If you had taken a walk in Paris last autumn, you might have come across grinning cats graffitied on walls and buildings. The person responsible for this was Chris Marker: cats play an important role in his latest film, Chats perchés. Very little is known about Marker himself; there are perhaps 12 photographs of him in circulation, and even fewer interviews. But he has been enormously productive over the last fifty years. Before the age of thirty he had published poetry, short stories, a number of articles and a novel. With Alain Resnais, he made Les Statues meurent aussi (1953) and the ground-breaking Nuit et brouillard (1955); he then became a major figure in the French short film industry of the 1950s and 1960s, pioneering a new genre, 'the essay-film', in a series of documentaries from around the world. In all, he has made more than forty films and published seven books of photographs; in the 1990s, he released a CD-Rom and curated four multimedia installations for art galleries, the most recent at MoMA. Marker is identified with no particular group or movement; his work is at once lyrical, political and satirical. But his primary concern has been to document the century: he is preoccupied with the images that come to define our collective and personal memories.
LRB 20 April 2006 | PDF Download