PRINT January 2013

Nora M. Alter

Chris Marker, La Jetée, 1962, 35 mm, black-and-white, sound, 27 minutes. The Woman (Hélène Chatelain).


A cat is never on the side of power.

—Chris Marker, A Grin Without a Cat (1993)

IN A REVIEW of Chris Marker’s Lettre de Sibérie (Letter from Siberia, 1957), the French critic André Bazin extols the film for its formal innovations, editing style, and animated sequences. Singling out the production’s essayistic quality as its most important feature, Bazin describes Letter from Siberia as “an essay in the form of a filmic reportage. . . . An essay documented by film.” The term essay film stuck and subsequently came to describe a new genre of filmic production, with Marker (born Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve in Paris in 1921) as one of its leading practitioners.

But Marker was much more than a filmmaker. By the time he made Letter from Siberia, he was already an established writer, editor, poet, cartoonist, actor, and activist. In the decade following the

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