Filmmaker, intellecutal, Marker dies at 91

A scene from Marker’s 2007 work “Staring Back.”

PARIS: Chris Marker, the influential French filmmaker, writer and intellectual, has died at the age of 91, friends announced Monday.

Over the course of a career spanning six decades, Marker collaborated with such cinema greats as Akira Kurosawa, Costa-Gavras and Alain Resnais. He made over 50 films, many of them inspired by his left wing and anti-colonial politics.

He was best known for his 1962 short film “La Jetee” [The Pier], a story of a survivor of a future war travelling back in time to relive his own death. The highly stylized film inspired Terry Gilliam’s “12 Monkeys” sufficiently for Marker to be credited as one of the writers on the 1995 feature.

His documentaries included “Cuba Si,” a favorable 1961 profile of Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution, and “Far from Vietnam” [Loin du Vietnam], his 1967 collaboration with other leading European directors opposed to U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia.

After several years working for a collective aiming to promote filmmaking by France’s industrial workers, Marker won further acclaim for his 1977 film “Le fond de l’air est rouge” [A Grin without a Cat], a nuanced reflection on the revolutionary events of May 1968 and their aftermath.

In 1985, he released “A.K.,” a documentary profile of Kurosawa that was shot during the filming of the Japanese director’s epic “Ran.”

His final short film, “Leila Attacks,” was released on the Internet in 2007.

Gilles Jacob, the president of the Cannes film festival, described Marker as a “curious spirit, an indefatigable film and video maker, a cat-loving poet, a secret person and an immense talent.” Spokesmen for the Cinematheque Francaise paid tribute to Marker’s unique mastery of the “art of poetic film-making.”

Cinema critic Jean-Michel Frodon, a friend of Marker, said the director had died Sunday at his home in Paris, his 91st birthday.

For a filmmaker who repeatedly returned to the themes of memory and history, Marker was guarded about the details of his own life.

He told some interviewers that he had been born in Mongolia, but it seems he was born Christian-Francois Bouche-Villeneuve in the wealthy Paris suburb of Neuilly. He eschewed publicity, refusing to be photographed or to present his films.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 31, 2012, on page 16.




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