Inside the Beautiful Mind of Chris Marker

STORY BY Artie Vincent

Published: April 30, 2013

The creative genius behind the cult film '12 Monkeys' wasn't director Terry Gilliam. In fact, Gilliam's film was an ode to his biggest cinematic influence -- Chris Marker. 
 
And unless you are a film auteur, photography enthusiast or film student, the average film goer will not truly appreciate the complete genius and overall affect that the French New Wave filmmaker had on the art world. 
 
Marker's 1962 short film 'La jetee' (The Pier) became an international phenomenon. The film is a story about post-nuclear war experiment in time travel -- the direct inspiration for Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'.  What made 'La jetee' so unique, however, was it was told through a series of photographs which later became known as photomontage. It varied in pace and was limited with narration. The feelings and visuals were so vivid that after several viewings the film had the same affect of a regular film. 
 
Marker, born Christian Francois Bouche-Villenueve, was an artistic revolutionary. 
 
Up until his death in July 2012, Marker's documentary and photo-essay works encompassed such a political and societal force that he remains one of the few filmmakers that had a direct affect on Vietnam War as well political unraveling within France in 1960s. 
 
In 1967, Marker published his second volume of collected film essays -- Commentaries II. But it was that year he premiered 'Loin du Vietnam', which was a protest against the war. The film had segments contributed from top French New Wave filmmakers -- Jean-Luc Godard, Alan Resnais and Agnes Varda. 
 
As a result of the film, the filmmaker collective formed a group called S.L.O.N. -- the group encouraged filmmakers to make more political-based films and encouraged industrial workers to create films of their own. Some of the films by the group were about a strike at a factory in a small French town. Then another was about an antiwar protest in Washington D.C. 
 
Marker was a co-director on these S.L.O.N. projects and edited the films -- much like most of his films. 
 
Soon after the war ended, Marker returned to personal, artistic works. In 1983, 21 years after 'La jetee', the film photo film 'Sans Soleil' was released. The experimental film was composition of thoughts, images and scenes primarily from Japan and Guinea-Bissau. The film was known as a travelogue and is juxtaposition of narrative and image. 
 
Like most of his films, the were all produced on shoestring budgets but Marker seemed to master the financial hurdles. 
 
The critical success of the film put a book mark on Marker's career and placed him as the most creative documentary filmmaker of the century. 
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