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Viewers within viewers
chaos-rampant from Greece
24 May 2011
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 illusive nothing?
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
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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