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The Essay Film: From Montaigne, After Marker by …
As José Moure argued, the fact that we resort to a literary term such as "essay" points to the difficulty that we experience when attempting to categorize certain, unclassifiable films. This observation flags the risk that we accept the current state of under-theorization of the form, and use the term indiscriminately, in order to classify films that escape other labeling, as the following remark appears to endorse: "The essayistic quality becomes the only possibility to designate the cinema that resists against commercial productions." The temptation of assigning the label of essay film to all that is non-commercial or experimental or unclassifiable must, however, be resisted, or else the term will cease being epistemologically useful, and we will end up equating very diverse films, as sometimes happens in the critical literature—for instance, works such as Sans Soleil/Sunless (Chris Marker, FR, 1983) and Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore, US, 2004), which have very little in common aside the extensive voice-over and the fact that they both...
Authorial presence is primarily aligned with voice-over The Importance of a Platform
to Encourage Recognition What can the discourse of (film) genre
studies teach us about the 'genrification' of
the essay film?
The essay film : from Montaigne, after Marker
Melodrama as films that are all
about 'eve.' Sirk-centric
Opens a Can of Worms
Reconfiguring the Essay Form Reconfiguring the Essay
Primary Vococentrism: The fact that most film's soundtracks are dominated by the human voice
Secondary Vococentrism: A film whose structure, rhetoric, narrative and cumulative expressive means
are dominated by an authorial voice -- voice here as pertaining to 'filmmaker' and her composite enunciation or person, personality and world view.
If a dialogue can be achieved via purely visual means, in other words, if the enunicator is able to convey an argument and enter into a dialogue with the spectator through images unaccompanied by commentary, we can call that an essay film.
Chris Marker, whose name was not “Chris Marker,” was a play of masks and avatars, an artist who leapt, like one of his beloved cats, from medium to medium. Walter Benjamin said that a great work (of literature) either dissolves a genre or invents one, that each great work is a special case; Marker produced a series of special cases. He invented the genre of the essay film; he composed what is widely considered the greatest short film ever made, , in 1962; in the late nineties, he debuted one of the first major artworks of the digital age, the cd-rom, . Even Marker’s relation to his own celebrity—he wasn’t merely reclusive; he could be a generous correspondent, for instance, and he was always current, never turning his back on the present—was an evasive masterpiece: until his death in 2012 at ninety-one, he was everywhere and nowhere, refusing both the haughty fantasy of nonparticipation and the seductions of spectacle. How do you memorialize an artist who refused to remain identical to himself? How do you remember one of the great philosopher- artists of memory?
The Essay Film and Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil -- Film …
Chris Marker (b. 1921) has been a source of continual fascination and endless speculation 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 brilliant practitioner and early pioneer of the essay film (In a revision of this text Marker was careful to assert that he did not "invent" the essay film and pointed to Nicole Védrès and her 1949 La Vie Commence Demain as a major influence upon his embrace of the essay form), Marker's best known works are animated by a simultaneously playful and 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 pointed documentary interventions recovering repressed and repressive histories of dissent, whether locally, as in The Sixth Side of the Pentagon (1967), or globally, as in his tragic, sweeping magnum opus A Grin Without a Cat (1978).
In his latest film Chris Marker offers a lively, roaming examination of political dissent in 21st century France and an energetic return to the film essay form that he pioneered. Intrigued by the enigmatic appearance of an insouciant graffiti cat, grinning from ear to ear, perched defiantly high across the walls of Paris, Marker set out to track the feline pattern and the broader mood of the post-9/11 city. Marker’s search eventually leads him to discover a sudden reassertion of political voice by Parisian youth, a spirited defiance to the American invasion of Iraq and the insurgent French ultra-right, with the grinning cat an icon and emblematic participant.
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The Essay Film: From Montaigne, after Marker by …
It can be argued that Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil is an essay film based on most if not all of Lopate’s defining characteristics.
The first characteristic that Lopate defines is, “An essay-film must have words in the form of a text either spoken, subtitled, or intertitled” (245).
A Review of “The Essay Film: From Montaigne, After Marker”
Marker’s ruminative, melancholy masterpiece channels the imagination of a lonely traveling cameraman—evoked in letters from distant Africa and Japan—into a profound meditation on the creative conjuring powers of memory, place and image. Among the most brilliant examples of the essay film, Sans Soleil uses a lyrical, associative structure to transform modern Japan into a vivid metaphor for the scintillating mosaic of fact, fiction and fantasy that defines the increasingly mediated image world in which we live. A crucial bridge between Marker’s adventurous earlier travel films and his growing interest in media and technology, Sans Soleil is one of Marker’s most dazzling and inexhaustible works.
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