Twenty years separate the Pier (1962) from Without sun (1982), like a mirror effect amplified by time. Time which, as we know, is its nerve center and bifocals – in the optical sense of the term: the telescope making it possible to adjust the gaze between near and far. But with Chris Marker, time does not pass normally, it is a spiral, it rolls up, we cross it backwards as if in our own memory, stuck to the heady spin of an image.
His films have the elusive stuff of dreams. That they are post-apocalyptic fable taking the form of the photo novel (the Pier), or hallucinatory poem summoning the memory of the world through the prism of the (false) travel diary, especially in Japan, the land of cats that he loved so much, in Guinea-Bissau and Iceland (Without sun), they creep into us like music. We can guess them more than they do. And if it’s a dream, then they are the ones who dream us. What is the stunned grace with which they torpedo us? A hypothesis: in both cases, the film takes place in our heads, it is constructed in us from everything that the frozen image deprives us of (the continuum, the movement, in the Pier), or, on the contrary, it arises like a fever of the profuse collage of images and words that overwhelm us, and of which we retain only the floating intoxication and the astonishing beauty (Without sun).
Another evidence: the two films not only knead a Proustian material – crossing time, accessing a form of immemorial truth, through the pervasiveness of the sensitive, the power of the affect – but also fall under the high sponsorship of a matrix work by Hitchcock: Vertigo. In this sense, they are journeys to the heart of cinephile memory. The Pier is almost an enamored rereading: the hero struggles with dreams and memories to resuscitate the image of a dead woman, same spiral bun, same cut of redwood; plunged into darkness, it is a motionless traveler who produces his own images, like a cinema spectator. Without sun, besides the pilgrimage to San Francisco to the very places of the filming of Vertigo, is, for its part, haunted by the gaze (that of Guinean women or young Japanese girls who hide the better to offer themselves). Its title, finally, brings us back to the darkness of dark rooms, to that of digital screens too, which will keep track of us when we are no longer there.
The Pier and Without sun from Chris Marker in DVD, Blu-ray + book box set (Potemkine), respectively € 49.90 and € 39.90