Browsing: TIFF Film Series

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Chris Marker teamed with filmmaker Yannick Bellon to create Remembrance of Things to Come (2003), a photo essay set to film that documents the work of director Bellon’s mother, photographer Denise Bellon. Now is where description becomes difficult, as the film has an almost surrealistic quality, much like the photographs of Bellon and the artists she admired and socialized with. Surrealism is in fused into the film as we watch Bellon’s photographs on the screen, sometimes dissolving into one another while a narrator, Alexandra Stewart, reads us biographical information and quotes from Bellon and others.

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Chris Marker’s The Sixth Side of the Pentagon (1967), co-directed by Francois Reichengach, draws its title from a Zen proverb reading “If the five sides of the pentagon appear impregnable, attack the sixth side.” If that sounds enigmatic, it is but it is also a great place to start when discussing the anti-war movement in the U. S. in the late 1960s as this film does.

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Its original French title (Le Fond de l’air est rogue) roughly translated as “the depth of the air is red” speaks to a nebulous cultural zeitgeist. Without a common ideological center a galvanization of the “New Left” would fail to take hold. Despite a lack of gravitational mass for which the pieces of this new ideology to coagulate, this new consciousness screamed into the winds around the world, given voice and language by the humanist propaganda of the films of Sergei Eisenstein, a semantics that defined and implicated acts of social injustice as the unflinching eye of humanity could no longer gaze upon the “Odessa Steps” of the world without feeling a sense of personal obligation. The increasing ubiquity of the camera during the tumult of the 60s would ensure that no blind eye could be turned to the injustice of the world, one would be forced to confront it and through the reaction to that confrontation political demarcation points would be defined. These demarcation points would no longer be defined by blind nationalism but by the soul’s ability to look upon the dissimilarities of other populations in the world but still be moved by the universality of their causes as members of a universal tribe of humanity. Chris Marker’s Grin Without a Cat condenses that tumult into a dizzying whirlwind of sepia-toned images from leftist movements around the globe, all unified in their gasps for freedom but without a central figurehead or rallying cry around which to form as a cohesive unit capable of delivering swift social change they would evaporate as merely red whispers into the night breeze.

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Sans Soleil (1983) is an odd sort of documentary in that it is a travel log narrated by a woman (Alexandra Stewart in the English version) as if she is reading letters from a friend that were accompanied by film reels documenting his journey to different parts of the world. It can be assumed, though it is never stated, that the traveler is director Chris Marker (who also wrote, shot, edited and did the music for the film). She starts many passages with “He writes: “and continues in his voice. The setup makes one feel like we are visiting her because she’s received a new letter and film reel and we are eager to see what our friend has been up to in his travels.

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Set in ancient China before the rule of the first emperor, where the six nations hold strong on their freedom, Hero follows the tale of one man. The man who became the hero to unify China as the great empire history books tell of. It’s hard for most to imagine mainland China as it was in medieval times, and what Hero does well as a period piece is that it develops a nuance that creates a magical sense of wonder for a time when legends seem possible. A lot of this is down to the simplicity of the mise en scene, and element that in previous Chinese films is a classic style of Chinese cinema. Director Yimou Zhang makes superb use of barren landscapes and the cinematography style that it offers. Lands of fantasy and exoticism abound, unlocking an adventure of epic proportions and mysterious grandeur.

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