Saturday, July 06, 2013

Description d'un combat / Description of a Struggle

תיאור של מאבק . FR 1960. D+SC: Chris Marker. DP: Ghislain Cloquet. ED: Eva Zora. M: Lalan. S: SIMO. C: Jean Vilar (narratore). P: Wim van Leer, SOPHAC. Premiere: 27 aprile 1961. Digibeta. 54'. Col. Da: Israeli Film Archive - Jerusalem Cinémathèque. Cinema Lumière - Sala Scorsese (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), earphone translation in Italian and English, 6 July 2013

André S. Labarthe: "Chris Marker is a modern-day poet. He is about the same age as the rolleiflex he carries around his neck. He has not composed poetry, he is not a collector of moods: he travels. He wanders. He ob­serves. Perhaps he sees the world the way other people read books: with passion and curiosity, sometimes skipping a few pag­es, to go back and read them later. Maybe he is taking notes with his photographs. But you can't be sure. In any case, they neither constitute a captain's log nor a sketch book nor an album of souvenir photos from his pilgrimages, but rather movies (albeit of a very unusual length). This bizarre object, Les Coréennes [pho­tography book by Chris Marker, Seuil, Paris 1959], stretches the boundaries of writing (though not as much as he would have liked) and the definitions of liter­ary genres [...]. In Lettre de Sibérie, in Description d'un combat, images vibrate like voices. And, just as every voice has its own timber, so each of Chris Marker's images (and by that of course I mean the images with their audio accompaniment), emanates with his particular vibration. Each image of Description d'un combat is a condensed, elliptical tale of an expe­rience; a taking possession of reality by that unique spirit and sensitivity that is Chris Marker. [...] All in all, Marker's art resembles that synthesis of images that in painting is known as collage. As Max Ernst ironically said, "If the feathers make the plumage, it is not the glue that makes the collage". Similarly, we can say: it is not the images that make a Chris Marker film. Nor is it the commentary. But it is the ed­iting of the commentary together with the images, for which Bazin coined the phrase horizontal editing. Such a technique is ex­tremely novel, because it is imposed right from the start of the filmmaking process rather than, as is usually the case, as the final step. We need to emphasize that we are not speaking of editing in terms of a strictly technical process (obviously Marker needed to technically edit his films after having filmed and commented on them), but rather as Marker's human response to reality. Editing is much more than just a technical aspect of the film­making process, it is first and foremost a reflection of how the director sees the world, or, if you prefer, how he expresses what he sees to the world." André S. Labarthe, Le Rolleiflex de Chris­tophe Colomb, "Cahiers du cinéma", n. 122, August 1961

A playful documentary essay of Israel at the age of twelve made by the flying Frenchman Chris Marker. When the UN recommended in 1947 the partition plan of Mandatory Palestine and the creation of the two states of Israel and Palestine, the Palestinian leaders and several neighbouring Arab states refused to accept, and as soon as the state of Israel was founded, the armies of Lebanon, Syria, Irak, Jordania, Egypt and Saudi Arabia attacked it. But this is not the combat that Chris Marker's film is about. This is a film of an inner struggle.

This is also a film about signs, all kinds of signs, in the many languages of the area including Hebrew, Yiddish, Arabic, German, Russian, and tourist languages. About traffic signs, clothes as signs, money as a sign, colours as signs, and signs created by children. And about signs on the oscilloscope.

The documentarist's observing camera roams about - markets with vegetables, images, and clothes - the animals in the zoo: "I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls." (Book of Job, 30:29) - a planetarium compared with a synagogue - the holy emptiness inside the synagogue during a service - happy parties and celebrations - a game of chess by the Dead Sea - la Mer Morte and la terre morte - the last bar before the Red Sea - a crop dusting Piper Cub plane.

Intercut is archival imagery from - the Wailing Wall - the ravages of war in Jerusalem 12 years ago - Oscar Wilde: "I have come here to forget". "To forget what?" "I have forgotten." - key events in 1947: the refugees, the Haganah, the displaced persons hiding, jumping from one ship to a Haganah ship - the memory of the camps. The memory of the persecutions runs from Titus to Hitler. There are memorial bonfires by the beach.

Intercut are also - playful images of myths including Samson and Delilah, and Ali Baba - photomontages including one featuring cats - Hiroshima compared with Sodoma - images of popular culture (Jayne Mansfield, Elvis) and consumption, sensation headlines.

There are also images of pure beauty including the dance sequence with charming images of women's faces.

We witness dimensions of a unique society - an orphan boy taken care of by a cooperative - une petit flamme indestructible - and the kibbutz, "the most original expression of Israel" - not forgetting the Arabs.

Children are of the essence - schoolchildren, swimming children, no longer children of the ghetto. It all ends with the joy of the children, itself like a sign.

Of the poetic commentary I missed most since I can read French but cannot very well follow spoken French, and I decided not to listen to the earphone translation in English.

The experimental score by Lalan is fascinating. It is mostly electronic music, and intercut are songs and dances.

Digibeta look in the presentation.

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