We may know Chris Marker as the elusive recluse, the question mark of the question posed by New Wave. If the image is a representation of reality, merely a pointer to the truth and not the truth itself, what can we surmise through an examination of this intermediate of what is represented?
This is the New Wave effort. A way of creating a cinema in which another cinema plays out, usually in New Wave some trivial story which may involve crime or a love affair, as meant to show how little cinema can be (as known until then) and how big in opening up to the world in which these stories unfold. When attention is called in these films to the artifice of cinema, it is both as recognition that something is being viewed and a reminder that we are viewing it. Which is a way of ecstacy finally, a way to expand the consciousness of cinema outside of its then narrow limits so as to examine both the mechanisms of that cinema and of the consciousness that regards it, the human gaze.
Chris Marker excels in this, the creation of one narrative upon which another is imprinted. And then a third one, which is ours. In Godard there are usually films within films. In Marker, viewers within viewers.
We get here, in one of his more obscure works, a new set of pretexts and premises snapped with a camera around the globe, a headfull of divergent forms in which, by the click of a button, some kind of life has been arrested for a moment, or forever. Soviet Russia, a collective factory in Korea, the monasteries of Mount Athos in Greece, Cuba, the gravestone of Tchekhov, we stop in these places among others to ponder on what kind of world they comprise.
Not merely the travelogue of a curious bystander, although it offers a valuable capsule of the time when revolutions were beginning to decompose, this like other of Marker's works, facilitates a shift of our gaze. With its wonderful title evoking deserts and wanderings, it is a platform for our gaze to wander in thought.
Marker show us how. As a viewer of these images himself, he narrates them in one way out of the many possible. One consciousness having captured them through the artificial eye of the camera, another one rearranges them, imprints on them various inroads to meaning and sense. He would perfect this in Sans Soleil, but the beginnings stretch farther back, in his collaborative efforts with Alain Resnais in the late 50's. The quote that opens this, in fact, is borrowed from their joint short subject Statues Also Die.
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