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A Grin Without A Cat (1977)

Le fond de l'air est rouge (original title)
French essay film focusing on global political turmoil in the 1960s and '70s, particularly the rise of the New Left in France and the development of socialist movements in Latin America.


Chris Marker (as Chris. Marker)


Chris Marker
1 nomination. See more awards »


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Credited cast:
Laurence Cuvillier Laurence Cuvillier ... Narrator (voice)
Davos Hanich Davos Hanich ... Narrator (voice)
François Maspero François Maspero ... Narrator (voice)
Yves Montand ... Narrator (voice)
François Périer ... Narrator (voice)
Sandra Scarnati Sandra Scarnati ... Narrator (voice)
Jorge Semprún ... Narrator (voice)
Simone Signoret ... Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Beatriz Allende Beatriz Allende ... Herself (archive footage)


French essay film focusing on global political turmoil in the 1960s and '70s, particularly the rise of the New Left in France and the development of socialist movements in Latin America.

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Release Date:

23 November 1977 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Grin Without a Cat See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$8,449, 5 May 2002

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (1993)

Sound Mix:



Black and White | Color (Eastmancolor)
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The untranslatable French title is a play on words suggesting that revolution was in the air but not on the ground. The English title, "A Grin without a Cat", has a similar meaning. Director Chris Marker has given it the subtitle "Scenes from the Third World War 1967-1977". See more »

Alternate Versions

Originally released in 1977, the film was revised by director Chris Marker in 1993. Among other things, Marker added a coda addressing the end of the Cold War. This later version was given English subtitles and released in the United States in 2002 as "A Grin without a Cat." See more »


Edited into Histoire(s) du cinéma: Le contrôle de l'univers (1999) See more »

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User Reviews

Was Soderbergh watching this?
13 March 2015 | by laurseneSee all my reviews

Although made when the period it covered had barely ended, Marker's doc is a superb, incisive film history of the short but eventful period of Third World Revolution and the New Left. He doesn't attempt to explore all the ideological, sectarian byways of the time, but to make us understand what it felt like, and why people involved believed so fervently that they were making history. He also shows us how it all came unraveled, thanks to domestic repression and political fakery in the developed countries and brutal intervention in the developing.

One of the final clips (if memory serves) is most telling: Salvador Allende, months before his violent overthrow, delivering an electrifying speech to Chilean factory workers, urging them to ... accept layoffs and pay cuts. That's what it came down to, unfortunately: a boxed-in socialist president, doing his opponents' dirty work even as they prepared to murder him.

Why Soderbergh? I just saw his marvelous, two-part "Che," and couldn't help but wonder if Marker's film was on his mind when he made it. Although a fiction film with actors, it also puts you close to the action and makes you feel what it was like to be taking part in 1) the momentous Cuban revolution and 2) the bitter failure of the Bolivian insurgency. Rise and fall, very much like the elation and then the dead-end that Marker gives us. Along the way, Soderbergh provides snapshots of his main character (now in black and white) giving speeches, interviews, explaining himself and his cause to American and UN audiences who couldn't be farther from the events Che was caught up in. The revolution is televised. Marker does the same thing with some of the footage he found, and interestingly, another Cuban revolutionary--Castro--was his charismatic star.

One fine filmmaker paying tribute to one of the medium's greatest, perhaps? But see "Grin Without a Cat," and ask yourself why so few directors have any notion of the medium's potential.

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