Watching Chris Marker’s La Jetée, years ago now, was an epiphany. I came to it via Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys, which takes La Jetée as its inspiration. I found both these films fascinating, but what was remarkable with La Jetée was its narrative, the economy of means it employed to tell its visual story, its composition nearly entirely in still images, and the moment of subtle and startling beauty when those still images move. I’ve been a fan of Marker’s work ever since, but have been constantly frustrated by my lack of access to it. Aside from La Jetée and his other best-known film Sans Soleil, his films and books are hard to get hold of. I can remember seeing a CD-ROM project Immemory in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, a multi-layered visual project about Japan, memory, travel, cinema, photography. Not enough time to play with it in the gallery then, and still eluding my efforts to track it down. So I was pretty excited when I found mention today of a new book of his, Staring Back.
[image: Chris Marker, cover of Staring Back, 2007]
It seems to be a collection of stills from his movies and travels and being at demonstrations, to accompany exhibitions in Ohio and New York of the same name. I’m not going to be able to see these shows, but I’ll have to check out the book. There’s a moment in Sans Soleil – when the camera’s gaze on a woman in the street lingers until she looks back, then freezes – which is the obverse of the stilling of the image from La Jetée. This work appears to take that idea and allow the gazes of us viewers to mingle and linger with many others from his films.
[image: Chris Marker, Metro 1 (Paris), from Staring Back, Peter Blum Gallery]
I can’t wait to see more. Especially now, I like the way that anticipation is phrased as ‘looking forward’.