Chris Marker passed away today aged 91, a name that might not mean much to the wider world, but one which was nevertheless hugely impactful during his career as an artist and film-maker. Marker was pivotal in the resurgence of the left-field French cinema community from the late 1950s onwards. Alongside other directors like Alain Resnais and Agnes Varda, Marker was strongly associated with the Left Bank movement, a group of film makers not so concerned with the commercial nature of the movie industry, focusing on their craft as purely art and an the expression of the soul. Marker was one of the most notorious ; here are five films that we think prove it:
1. ¡Cuba Sí! (1961)
A documentary that promptly saw Marker banned from the USA before his career had even really got going. The Frenchman travelled to communist Cuba and profiled dictator Fidel Castro, including two interviews with him. The film defended Castro and finished with an Anti-American epilogue which, in the economic climate of the time, caused huge embarrassment to the country.
2. La Jetée (1962)
A 28-minute black and white film constructed almost entirely from still photos, this was Marker's breakthrough international film. Telling of a post-nuclear war experiment in time-travel, the piece sees its main protagonist as a survivor from World War 3, obsessed with mental images of a death at an airport and a mysterious woman. Going through time the man discovers that the death in his memory was in fact his own. This eerie cinematography went on to inspire films such as Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys' (1995).
3. A Grin Without A Cat (1977)
Often highly politicised - as his early documentary on Castro proved - Marker included his homeland in this work, focusing on the rise of the New Left in 60s and 70s France, as well as viewing political turmoil globally. The film is made up largely of interviews with French communist leaders, students and sociologists and features events including the Watergate Scandal. It was a big critical success, with Marker trying to uncover the real truth, as opposed to painting his own.
4. Sans Soleil (1983)
One of Marker's more abstract and yet best-known films, the angle of the documentary focused more indirectly on politics and history. Looking into the human psyche, he explored the nature of human memory and how people's inabilities to recall the context and small nuances of their memories had affected how human history was presented.
5. AK (1985)
Throughout his life Marker was fascinated by Japanese culture, and he showed that most explicitly here with a profile of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, focusing more on their personality and nature as a human as opposed to his career works - typical of Marker's own emphasis on the expression of the work itself and not what it could gain for him commercially. who wants it?