Chris Marker is one of cinema’s greatest philosophers. Best known for his legendary photo essay La Jetee, Marker has become as beloved a cinematic auteur as we have ever seen. And now, he’s getting yet another retrospective thanks to SundanceNOW and their “DocClub” service. This May they are promoting a streaming series known as “Chris Marker And His Legacy,” and among the handful of films available to subscribers are not only fantastic works from the legend himself, but also films directly inspired by his art, life and legacy. With a handful of films making their online debut here, we’ve decided to spotlight five films in particular that should be seen by anyone and everyone, storied Marker fan or one looking to dive in for the first time head first.
5. To Chris Marker, An Unsent Letter
One of the more recent films being shown as part of this lineup, director Emiko Omo’s film is one of a handful of pictures here not only making their online streaming debut, but that are true, blue love letters to the man, the myth and the cinematic legend that is director Chris Marker. A gorgeous meditation on the man and his aesthetic, the film blends various thoughts and observations from Omori herself as well as people ranging from critic David Thomson to scientists like Dirk Kuhlmann. An essential watch for anyone, this is a beautiful companion piece for any long time fan of the legendary auteur, and absolute must watch material for those looking to dig into the director’s canon for the first time. A brisk watch at under 80 minutes, the film is really a fantastic way to kick start your journey through this collection of feature films.
4. The Embassy
The first purely Chris Marker-directed picture on this list, this Super-8 shot masterpiece of documentary filmmaking is a short, 21-minute picture, that looks at a group of political dissidents that try and find a home in a new, unnamed country. No real details are given, and all we become privy to is a voiceover from an unnamed cameraman, but what also follows is a bewildering experiment in “documentary” aesthetics. Easily one of the genre’s most experimental and boundary pushing voices, this is a perfect and rather distilled example of just what type of aesthetic playfulness this non-fiction enfant terrible truly had.
3. The Sixth Side Of The Pentagon
Another short film from Marker and co-director Francois Reichenbach, this time instead of an unnamed country we are firmly planted in this nation’s capital. On October 21, 1967, over 100,000 protesters hit the capital to demonstrate their disdain for the Vietnam War, and this is our setting for one of the most entrancing meditations on this moment in history. A rather beautiful look at a nation on a sociological brink, Marker’s film features some really superb commentary from the director who was undoubtedly inspired by Norman Mailer’s The Armies Of The Night, a piece that is even mentioned as inspiration on the film’s marketing material. Gorgeously composed and wonderfully insightful despite its 26 minute runtime, the film is one of Marker’s most up front pieces of work, and despite its lack of formal experimentation, it’s no less important or essential a piece of work.
2. One Day In The Life Of Andrei Arsenevich
We opened this list of recommendations with a love letter to Chris Marker from a contemporary. Well, now we change that equation. One of Marker’s favorite filmmakers happened to be a close friend of his, Andrei Tarkovsky, and took this love to the big screen for this beautiful ode to a fallen comrade. Over a decade after Tarkovsky died, Marker collected a series of behind the scenes pieces as well as various moments shot by Tarkovsky’s closest friends and relatives and created one of the greatest looks at a director’s creative process ever made. The blend of personal moments and actual film footage paints an engrossing portrait of an artist, his work and his life, all from one of the most important film poets of our time.
1. Description Of A Memory
There’s something to be said for a real discovery with regards to a series like this. While most people may be familiar with a director as influential as Marker, names like filmmaker Dan Geva and his brilliant film Description Of A Memory are not only rarely talked about, but are likely entirely unknown to much of the film world. However, that needs to change because this is a brazen cinematic effort unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Taking inspiration from Marker’s Description Of A Struggle in which Marker took to Israel trying to paint its future through a “language of signs,” Geva’s picture uses the same type of lyrical voiceover but this time uses Marker’s picture as a stepping stone for himself to look at how Israel has changed, and where it is truly heading. One of the most original and thought provoking documentaries this writer has ever seen, the photography here is bewildering and Geva’s camera is sweeping and ever gazing upon his Israel, ponderous about what the future truly holds.
For a low monthly fee of $4.99, subscribers to Doc Club have access to a remarkable
collection of documentaries available for streaming online. Each month there is a
new “theme” featuring 6-10 films, and as with “Chris Marker & His Legacy” each
month’s program is hand-selected by documentary guru Thom Powers. Subscribers also
have access to the archive of all previous themed months, a vast selection of over
200 documentaries. More information can be found at