Giovedì sera – 13.05.04 – Intorno vede un film – Film and discussion


1. Su questo Giovedì
2. Sul film che vedremo
3. Su Chris Marker


1. Su questo Giovedì

Cosa: proiezione di un film / Discussione
Quando: 9:00 pm, Giovedì 13 Maggio, 2004
Dove: LaT, IUAV Tolentini, Santa Croce 191, Venezia
Chi: Tutti sono invitati

Questo Giovedì vedremo insieme Sans soleil (1983) del regista Chris Marker
Durata: 1h 40min.

This thursday we will project Chris Marker’s Sans soleil (1983)
Duration: 1h 40 min.

2. Sul film che vedremo

The first I knew of Sans Soleil was in the 1999 Notorious exhibition at
Oxford's Museum of Modern Art. The Hitchcock-themed show featured
contributions from Atom Egoyan, Victor Burgin, Douglas Gordon and Cindy
Sherman. Tucked away in a corner, round past the reading area, was a
monitor. I sat down to watch halfway through the piece. Four loops
later, people had wandered in, and wandered out, but I had stayed, lassoed by
a sequence in which a woman talked about a letter sent to her by a man
about visiting the San Francisco locations filmed in Hitchcock's Vertigo
I bought the catalogue. I'd heard of Marker, come across references to
him, but had only seen La Jetee (1962). I embarked upon a search for
the film from which this mesmeric sequence had been lifted: Sans Soleil.
It's relatively difficult to find in London, but eventually I found it at a
video rental place in Islington. I ended up taking a day off work and
spooling it back and forth, watching sequences over and over. The BFI's
re-release this month, as part of the ICA's Marker season, and
alongside the first ever conference on his work, should raise awareness of Marker
outside of documentary circles to something more than the man who made
the film on which Twelve Monkeys (1995) is based.

[One gripe, something that slipped through the net - this is a new
print of the French version, but the text of the subtitles doesn't seem to
draw on the existing English-language version, narrated by Alexandra
Stewart. This means, for one, that "Ile de France" is unaccountably translated
as "Mauritius". Unlike those who think that, since there's a "perfectly
good" English-language version, it's actually quite valuable to hear the
slightly different rhythms, the different implications in the French

When you Google "Sans Soleil", you find plenty of short reviews - a
couple of hundred words, or thereabouts - , a few bloated pdfs, and a handful
of medium-length pieces: once you start, it's very difficult to stop. Even
the basic parameters take up space: was Marker born in Belleville,
France, Beijing, or in Ulan Bator, Mongolia? Was he in the Resistance? Is Hayao
Yamaneko, creator of The Zone - of manipulated, mediated images -
another name for Marker, or, as the Pacific Film Archive programme notes state,
a video-artist who "worked in television in Tokyo, and acquired the
status of Artist in Residence at the Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, after
making the video tape, "Who Decided Our Death?"..." Sandor Krasna, the
fictionalised character who writes the letters to the unnamed female
narrator, is given his own biography, a Hungarian cinematographer who
freelanced in the USA, and "became fascinated with Japan after paying a
visit to the Philippines during the filming of Apocalypse Now!"
This complicates Marker's essay form, of course - how much Krasna can
be said to speak for Marker as he makes present his locations - the quay
(or jetty?) in Guinea-Bissau, Amilcar Cabral, Tokyo's department stores,
its takenoko, its eta or hinin (burakumin), the three Icelandic children
that open the film, the emus on the Ile-de-France - is at the root of a
great deal of critical confusion. Musings, and conclusions, on personal and
collective history, memory and time, in Africa, Asia and Europe, are
underscored by references to animals and planetary time - opening out
multiple perspectives, multiple narratives. Interruptions in the
narration, and the images, afford the possibility of engaging with the
(direct and associative) ideas expressed through a structure more
musical than filmic - unsurprising for a film containing a fictional, potential
film named for a Mussorgsky song cycle. It is a film to stop, rewind,
access at different points - evidenced by the discrete power of the
Vertigo section - and points the way to the mesh of Marker's later
CD-ROM work. In one way, it feels like postcards that Odysseus might have sent
back to Penelope. The last letter she speculates on might just be
I could go on, I want to go on. I will, another time. But maybe I'll go
and watch it again: just one last time, I promise.
(testo tratto dalla voce narrante)
(text from the narrator)
The first image he told me about was of three children on a road in
Iceland, in 1965. He said that for him it was the image of happiness
and also that he had tried several times to link it to other images, but it
never worked. He wrote me: one day I'll have to put it all alone at the
beginning of a film with a long piece of black leader; if they don't
see happiness in the picture, at least they'll see the black.
He wrote: I'm just back from Hokkaido, the Northern Island. Rich and
hurried Japanese take the plane, others take the ferry: waiting,
immobility, snatches of sleep. Curiously all of that makes me think of
a past or future war: night trains, air raids, fallout shelters, small
fragments of war enshrined in everyday life. He liked the fragility of
those moments suspended in time. Those memories whose only function it
being to leave behind nothing but memories. He wrote: I've been round
the world several times and now only banality still interests me. On this
trip I've tracked it with the relentlessness of a bounty hunter. At dawn
we'll be in Tokyo.
He used to write me from Africa. He contrasted African time to European
time, and also to Asian time. He said that in the 19th century mankind
had come to terms with space, and that the great question of the 20th was
the coexistence of different concepts of time. By the way, did you know
that there are emus in the Île de France?
He wrote me that in the Bijagós Islands it's the young girls who choose
their fiancées.
He wrote me that in the suburbs of Tokyo there is a temple consecrated
to cats. I wish I could convey to you the simplicity—the lack of
affectation—of this couple who had come to place an inscribed wooden
slat in the cat cemetery so their cat Tora would be protected. No she wasn't
dead, only run away. But on the day of her death no one would know how
to pray for her, how to intercede with death so that he would call her by
her right name. So they had to come there, both of them, under the rain, to
perform the rite that would repair the web of time where it had been
He wrote me: I will have spent my life trying to understand the
function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its
lining. We do not remember, we rewrite memory much as history is
rewritten. How can one remember thirst?
He didn't like to dwell on poverty, but in everything he wanted to show
there were also the 4-Fs of the Japanese model. A world full of bums,
of lumpens, of outcasts, of Koreans. Too broke to afford drugs, they'd get
drunk on beer, on fermented milk. This morning in Namidabashi, twenty
minutes from the glories of the center city, a character took his
revenge on society by directing traffic at the crossroads. Luxury for them
would be one of those large bottles of sake that are poured over tombs on the
day of the dead.
I paid for a round in a bar in Namidabashi. It's the kind of place that
allows people to stare at each other with equality; the threshold below
which every man is as good as any other—and knows it.

Per leggere il testo integrale

To read further

3. Su Chris Marker

Dall’esordio sul finire degli anni ’50 sino ai giorni nostri, Marker ha
sviluppato un linguaggio cinematografico in continuo rinnovamento, dal
cine-romanzo a immagini fisse di «La jetée», al pamphlet di
contro-informazione politica («Loin du Vietnam» e «Le fond de l’air est
rouge»), alla tecnologia digitale con il cd-rom «immemore». Nel tempo
Marker ha affinato l’arte del filmsaggio: affascinante incrocio di
riflessione filosofica, immagine documentaria, found footage,
tecnologia digitale e materiale d’archivio. L’immaginario markeriano è formato da
una memoria iperattiva alla continua ricerca di referenti simbolici e
di assonanze spirituali, come quelle instaurate nel corso degli anni con
Andrej Tarkovskij e Akira Kurosawa. Grande viaggiatore, o per usare un
termine a lui caro, instancabile globe-trotter, il regista francese
offre con i suoi film-saggi dedicati all’Africa, al Giappone, alla
Siberia, inediti spunti di riflessione. Figura rappresentativa della
Nouvelle Vague, promotore del cinema militante, sperimentatore
tecnologico, autore-simbolo di un film-saggismo nel quale si può
ragionevolmente riporre il futuro del cinema di nonfiction, Chris
Marker è un autore la cui scoperta è in grado di modificare la chiave di
lettura del cinema degli ultimi quarant’anni.