Chris Marker’s extraordinary filmography includes Letter from Siberia (1958), La Jetee (1962), Sans Soleil (1982) and Level Five (1996). The works of this French, “techno-shaman” exceed the boundaries of conventional cinema, often by using only still photographs and music in a film. Marker’s body of work is international in scope and includes the mediums of writing, photography, filmmaking, video, television and digital multimedia. The biographer, Catherine Lupton, is a Senior Lecturer in Film & Television Studies at Roehampton University in London. She describes Marker’s odyssey from the late 1940s, when he began to work as a critic and writer for the French journal Esprit with Alain Resnais and other intelligentsia, to his most recent work, a multimedia CD-ROM called Immemory (2002).
Not much is known about Marker’s life pre-World War II, other than he served as a parachutist with the U.S. Army and was involved with the French Resistance. Other oddities about Marker include his abstinence from being photographed, unless he is hidden behind a camera. Media requests for a picture of the auteur usually result in an image of a cat or an owl. Even his name is not real, as Chris Marker is one of several pseudonyms used by the 84-year old enigmatic filmmaker whose real name is Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve. Marker’s relationship with Yves Montand and Simone Signoret is discussed in the book, as well as his fascination with the Russian kino-train director, Alexander Medvekin. In the ’60s and ’70s he was actively involved with SLON, a filmmaking collective dedicated to activist production. In 1962, two of his films, the 29 minute La Jetée (1962) – the source for Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys (1995) and the feature, Le Joli mai (1963), are two of the major highlights in a long and experimental career of this modern-day master, whose films were created in France, Russia, China, Africa and the United States. Marker’s life is nearly as obtuse as the hidden meanings in his works. Lupton’s biography cleverly captures the life of one of the world’s most talented documentarians.