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Marker, Chris

Entry updated 15 January 2024. Tagged: Film, People.

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(1921-2012) Professional pseudonym of French filmmaker Christian Bouche-Villeneuve, a major figure in the Cinema of the Nouvelle Vague and beyond. Essentially a documentarist, but of a radically exploratory kind, he is primarily celebrated outside France for three interreferenced works, sometimes regarded as a thematic trilogy: the short sf film La Jetée, (made in 1962 and shown widely at festivals the following year before its official French release in April 1964), his sole work of pure narrative fiction; Sans soleil (1983), a globe-spanning meditation on memory focusing longstanding preoccupations with postcolonial and historical experience; and Level Five (1995), a characteristically layered work of documentary and fiction in which a documentary on the battle of Okinawa is the subject of a puzzling, unfinished Videogame. (A lifelong early adopter of new technologies, Marker was one of the very few filmmakers of his generation to embrace, and to produce major work for, digital media.) Though only the first of these qualifies without complication as sf, Marker had written sf Radio scripts before La Jetée and co-directed the animated sf short Les Astronautes (1959) with Walerian Borowczyk; he also collaborated on Pierre Kast's animation La Brûlure des mille soleils (1964), whose tale of a time traveller (see Time Travel) in love resonates with La Jetée. A friend and admirer of Alain Resnais (with whom he worked on a number of features, including uncredited work on Resnais's 1955 classic Nuit et brouillard) and Andrei Tarkovsky, on whom he made a television documentary Tarkovsky (1986), expanded as One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich (1999), Marker was a central figure in French cinema for more than half a century, but successfully fended off sustained critical attention until his late seventies. (This may help to explain why La Jetée made the top fifty in the 2012 Sight & Sound poll of the greatest films ever made, after barely registering a decade earlier.) Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys (1995) is an expanded remake of La Jetée, though Gilliam himself had never seen the original film. [NL]

Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve

born Paris: 29 July 1921

died Paris: 29 July 2012


  • La Jetée: Ciné-Roman (New York: Zone Books, 1992) [graph: frame-by-frame reproduction of La Jetée: hb/still from film]

about the filmmaker

  • Catherine Lupton. Chris Marker: Memories of the Future (London: Reaktion, 2005) [nonfiction: pb/photographic]
  • Nora M Alter. Chris Marker (Urbana and Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2006) [nonfiction: Contemporary Film Directors: pb/photographic]
  • Sarah Cooper. Chris Marker (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2008) [nonfiction: hb/photographic]
  • Janet Harbord. Chris Marker: La Jetée (London: Afterall Books, 2009) [nonfiction: hb/photographic]


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