MUBI's retrospective Chris Marker: An Essayist from the Future is showing July 29 - September 17, 2017 in many countries around the world.
Chris Marker’s work exists in the intersection of fiction and documentary, in a realm of elusiveness that trades in interrogation, not in confident statements. He refuses categorization but, almost spitefully, a category was created to encompass his work, a category that isn’t quite a genre.
In 1958, after watching Lettre de Sibérie(1957), André Bazin wrote that Marker’s first feature film resembles nothing hitherto seen in documentary films: “The important word is ‘essay,’ understood in the same sense that it has in literature – an essay at once historical and political, written by a poet as well. Generally, even in politically engaged documentaries or those with a specific point to make, the image (which is to say, the uniquely cinematic element) effectively constitutes the primary material of the film (…) with Marker it works quite differently. I would say that the primary material is intelligence, that its immediate means of expression is language, and that the image only intervenes in the third position, in reference to this verbal intelligence”. In 2017, the intelligence in his essay films still flows in the fringes of filmmaking.
His voice ebbs and drifts freely, parsed by music, poetry, animation, or moving images captured in film or video—he was one of the pioneers of digital manipulation. The words in his films are spoken by numerous narrators, whose voices, ever questioning of the cinematographic apparatus, shed light on his persona, at the same time they camouflage it with layers of languages, accents, tone and pitch.
With Letter from Marker I wanted to look at the voice of the mysterious man, as well as that of the filmmaker. In life, Marker shied away from the public eye. He captured hundreds of hours of footage, but kept himself well-hidden behind the machine that captured them. The words he spoke himself—as himself—are scarce. I perused through those available online and picked the ones that, in some way, told part of his story, at the same time they commented on the film I was making.
I made his words mine by taking advantage of the beautiful voice of Marta Pereira to bring them to life. In that way, I replaced his images with mine, his memories with mine, and used his immemory as the springboard for my own pilgrimage in time regained.