As exams near, the blog takes a new turn, one with a much stronger focus around documentary cinema. Herein lies my revision in multiple forms – both french and not… so maybe it reads a little awkwardly, but it is my revision, and that’s what I want, so that’s what I’ll do
A well-rounded, profound cinema with routes in documentary filmmaking, the nouvelle vague movement and embodies modern cinema. He lived through and was a part of the biggest stages of the cinematic revolution that took place from the mid 1900’s.
Some may say he is for documentary cinema what Godard is for fiction. And the two are closely linked, having left traditional cinema after May 1968 – la rupture de la nouvelle vague. The events of May 1968 in Paris and the beginning of the semi-revolution would forever shape the way the Marker brought to the picture a new equilibrium between objectivity and subjectivity.
As time progressed, Marker’s films took a new route; more experimental perhaps. My favourite film of his is La Jetée (1963). The photo-documentary-like science-fiction film is still engaging despite being made up of still photos. It is eerie but at the same time moving. The black and white film is set in the future, the grainy images still feel futuristic. The soundtrack of ambient sounds add another layer, whilst fictitious, it gives the images life. The film is intriguing because of it’s odd construction – the unconventional composition just makes it an even better science-fiction film.
Marker was heavily influenced by the events of Mai 1968 and soon after established the Medvekin group. This group of cineastes centred around a want to give cinema to the people, the factory workers. They would go into industrial areas, factories and such, and not just introduce themselves (Marker, whilst coming from a bourgeois background, never saw himself above the working class, les ouvriers). He was not only there to film them, but to teach the workers how to make films. Il ne fait pas des films sûr, mais avec! The equipment was there – by the late sixties filming and recording sound could be done by one person – the technology continued to improve and things continued to become easier and easier. Documentaries changed too; the term cinema direct came into use to describe this new type of documentary- no longer simply le cinema du réelle – this was more observational, less about searching for truth, but expecting and understanding that the appearance of the camera does modify the way we act.
I return to my favourite quote:
“new technologies do not in themselves produce social change, though they can, and do facilitate it” Fiske, 1993
The appearance of equipment and a new way of thinking encouraged more people to make films – so less significance began to be placed on the shot construction, more significance on the problematique, or the viewpoint that the filmmaker is trying to give to us. Whilst more people begun making films, and one of the motto’s of Godard and Marker’s post-68 realisation was about creating cinema pour tous,
Maker and the Medvekin group worked more with the the working class – having split from the more extreme communist ideals supported by the students of the Sorbonne and the Russian’s. It was the cinéma des peuples
Marker continually moved, filming political engagement and revolutions around the world – ou le monde bouge. Chile (En vous parle du Chile (1973)), Algeria, Vietnam. He followed the
An interesting work, L’ambassade (1975), is comprised almost completely of close-up shots. With a voice-over that constructs the story and an interesting reveal at the end, we are left to wonder how much is actually true and how much is fiction in this documentary-esque film. But with it, Marker proves that cinema is possible, sans producteurs, sans acteurs, sans son directe, simply with a camera and with an idea; with a story to tell.
He later embraced the digital bandwagon, with Level 5 (1997) he investigated the digital world where the narrator becomes a character in hi own story, and featuring his cat.
Chris Maker was important to the history of cinema, and the history of documentary for multiple reasons. He jumped on board the portable camera, synchronised sound and the digital revolution, grabbing the technology and investigating all that it had to offer. His films were not constructed with only one category of spectators, his his films are for all different audiences; his goal being to create cinema for all.