Any new film and any new book by French filmmaker Chris Marker is an event. Marker gave film lovers one of their most memorable experiences with La Jetée (1962)—a time-travel montage set after a nuclear war that inspired Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys (1995). His still camerawork is not as well known, but Marker has been taking photographs as long as he has been making films. Staring Back presents 200 black-and-white photographs from Marker's personal archives, taken from 1952 to 2006. Some of the photographs are related to his classic films (which include Le Jetée, Sans Soleil, ¡Cuba Si!, and The Case of the Grinning Cat), others are portraits of famous faces (Simone Signoret, Akira Kurosawa), but most are pictures of people Marker has encountered as he has traveled the world (an extra who appeared in Kurosawa's Ran, a woman seen on a street in Siberia). The central section of the book contains a series of photographs documenting political protests Marker has witnessed, including the march on the Pentagon in 1967, the events of May 1968 in Paris, and the tumultuous 2006 demonstrations protesting the French government's proposed employment policies.
The photographs are accompanied by several unpublished texts by Marker, including the English language text of The Case of the Grinning Cat and Marker's annotations for some of the photos. The book—which appears in conjunction with an exhibition at the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University—also includes essays by Wexner Center curator Bill Horrigan and art historian Molly Nesbit.
"This book version of La Jetée is, to my mind, astonishingly beautiful. It brings a total freshness to the work and a new way to use photos to deal with dramatic events. Not a film's book, but a book in its own right—the real ciné-roman announced in the film's credits."
La Jetée, the legendary science fiction film about time and memory after a nuclear apocalypse, was released in 1964 and is considered by many critics to be among the greatest experimental films ever made. (It provided the basis for Terry Gilliam's 1995 film 12 Monkeys.) Chris Marker, who is the undisputed master of the film essay, composed this postapocalyptic story almost entirely of black-and-white still photographs. The story concerns an experiment in recovering and changing the past through the action of memory, yet the film can be read as a poem dominated by a single moving image, which in its context becomes one of the supreme moments in the history of film.
This Zone Books edition reproduces the film's original images along with the script in both English and French.