Chris Marker was a French filmmaker, writer, and photographer who is best known for his experimental documentary films that blend fiction and reality, political commentary, and philosophical musings.

Marker’s films are highly regarded for their innovative approach to non-fiction storytelling and their use of montage, voice-over narration, and found footage.

Here are some of Chris Marker’s most notable films:

“La Jetée” (1962): A 28-minute black and white film that tells the story of a man who is sent back in time to prevent a catastrophic event.

The film is entirely made up of still photographs and is considered a masterpiece of the science fiction genre.

“Sans Soleil” (1983): A poetic and meditative essay film that explores the nature of memory, time, and travel. The film is composed of footage shot in various countries around the world and features a philosophical voice-over that reflects on the human condition.

“A Grin Without a Cat” (1977): A three-hour documentary that chronicles the global political upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, including the Vietnam War, student protests, and the rise of leftist movements.

“The Last Bolshevik” (1993): A documentary about the life and work of the Soviet filmmaker Alexander Medvedkin, who was a contemporary of Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov.

“Level Five” (1997): A film that explores the history of Okinawa during World War II and the legacy of the Battle of Okinawa.

The film uses computer-generated imagery to create a virtual reality world that the protagonist explores.

Chris Marker’s films are highly recommended for those interested in experimental and politically engaged cinema.

Best Chris Marker Films

His work is a testament to the power of the moving image to question, challenge, and inspire.

1. La Jetée (1962)

“La Jetée” is a 1962 French science fiction film directed by Chris Marker. The film is composed almost entirely of black and white still photographs, with a few brief segments of moving footage.

The story follows a man living in a post-apocalyptic world, who is selected for a time-travel experiment in hopes of finding a solution to the world’s problems.

“La Jetée” is notable for its innovative use of still images to create a sense of movement and narrative.

   

The film’s style and structure challenge traditional notions of cinematic storytelling, and its exploration of themes such as memory, time, and the nature of human existence has earned it critical acclaim and a place as a cult classic.

The film’s haunting imagery and nonlinear structure create a dreamlike and poetic atmosphere that invites interpretation and reflection.

“La Jetée” is a powerful meditation on the fragility of human life and the human experience of time, as well as a testament to the enduring power of cinema as an art form.

La Jetee / Sans Solei (The Criteiron Collection) [Blu-ray]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Étienne Becker, Jean Négroni, Hélène Chatelain (Actors)
  • Chris Marker (Director) - Anatole Dauman (Producer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

2. Sans Soleil (1983)

“Sans Soleil” is a French documentary film directed by Chris Marker and released in 1983.

The film is structured as a letter from a fictional female traveler to the director, describing her impressions of various places around the world, including Japan, Guinea-Bissau, and San Francisco.

The film blends footage of these locations with philosophical musings on memory, time, and human experience.

It is known for its experimental style, which includes non-linear storytelling, voiceovers, and a collage of different images and sounds.

“Sans Soleil” has been praised for its poetic and thought-provoking approach to documentary filmmaking, as well as its exploration of the relationship between memory, culture, and identity.

The film has influenced many filmmakers and has been considered a masterpiece of the documentary genre.

3. Lettre de Sibérie (Letter from Siberia, 1957)

“Lettre de Sibérie” (Letter from Siberia) is a 1957 French documentary film directed by Chris Marker.

The film is a playful and satirical exploration of Soviet propaganda, which was often used to portray Siberia as a harsh and desolate wasteland, devoid of any culture or civilization.

Marker’s film, however, presents a more nuanced and humanizing portrait of Siberia, through a mix of original footage and found footage.

The film takes the form of a letter written by an imaginary traveler to a friend in Paris, describing his experiences in Siberia.

   

The traveler, who is played by Marker himself, encounters a variety of people and situations, from the indigenous nomads of the region to the Soviet officials who control them.

The film also includes humorous interludes, such as a fake newsreel about a “conquest” of Siberia by French explorers.

“Lettre de Sibérie” is notable for its innovative and playful approach to documentary filmmaking, as well as its critical engagement with Soviet propaganda.

Marker’s use of humor and irony helps to subvert the official Soviet narrative and highlight the complexities of life in Siberia.

The film is also visually striking, with a mix of black-and-white and color footage, and a distinctive style that has influenced many subsequent documentaries.

Chris Marker Collection (10 Films) ( Dimanche à Pekin / Lettre de Sibérie / Description d'un combat / La sixième face du pentagone / L'ambass [ NON-USA FORMAT, Blu-Ray, Reg.B Import - United Kingdom ]
  • Chris Marker Collection (10 Films) ( Dimanche à Pekin / Lettre de Sibérie / Description d'un...
  • Chris Marker Collection (10 Films)
  • Dimanche à Pekin / Lettre de Sibérie / Description d'un combat / La sixième face du pentagone /...
  • Sunday in Peking / Letter from Siberia / Description of a Struggle / The Sixth Side of the Pentagon
  • Gilles Quéant, Bertrand Cantat, Dieudonné (Actors)

4. Le Fond de l’air est rouge (A Grin Without A Cat, 1977)

“Le Fond de l’air est rouge” (The Base of the Air is Red) is a documentary film directed by French filmmaker Chris Marker in 1977.

The film’s English title is “A Grin Without a Cat.” The film explores the political and social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, focusing on the rise and fall of various leftist movements and revolutionary struggles around the world.

The film covers a wide range of topics, including the anti-war movement in the United States, the May 1968 protests in France, the student movements in Mexico, the struggle for independence in Vietnam, and the emergence of socialist and communist movements in Latin America.

   

Marker uses a combination of archival footage, interviews with activists and political figures, and his own narration to construct a complex and thought-provoking meditation on the nature of political revolution and the possibilities and limitations of leftist politics.

The film’s title comes from a quote by French poet Paul Éluard, who wrote: “There is another world, but it is in this one.” This sentiment reflects the film’s exploration of the tension between revolutionary aspirations and the realities of political power and social change.

“Le Fond de l’air est rouge” remains a powerful and influential document of a tumultuous era in world history.

A Grin Without a Cat
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Salvador Allende (Actors)
  • Chris Marker (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Spanish (Publication Language)

5. Le Joli Mai (The Lovely Month of May, 1963)

“Le Joli Mai” is a French documentary film directed by Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme, released in 1963.

The film captures the spirit of Paris during May 1962, a month of great change and optimism in French society, following the end of the Algerian War and the signing of the Evian Accords.

The film is composed of interviews with ordinary Parisians, including factory workers, shopkeepers, and students, as well as intellectuals and artists, who discuss their thoughts and feelings about the social, political, and cultural climate of the time.

The filmmakers use a cinema verite style, allowing the interviewees to speak freely without commentary or interpretation.

The film is a snapshot of a unique moment in French history and a portrait of a city in transition.

It captures the excitement and hope of the time, as well as the anxieties and uncertainties that come with social change.

The film is also notable for its innovative use of split-screen and editing techniques, which give the film a dynamic and modern feel.

Overall, “Le Joli Mai” is a fascinating document of a pivotal moment in French history, and a valuable contribution to the tradition of documentary cinema.

It is recommended for anyone interested in French culture and history, as well as those interested in the art of documentary filmmaking.

Le Joli Mai
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Yves Montand, Simone Signoret (Actors)
  • Chris Marker (Director)
  • Spanish (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

6. Une journée d’Andrei Arsenevitch (One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich, 2000)

“Une journée d’Andrei Arsenevitch” (One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich) is a 2000 French documentary film directed by Chris Marker, which offers an intimate portrait of the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.

The film is composed of footage from Tarkovsky’s films, as well as interviews with the director and his family and colleagues.

Through this portrait, Marker offers insights into Tarkovsky’s life and work, exploring the director’s complex relationship with the Soviet state, his creative process, and the themes that recur throughout his films

The film is a tribute to Tarkovsky’s vision and a meditation on the nature of art and its relationship to society and the individual.

“Une journée d’Andrei Arsenevitch” is notable for its poetic and evocative style, which blends archival footage with Marker’s own observations and reflections.

The film offers a deep and nuanced understanding of Tarkovsky’s artistic legacy, and is a must-see for fans of the filmmaker, as well as for anyone interested in the nature of creativity and the power of cinema.

7. Le Tombeau d’Alexandre (The Last Bolshevik, 1993)

“Le Tombeau d’Alexandre” (also known as “The Last Bolshevik”) is a 1993 French documentary film directed by Chris Marker.

The film explores the life and career of Soviet filmmaker and theorist Alexander Medvedkin, who is often referred to as “the last Bolshevik” due to his staunch Marxist beliefs and his commitment to socialist ideals.

The film combines archival footage of Medvedkin’s work with interviews with Medvedkin’s colleagues, friends, and family members.

Through these interviews, Marker paints a complex portrait of a man who was both a visionary artist and a committed political activist, and who struggled to reconcile his artistic vision with his political beliefs.

“Le Tombeau d’Alexandre” is a powerful and thought-provoking film that explores important themes such as politics, art, and history.

The film is notable for its use of archival footage and its innovative narrative structure, which weaves together different strands of Medvedkin’s life to create a rich and nuanced portrait of the filmmaker.

For anyone interested in the history of cinema, politics, or the intersection between art and politics, “Le Tombeau d’Alexandre” is a must-see film.

Happiness / The Last Bolshevik ( Schaste / Le tombeau d'Alexandre ) ( Happiness )
  • Happiness / The Last Bolshevik ( Schaste / Le tombeau d'Alexandre ) ( Happiness )
  • Happiness / The Last Bolshevik
  • Schaste / Le tombeau d'Alexandre
  • Happiness
  • Pyotr Zinovyev, Yelena Yegorova, Nikolay Cherkasov (Actors)

8. Le Mystère Koumiko (The Koumiko Mystery, 1965)

“Le Mystère Koumiko” (The Koumiko Mystery) is a French documentary film directed by Chris Marker and released in 1965.

The film focuses on a young Japanese woman named Koumiko who moved to Paris to study, but ended up staying in the city for several years.

The film presents a series of interviews with Koumiko, as well as footage of her daily life in Paris, interspersed with scenes from traditional Japanese culture and commentary on the intersection of East and West.

The film explores themes of cultural identity, language, and the experience of being an outsider in a foreign land. Like many of Marker’s films, “Le Mystère Koumiko” blurs the boundaries between documentary and fiction, presenting a unique and personal portrait of its subject.

The film has been praised for its innovative style and thought-provoking exploration of cultural differences and personal identity.

9. The Sixth Side of the Pentagon (1967)

“The Sixth Side of the Pentagon” is a 1967 French documentary film directed by Chris Marker.

The film chronicles the anti-Vietnam War protest held at the Pentagon on October 21, 1967, and the subsequent clashes between protesters and police.

The title of the film refers to the sixth side of the Pentagon, which is said to be invisible and impenetrable, representing the power and secrecy of the military-industrial complex.

Marker’s film explores the ways in which this power is challenged and contested by ordinary citizens who dare to protest and speak out.

“The Sixth Side of the Pentagon” is notable for its use of a range of documentary techniques, including interviews with protesters, police officers, and military officials, as well as footage of the protest itself and archival material.

The film also features a distinctive voice-over narration by Marker, which combines personal reflection, historical analysis, and political commentary.

Through its powerful combination of images, sounds, and ideas, “The Sixth Side of the Pentagon” offers a compelling and provocative portrait of the anti-war movement in the United States, and a critique of the violence and injustice of war itself.

Chris Marker Collection (10 Films) ( Dimanche à Pekin / Lettre de Sibérie / Description d'un combat / La sixième face du pentagone / L'ambass [ NON-USA FORMAT, Blu-Ray, Reg.B Import - United Kingdom ]
  • Chris Marker Collection (10 Films) ( Dimanche à Pekin / Lettre de Sibérie / Description d'un...
  • Chris Marker Collection (10 Films)
  • Dimanche à Pekin / Lettre de Sibérie / Description d'un combat / La sixième face du pentagone /...
  • Sunday in Peking / Letter from Siberia / Description of a Struggle / The Sixth Side of the Pentagon
  • Gilles Quéant, Bertrand Cantat, Dieudonné (Actors)

10. Suba Si! (1961)

“Suba Si!” is a Romanian comedy film directed by Dan Pița and Mircea Veroiu, released in 1961. The film tells the story of a young man named Petre Moraru (played by Mircea Diaconu), who moves from a small village to the big city of Bucharest in search of a better life.

Petre encounters various challenges and obstacles as he tries to adapt to life in the city, including dealing with corrupt officials, navigating the complex social hierarchies of urban life, and navigating the romantic interests of several women.

“Suba Si!” is notable for its portrayal of the tensions between urban and rural cultures in Romania during the 1960s, and for its use of humor to critique the shortcomings and absurdities of the country’s socialist government.

The film was well-received by audiences and critics in Romania and has since become a cult classic of Romanian cinema.

3 Characteristics of Chris Marker Films

Montage: One of the most distinctive features of Chris Marker’s films is their use of montage.

Marker’s films often incorporate a range of visual and audio elements, including archival footage, still photographs, sound recordings, and voice-over narration, which are combined and juxtaposed in ways that create meaning and emotional impact.

Political Commentary: Another key characteristic of Marker’s films is their political commentary. Marker was a committed leftist and his films often reflect his progressive political beliefs.

His documentaries explore a range of social and political issues, including war, colonialism, and the struggles of marginalized groups, and offer incisive critiques of power structures and institutionalized oppression.

Blurring the Lines Between Fact and Fiction: Finally, Marker’s films are notable for their willingness to blur the boundaries between fact and fiction.

While his documentaries are grounded in real-world events and often feature interviews with real people, they also frequently incorporate elements of fiction, such as voice-over narration that blurs the line between the personal and the political.

This creates a sense of ambiguity and invites the viewer to engage with the film on multiple levels.

3 Reasons Why You Should Watch Chris Marker Films

Innovative style: Chris Marker is known for his innovative and experimental style of filmmaking, which often blends documentary footage with fiction, poetry, and philosophical musings.

His films often challenge traditional notions of narrative structure and linear storytelling, and offer a unique and thought-provoking viewing experience.

Political and social commentary: Many of Marker’s films address political and social issues, such as the legacy of colonialism, the nature of memory and history, and the impact of technology on society.

His films offer incisive and insightful commentary on these topics, and invite viewers to engage with complex and important issues.

Influence on cinema: Chris Marker’s influence on cinema has been significant and far-reaching, with many filmmakers citing him as a major inspiration.

His innovative approach to documentary filmmaking and his use of montage and multimedia techniques have had a profound impact on the evolution of cinema as an art form.

Watching his films can provide a deeper understanding of the history and development of cinema, as well as an appreciation for the unique and groundbreaking work of one of its most influential figures.

Best Chris Marker Films – Wrapping Up

Chris Marker was a visionary filmmaker who made significant contributions to the world of cinema.

His films were known for their innovative use of narrative structure, their political themes, and their unique blend of documentary and fiction.

Marker was also a pioneer in the use of new technologies such as video and computer-generated imagery, and he was instrumental in the development of the essay film genre.

Some of Marker’s most notable films include “La Jetée,” “Sans Soleil,” “Le Joli Mai,” and “Le Tombeau d’Alexandre.” Each of these films explores important themes such as memory, identity, politics, and history, and they showcase Marker’s incredible talent as a storyteller and filmmaker.

Marker’s impact on cinema and visual culture cannot be overstated, and his work continues to inspire and influence filmmakers today.

For anyone interested in the history of cinema, politics, or the intersection between art and technology, Chris Marker’s films are essential viewing.