November Smells of Red
Is it possible to make a truly politically engaged film that will be an effective tool for activism? Could cinema at all have the power to change the world? Maybe – if it will be revolutionary not only in content, but above all, in form – is what Chris Marker tends to say, the hero of the film retrospective at U–jazdowski, whose influence on the history of cinema and visual arts is inversely proportional to the recognition. This director, who passed away in 2012, was undoubtedly one of the masters and precursors of engaged cinema.
Chris Marker's retrospective reminds that the questions about the visibility of resistance as well as its impact on social revolutions and movements or the documentation of important and sudden social changes resulting from globalization have been asked before. Filmmakers going to the streets with cameras to film demonstrations (or to partake in them) often forget that they are not doing this for the first time.
Chris Marker worked with numerous mutually interpenetrating fields: philosophy, politics, literature, film, documentary, photography, and since the 1990s, he has been mainly working with media art. He was a somewhat withdrawn artist, remaining at the side of mainstream French art and cinema of the second half of the 20th century, and even though his works appear in the compilations of the best films of all time, they are still being discovered anew.
Marker’s work is very rich, not only because of the number of works in various fields, but above all, due to the richness of the topics, contexts, and problems he undertook. By attempting to organize his work, one can be tempted to distinguish three spheres of his influence on cinema and visual arts. The first would be documentary films (non-fiction), which Marker most certainly broadened by becoming a precursor, co-creator, and unsurpassable master of the film essay. The second is Marker’s influence on new media art and his experiments with computers and technology since the 1990s. During the retrospective at U–jazdowski, the third sphere will be key, intertwining with the rest. We want to ask the question that always accompanied Marker – about the political effectiveness of cinema and the film form of resistance.
Most of Marker’s films have not been shown in Poland yet, including a documentary Chris Marker, Never Explain, Never Complain.