Experimental French director died at 91 on July 29th 2012.
The essay film, a form pitched between documentary and personal reflection, exploring the subjectivity of the cinematic perspective, has now become an accepted genre. Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet,Jean-Luc Godard, Errol Morris and Michael Moore are among its main recent exponents, but Chris Marker was credited with inventing the form.
Marker’s creative use of sound, images and text in his poetic, political and philosophical documentaries made him one of the most inventive of film-makers. They looked forward to what is called “the new documentary”, but also looked back to the literary essay in the tradition of Michel de Montaigne. Marker’s interests lay in transitional societies – “life in the process of becoming history,” as he put it. How do various cultures perceive and sustain themselves and each other in the increasingly intermingled modern world?
He was born Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve, most likely in Neuilly-sur-Seine, on the outskirts of Paris, although one source gives the place of birth as Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia – a legend that Marker did nothing to dispel. His pseudonym is said to have been taken from the Magic Marker pen.