Last Bolshevik (1993) and Happiness (1994): Chris Marker’s French Films Rediscovered

Several films by Chris Marker, the legendary French filmmaker, have been chosen as the first titles to launch the new Icarus Films home-video label.

Born Christian Franois Bouche-Villeneuve on July 29, 1921 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, Chris Marker was a cinematic essayist and audio-visual poet.

After the Second World War, Marker began as a writer, publishing his first book in 1949. In the 1950s he turned to documentary filmmaking, producing such classic works as Letter from Siberia, Cuba Si!, Le Joli Mai, as well as the legendary sci-fi short, La Jete. In the Sixties and Seventies, Marker was involved with SLON, a filmmaking collective that produced documentaries on contemporary labor and political issues.

Marker reemerged to make films under his own name again in 1977 with Le Fond de l’air est rouge (released in the U.S. as A Grin Without A Cat). During the Eighties and Nineties, Marker made several films on other filmmakers, including Akira Kurosawa, Andrei Tarkovsky and Aleksandr Medvedkin, as well as creating multimedia installations and the CD-ROM Immemory. Today, after more than fifty years of politically engaged and artistically creative work, utilizing the latest in digital video and computer imagery techniques, Chris Marker is recognized worldwide as not only one of the worlds most innovative and influential filmmakers but also, in the words of Marker biographer Catherine Lupton, a touchstone for artists, commentators and audiences in many fields of contemporary audio-visual culture.

Despite his stature, Marker has for too long been known, in his own words, as the Best-Known Author of Unknown Movies, with virtually none of his films available in home-video editions. Until the release in 2007 by The Criterion Collection of La Jete and Sans Soleil have been the only Marker films available in any DVD format.

ICARUS FILMS will release the following four Marker films, available for the first time in home-video DVD editions in the U.S.:

THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT (2004)

Markers sagacious and droll reflections on art, culture and politics at the start of the new millennium, hailed by J. Hoberman in The Village Voice as Lively, engaged, and provocative! The DVD also features seven bonus films, all reflecting Markers fascination with animals, including THREE CHEERS FOR THE WHALE, LEILA ATTACKS! and his Bestiary of five shorts, consisting of CAT LISTENING TO MUSIC, AN OWL IS AN OWL IS AN OWL, ZOO PIECE, BULLFIGHT IN OKINAWA and SLON TANGO.

THE LAST BOLSHEVIK (1993) and HAPPINESS (1994)

A two-disc set featuring Marker’s two-hour historical documentary on the life and work of Soviet filmmaker Aleksandr Medvedkin (1900-1989).

Medvedkins silent classic, HAPPINESS, a surprisingly irreverent comedy about early Soviet efforts at collectivization, appears on a second disc in a restored, uncut version. Both films feature supplementary interviews and related short films.

THE SIXTH SIDE OF THE PENTAGON (1967)

Co-directed by Marker with Franois Reichenbach, The Sixth Side of the Pentagon is an impressive and eloquent first-person documentary on the October 1967 March on the Pentagon, which Marker shot in the midst of the often violent protest.

On the same disc is Markers fiction short, The Embassy, which re-creates the plight of political dissidents seeking refuge in a foreign embassy after a military coup detat, and which Marker biographer Nora M. Alter has described as an early mockumentary in which the myth of a cinematic reality or truth is debunked.

REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS TO COME (2001)

Co-directed by Yannick Bellon, profiles the life and work of photojournalism pioneer Denise Bellon (1902-1999) and, in the process, provides a dazzling historical portrait of the momentous international events occurring between 1935 and 1955. Elvis Mitchell, writing in The New York Times, hailed REMEMBRANCE as Unforgettable. On the same disc is COLETTE, a short film by Yannick Bellon, tracing the career of the fabled French writer.

These films, many of which have never been available in any video format in the U.S., represent only the first in a series of DVD editions of Chris Marker’s films.

Additional Marker films due for release on DVD later in 2008 include ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF ANDREI ARSENEVICH (1999), Markers homage to acclaimed Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky (Andrei Rublev, Solaris), who died in 1986.

A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT (1977), Markers epic, three-hour film essay on the worldwide political wars of the Sixties and Seventies, including the landmark international revolts of 1968 and the fate of the New Left.

THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT
58 minutes, color, 2004
French narration with English voice-over

THE LAST BOLSHEVIK
116 minutes, color and B&W, 1993
HAPPINESS
64 minutes, B&W, 1934
English and French versions

THE SIXTH SIDE OF THE PENTAGON
26 minutes, color and B&W, 1967
English dialog and narration

THE EMBASSY
21 minutes, color, 1973
English narration

REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS TO COME
42 minutes, B&W, 2001
English narration