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Director Chris Marker dies at 91, leaving his mark on cinema

July 30, 2012|By Oliver Gettell
  • A portrait of director Chris Marker.
A portrait of director Chris Marker. (Icarus Films )

Chris Marker, the influential French filmmaker, writer and multimedia artist, has died at age 91, according to the Associated Press.

Though less well known than some of the major French New Wave directors who were his contemporaries, Marker is renowned for his 1962 film "La Jetée," a haunting half-hour short about a time-traveling soldier in post-apocalyptic Paris. Told in voice-over narration and black-and-white still photos, the film underscores Marker's fascination with memory, time and reality. It has spawned countless homages and references, most prominently serving as the direct inspiration for Terry Gilliam's "12 Monkeys" (1995).

Marker, who was born Christian Francois Bouche-Villeneuve in 1921 (outside Paris, according to many sources, or in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, according to Marker himself), was also known for his documentary-style film essays, including "A Grin Without a Cat" (1977), "Sans Soleil" (1983) and "The Case of the Grinning Cat" (2004).

An enigmatic figure, Marker rarely sat for interviews or allowed himself to be photographed. He continued working into his 80s, and toward the end of his career became intrigued by and active in the online virtual world Second Life. In a unique interview with the French weekly Les Inrockuptibles in 2008 (which was conducted within Second Life), Marker said he came to the virtual world to find "A dream state. The sense of porousness between the real and the virtual."

For those interested in viewing Marker's work, the Criterion Collection issued a DVD pairing "La Jetée" and "Sans Soleil" in 2007, and Icarus Films released four more of the director's films the following year.

For a commentary on "La Jetée," check out his Criterion Collection video:

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