Michael Moore may be American cinema’s best known film essayist (or propagandist, if you like), but the leader of the genre is still alive and kicking, at age 88, living quietly in Paris (no doubt with one or several cats). Chris Marker’s Pictures at an Exhibition is a walk through a gallery of his photoshopped détournements commenting on art and world history.
This is, of course, poles apart from agitprop. The combination of rich and affectively engaging imagery (with a kind of cross-historical hyperlinked quality), subtle humor and light-footed pacing, sutured together with Pärt’s delicately uplifting music, moves me into the kind of heartfelt meditative space the Buddha would approve of — as if we’re walking alongside Paul Klee/Walter Benjamin’s angel of history, in a space capsule hovercraft scanning its monuments, but with humor and gentle compassion and curiosity, coming so close to the bodies lying on the battlefield we can touch them, feel their breath, and maybe give them some solace with our touch.
It helps to know something about Marker’s lives, loves, and politics — perhaps Wolfgang Ball can be encouraged to create a footnoted hypertext analysis of the piece, as he did with Marker’s Sans Soleil.
Chris Marker – Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory has some other videos by him. And see Brooklyn Rail’s piece on his Grin Without a Cat. Oh, and make sure you click on the full-screen button when you watch it.