the history of modern warfare, conducted by the Serb forces of self-proclaimed Republika Srpska and Yugoslav People’s Army (later transformed to the Army of Serbia and Montenegro), lasting from 5 April 1992 to 29 February 1996.”
BFI: “Documentary on the Ruska refugee camp in Ljubliana (Slovenia), where a group of Bosnian refugees present news every night on VHS video. Documentary on the making of the news.”
Frieze Magazine: “The amateur journalists sift information from three or four news sources: ‘I ask myself who might want to lie, and who might have the ability.’ Ordinary people, they have slowly come to realise that television news is a vast form of manipulation.”
Frieze 2: “Marker was Resnais’ assistant on Night and Fog (1955), one of the first films to document the Nazi death camps. This early moral imperative to remember is echoed in the Bosnian conflict. News, for those who live within violent struggle, is part of the work of mourning.”
Katy asked why I like Chris Marker movies so much. I told her that Sans Soleil is one of my very favorite movies, and that everything else he has made connects with it in some way, that more than most other filmmakers he seems to be making one long work, rather than a bunch of disconnected movies, and I hope to see as much of that work as possible.
Tokyo Days: Good Morning from Singin’ in the Rain
Prime Time in the Camps: Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows
Berlin ’90: The Air That I Breathe