Chris Marker

Early Film Writings

2024
Author:

Chris Marker
Edited by Steven Ungar
Translated by Sally Shafto

Formative writings by French avant-garde filmmaker Chris Marker

This first English translation of early writings on film from the reclusive French filmmaker Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve, better known as Chris Marker, is an indispensable resource for cinephiles and scholars. Ranging from late silent-era films to postwar Hollywood’s efforts to contend with the rise of television, these texts document the emergence of Marker’s critical voice and situate him alongside contemporaries as well as future French New Wave figures.

One of the pleasures of Chris Marker’s films is the singular literary voice of his inimitable commentaries, in all its wit and quicksilver intelligence. That voice is present here, being honed through contact with others’ images and before Marker moved from the page to the screen himself. This groundbreaking collection introduces aficionados old and new to work likely unknown to them and allows us all to discover another dimension of this prodigious artist: Marker the film critic.

Chris Darke, author of La Jetée

It is hard to imagine French cinema without La Jetée (1962), the time-travel short feature by the reclusive French filmmaker Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve, better known as Chris Marker. He not only influenced artists ranging from David Bowie to J. G. Ballard but also inspired the cult film 12 Monkeys. Marker’s impact expanded beyond his own films through his writings for the French monthly Esprit as well as anthologies and newly founded film publications.

This first English translation of Marker’s early writings on film brings together reviews and essays, published between 1948 and 1955, that span the topics of film style, adaptation, and ideology, as well as animation and the debates surrounding 3-D and wide-screen technologies, ranging from late silent-era films to postwar Hollywood’s efforts to contend with the rise of television. Readers will find commentary on Laurence Olivier’s 1944 screen adaptation of Henry V, a scathing review of Robert Montgomery’s Lady in the Lake (1947), critiques of Walt Disney productions, a discussion of the pitfalls of prioritizing commercial success over aesthetic values, and more.

An indispensable resource for cinephiles and scholars, these texts document the emergence of Marker’s critical voice and situate him alongside such contemporaries as André Bazin and Eric Rohmer, as well as the future French New Wave figures Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. This collection shows how Marker’s commentary on individual films opens onto his engagement with films as social and cultural phenomena.

Chris Marker (1921–2012) was a French filmmaker and writer. Often associated with the directors Agnès Varda and Alain Resnais, he experimented with filmmaking as early as 1947. He is best known for his films La Jetée, A Grin without a Cat, and Sans Soleil.

Steven Ungar is professor emeritus of cinematic arts, French, and comparative literature at the University of Iowa. He is author of Critical Mass: Social Documentary in France from the Silent Era to the New Wave (Minnesota, 2018).

Sally Shafto is assistant professor of English at Framingham State University. She is editor and translator of Writings by Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet.

One of the pleasures of Chris Marker’s films is the singular literary voice of his inimitable commentaries, in all its wit and quicksilver intelligence. That voice is present here, being honed through contact with others’ images and before Marker moved from the page to the screen himself. This groundbreaking collection introduces aficionados old and new to work likely unknown to them and allows us all to discover another dimension of this prodigious artist: Marker the film critic.

Chris Darke, author of La Jetée