Saturday, September 01, 2018

Le Fond de l'air est rouge / A Grin without a Cat (2013 AFF/CNC restoration)

Punaista ilmaa
    The 1977 edit: Le Fond de l'air est rouge. Scènes de la Troisième Guerre mondiale (1967–1977).
    The 1988 / 1993 edit: Le Fond de l'air est rouge. I: Les Mains fragiles. II: Les Mains coupées.
    FR 1977. PC: Iskra / INA / Dovidis. D+S+ED: Chris Marker. CIN: Pierre-William Glenn, Willy Kurant. Title music: Luciano Berio, based on Boccherini.
    Colour and black and white.
    Featuring: Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, Rudi Dutschke, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Régis Debray, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Fidel Castro, Wallander, Major Papy Shelton, Che Guevara, Charles de Gaulle, Philippe Dujouner, Alain Gesmar, Georges Marchais, Emil Zatopek (with glimpses of Marker's 1952 Helsinki footage), General Mendoza, Artur London, Mao Zedong, Lin Piao, Zhou Enlai, Jiang Qing, Georges Pompidou, Alain Touraine, Urho Kekkonen, Ulrike Meinhof, Larry Bensky, Richard Nixon, Arthur Penn, Salvador Allende, Beatriz Allende, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, V. I. Lenin, André Malraux, Augusto Pinochet, Joseph Stalin, Nguyen Giap Vo.
    [Voices in the 1977 edition: Laurence Cuvillier, Davos Hanich, François Maspero, Yves Montand, François Périer, Sandra Scarnati, Jorge Semprún, Simone Signoret].
    ♪ "Le Temps de cerises" (1866 paroles par Jean Baptiste Clément, 1868 musique par Antoine Renard).
    Original 1977 French edition: 240 min with commentary read by Yves Montand, Simone Signoret, Jorge Semprun etc.
    Definitive 1988 English edition: 178 min.
    Restored version: 2013 Archives Françaises du Film (AFF / CNC).
    2K DCP of the definitive restored 178 min English edition screened at Cinema Orion (50th Anniversary of Helsinki Festival / 50 Years Ago / The Crazy Year 1968), 1 Sep 2018.

Première partie : Les Mains fragiles
I. Du Vietnam à la mort du Che
II. Mai 68 et tout ça
Deuxième partie : Les Mains coupées
I. Du printemps de Prague au Programme commun
II. Du Chili à quoi au fait ?

An epic montage essay of ten years of turbulence in France and the world in 1967–1977 revolving around the crazy year 1968.

Vietnam. Cuba. The Cold War. The rule by torture of the Shah of Iran. Student revolts in West Berlin and Paris. Black Panthers. The Cultural Revolution in China. The struggle in Venezuela. The interminable speeches of Castro. The Prague Spring of 1968 crushed by Soviet tanks on 21 August: the Russian goodwill thanks to the liberation from the Nazis perished in a day. Ordinary people resentful against student rebels. The shaky terms between the unions and the students. Socialism in one country vs. internationalism. Mitterrand's socialist market economy. The funeral of Jan Palach. The 2500 year celebration of the Persian Empire at Persepolis in 1971. The Minamata mercury poisoning disaster in Japan. The Watergate hearings. The rise and fall of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973. The first of May in Paris in 1977, "the last day of the united Left".

I first saw Chris Marker's masterpiece 27 years ago in the magnificent touring show of Institut Français called 100 Années Lumière, the best touring retrospective I have ever seen. (Our program note by Louis Marcorelles et al., in Finnish beyond the jump break, dates from the program catalogue of that show). It was already the three hour version. I cannot accurately recall it, but I have vague memory of a rambling, stream of consciousness style attempt to grasp something overwhelming. With a sense of "it's too early to say", referring to Zhou Enlai's answer when he was asked about his opinion about the French Revolution in its 200th Anniversary celebration.

There is no definitive film about that important period of world history, but someone should make one. For the present generations and for the future ones. There is a lot of astounding material in this film. We should annotate it again: the names and the dates, familiar to the ones who lived at the time, should be clearly announced and explained. The present mumbling English narration should be replaced with a better one. (Although there is talent such as Robert Kramer among the present readers).
I can't wait to see this film again. In this screening the most memorable moments included:
– Fidel Castro as a legendary performer
– the deeply moving funeral of Jan Palach
– the cynical atmosphere in the 2500 year celebration of the Persian Empire (the Finnish President Urho Kekkonen highly visible wearing a top hat among the guests of honour)
– the Minamata disaster preceded by the ubiquitous Markerian cat montage
– the courage of Salvador Allende: venceremos!

A film about the grand ideas of the Left and how they failed.

But Chris Marker in this film fails to register that the world did change permanently thanks to the événements. Deep reforms changed France, including its education and health care. Much was achieved. What was planned did not happen. But big things happened that would not have taken place without the rebellions. The crushing of the Prague Spring was the final proof that the Soviet empire was hopeless. The Thaw had ended, and Glasnost came too late 20 years after.

There is a roll of honour of the greatest cinematographers of France in the final credits. I hope to retrieve the names somewhere and copy them here.

This important 2013 restoration has been conducted with a fine sense of judgement.


Elokuva, joka on sekä analyysi että filosofinen raportti, pyrkii kertomaan vasemmiston tarinan vuo-sien 1967 ja 1977 välisenä aikana. Ensimmäinen osa "Les mains fragiles" ("Hauraat kädet") kertoo Vietnamin sodan vaikutuksesta kansainvälisiin edistyksellisiin liikkeisiin. Ranskassa se johti touko-kuun 1968 räjähdykseen. Elokuvan toinen osa, "Les mains coupées" ("Katkaistut kädet"), lähtee liikkeelle Prahan keväästä. Se näyttää militantin vasemmiston pettymyksen neuvostomiehityksen toteuduttua. Poliittisten puolueiden jäsenten huolena on uudistumisen paine. Kaikkialla maailmassa militanttisuuden muodot muuttuvat. Naisten oikeuksien puolustaminen, ympäristönsuojelu ja asevarustelun vastustaminen kohoavat nyt etualalle.

"Käyttämällä hylättyjä otoksia, taistelevien elokuvien käyttämättömiä jaksoja ja virallista uutismate-riaalia tämä kompilaatioelokuva korostaa alituisesti kuvan kykyä kiteyttää tunteita ja kanavoida energiaa" (Jacques Levy: "Chris Marker: l'audace et l'honneteté de la subjectivité", CinémAction n:o 41, éd. du Cerf, 1987). Kompilaation voimanlähteenä on suhde eri kommentaareihin. Chris Marker asettaa dokumentaarin oletetun objektiivisuuden kyseenalaiseksi. Hän pyrkii "tarjoamaan yleisölle leikkauksen avulla tilaisuuden luoda oma kommentaarinsa, toisin sanoen hän antaa sille vallan" (sama kuin ed.).

Chris Markerin elokuvista Le Joli mai (1962) maalasi samoilla linjoilla kulkien kuvan Pariisista Algerian sodan loppuvaiheissa. Myöhemmin valmistunut Sans soleil (1982) tarjosi mahtavan panoraaman Japanista.

- Louis Marcorellesin, Véronique Godardin ja Sylvie Tremblayn mukaan (100 Années Lumière, 1989) AA 1991

Marker did this 3 hours version for international market. It is not the French version with Montand and Signoret voices over This is the definitive English version which is not exactly the same editing also.

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