Obituary: Filmmaker Chris Marker, 1921-2012

Chris Marker, 1921-2012

Chris Marker, the enigmatic but influential French filmmaker and artiste whose career spanned six decades, died in Paris on July 29, 2012, at the age of 91.

Best known to Stateside audiences for his 1962 sci-fi-fueled romantic drama short La Jetée and the free-form documentary/travelogue Sans Soleil (1983), Marker may have been primarily acknowledged on these shores as an avant filmmaker, but he was much more. He leaves behind a vast body of work that includes his contributions as a writer, photographer, videographer, multimedia artist and, most notably, a film essayist.

A vaguer cinematic categorization than “documentary,” a film essay focus more on an idea than a narrative—what appears on the screen is not a story, but rather an essay, or a survey that fills out the definition of the subject. The result reflects the mark of the essayist, but said “signature” is more of a tone or style than it is an indelible stamp of the filmmaker’s personal feelings. The 1977 film A Grin Without a Cat, a political piece that presents the rise of the New Left in France and the growth of socialist movements in Latin America, is the essay for which Marker is most recognized.

While I’m generally familiar with Marker’s higher profile works, my knowledge of the man and his legacy pales compared to that of Disc Dish contributor Ed Grant. I refer you to Ed’s indispensable Media Funhouse blog, where he has written an outstanding extended tribute to Mr. Marker that includes a number of links to films by Marker that, in Ed’s words, are “hidden in plain sight” on YouTube. Ed also offers invaluable insight and  reflections on Marker’s life and methods, as well as information on Marker’s Gorgomancy site, which features his collected works as a photographer.

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.