Artists' Television Access

CHRIS MARKER on the Fate of the Left

/ Scenes of the third World War 1967-1977

Thursday, May 24, 2007, 7:00 pm, $7

Chris Marker’s Grin


Le Fond de l’air est Rouge / A Grin Without a Cat (1977/1993) 180 min. in English, Spanish and French with some English subtitles.

The untranslatable French title is a play on words suggesting that revolution was in the air but not on the ground. (IMDB)

Marker was a student of Sartre’s.  His second film, Les Statues meurent aussi,  was made with Alain Renais in 1953.  His most renowned fiction film La Jetée was made in 1962, and his masterpiece of film essay, Sans Soleil, was completed in 1983.  A Grin Without a Cat was first released in 1977 and recut in 1993 to its current form with a post cold-war coda. It is an informative, sprawling and ultimately melancholic essay on the Left and its 20th century fate, starting from the Soviet revolution to the coup d’etat in Chile, critically evaluating the heady days of the 1960s.

On its 2002 theatrical release, Dave Kehr from the NY Times wrote, A Grin Without a Cat is a work of extraordinary journalism, but it is also a work of deft and subtle poetry, visual (in the rhyming of gestures and shapes across images and sequences) as much as verbal. Mr. Marker is a great spectator as well as a great filmmaker, able to uncover the hidden meanings and formal correspondences in his own material. ”You never know what you’re filming until later,” remarks one of the film’s narrators, summing up Mr. Marker’s distinctive way of working both within the moment and out of it.  

Not shown in San Francisco since the original US release in 2002 we will present the film in its two 90 minute halves (part 1 Fragile Hands and part 2 Severed Hands) with a brief intermission.


Director’s Statement

Some think the third World War will be set off by a nuclear missile. For me, that’s the way it will end. In the meantime, the figures of an intricate game are developing, a game whose de-coding will give historians of the future – if they are still around – a very hard time. A weird game. Its rules change as the match evolves. To start with, the super powers’ rivalry transforms itself not only into a Holy Alliance of the Rich against the Poor, but also into a selective co-elimination of Revolutionary Vanguards, wherever bombs would endanger sources of raw materials. As well as into the manipulation of these vanguards to pursue goals that are not their own. During the last ten years, some groups of forces (often more instinctive than organized) have been trying to play the game themselves – even if they knocked over the pieces. Wherever they tried, they failed. Nevertheless, it’s been their being that has the most profoundly transformed politics in our time. This film intends to show some of the steps of this transformation.

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