Class Two: Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, 1983, France)


If you want to read further about Marker’s work, there are two excellent monographs that you can turn to: Nora Alter’s Chris Marker (U of Illinois P, 2006) and Catherine Lupton’s Chris Marker: Memories of the Future (Reaktion, 2005). And even though it focuses on La jetée, Janet Harbord’s book in Afterall’s One Work series, simply titled Chris Marker’s La jetée,  is excellent as well and has much to say about movies and memory in his work, especially as it relates to his fascination with Vertigo.

To get a sense of how loved Marker was in the world of cinema, see Sight & Sound’s round-up of filmmakers (including Agnes Varda and Kodwo Eshun) writing their memories (!) of him after his death: The Owl’s Legacy.

And for the theory-enthusiastic or those a little suspicious of the theoretical projection onto Japan a whole set of Western fantasies, take a look at Roland Barthes’ Empire of Signs.

Other Marker Films

All are indispensible, but if you are interested in the way that Sans Soleil feels like a meditation on the lost political battles of the 1960s and 70s, track down A Grin Without a Cat (1978). And if you are interested in Marker’s relationship with Japan, you can watch Le mystère Koumiko in its entirety, but in a rather poor copy, on YouTube.

And I hope I’ve said enough for you to get a sense you should watch La jetée! Both it and Sans Soleil should be accessible to you through Kanopy, which the UW Library has a trial subscription to. You’ll need to proxy in if you are viewing from home.

Other contemporary films

If you are interesting in the connection between the essay films and the struggle for decolonization, I highly, highly recommend the work of Trinh T. Minh-ha. Her Reassemblage (1983), shot in Senegal around the same time that Marker was working on Sans Soleil, is a powerful, oppositional work of visual anthropology. But I also highly recommend her meditation of memory and media in Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989).

One final note

If you are visiting Tokyo, don’t forgot to visit La jetée, a Shinjuku bar named after Marker’s film. There are only 6 seats, though, so I hope that luck is on your side.

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