Who the Hell Is Chris Marker?

The Harvard Film Archive will host a virtual event with legendary filmmaker Chris Marker titled “The Second Life of Chris Marker,” on May 16. The event, which will take place in the virtual world of Second Life, will be preceded by screenings of Marker’s films May 9-11.


Most American viewers hardly know who Chris Marker is.  Of  French directors, past and present, Marker has been one of the most consistently brilliant and innovative filmmakers yet one completely impervious to fads and fashions in cinema, thus his relative obscurity in the U.S. except for small academic and cinephile circles.


Born in 1921, Marker has been a source of continual fascination ever since he first emerged in the 1950s as one of the most original and elusive voices of the post-World War II French cinema. A practitioner and  pioneer of the essay film.  In a revision of this text, the modest Marker was careful to assert that he did not “invent” the essay film and points to Nicole Védrès and her 1949 “La Vie Commence Demain” (“Life Begins Tomorrow”) as a major influence upon his embrace of the essay form.


Marker’s best-known works are defined by a playful, philosophical intertwining of documentary and fiction filmmaking techniques and traditions. The dense yet lyrical poesis of montage and voice created across Marker’s films found its fullest expression in “Sans Soleil” (1982), his celebrated meditation on travel, memory and cultural difference.


Among the most politically committed and perceptive European directors, Marker has also created a series of political documentaries about what can be described as the recovering repressed and repressive histories of dissent, as in “The Sixth Side of the Pentagon” (1967), or his tragic, sweeping magnum opus “A Grin Without a Cat” (1978).


Marker has remained indifferent to the popular spotlight, leaving all public appearances to Guillaume-en-Egypte, the ginger cat who serves as his pseudonym, mascot and muse, and adamant about his need for unmitigated independence as an artist (while not ruling out occasional work with select collaborators). Marker’s desire for a self-sufficient means of production, together with his search for a narrative form to explore the slippages and superimpositions of individual and collective memory has drawn him to experiment with an incredible range of image technologies, from the photo book in his early years to small gauge 16mm and Super-8 cinema and then to video and video games and, most recently, the CD-ROM and Internet.


Marker’s early, such as La jetée (1962) (which has influenced Terry Gilliam’s “12 Monkeys” in 1995) is deeply informed by science fiction and has uncanny ability to predict the future. In 2008, a commission for the Design Museum in Zürich gave way to the landmark exhibition Chris Marker. A Farewell to Movies, for which Marker, together with Viennese architect Max Moswitzer, created a cyber museum in the virtual world Second Life in order to reexamine and share examples of his photography, films and installation work. The Harvard Film Archive is proud to join Marker for an extremely rare live tour of his Second Life museum, Ouvroir, on Saturday, May 16th and, as a prelude, to present a focused retrospective of his films.


The great Harvard tribute is co-presented by Icarus Films on the occasion of their release on DVD of nine Chris Marker films. Jonathan Miller and Lori Fried, Icarus Films; Lucien Bookmite; Max Moswitzer; Naomi Yang, Exact Change Press; Brigitte Bouvier and Eric Jausseran, Consulate General of France, Boston.


For Chris Marker Screening Schedule see Festival and Events section


Harvard Film Archive

24 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

(617) 495-4700



Tickets for regular screenings are $8 General Admission, $6 Harvard faculty and staff, seniors and non-Harvard students. Harvard students free to regular events. Tickets to special event screenings are $10. Tickets go on sale 45 minutes prior to show time. The HFA does not do advance ticket sales.