Chris Marker’s Animated Owls: Affects of Estrangement

Julia Alekseyeva

 

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Introduction

The films of Chris Marker integrate a rich mixture of forms and media within each production. Films such as Letter from Siberia (1957), The Last Bolshevik (1992), Sans Soleil (1983), La Jetée (1962), The Astronauts (1959), or Level Five (1997) use celluloid film alongside digital media, actuality newsreels, photographs, video games, still drawings, and, importantly, animation techniques. Although the use of drawings, photographs, or other still images within a film became more common with the films of Jean-Luc Godard in the mid-1960s, the use of animated techniques was still rather rare for this period. Chris Marker’s use of animation techniques was therefore rather unique for an art film of this time. The lack of discussion of animation within Marker’s works, then, is a curious omission. Indeed, although Chris Marker’s films are often described in the context of cinematic movements such as the Nouvelle Vague and cinéma vérité, no study has yet analyzed Marker’s idiosyncratic use of the animated form.

In an effort to remedy this lack of scholarship, this paper analyzes two rarely-discussed films by the rive gauche filmmaker: Letter from Siberia, one of Marker’s first productions, and The Astronauts, created with the Polish animator and filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk. While the former uses short animated asides throughout, the latter is entirely animated; curiously, both incorporate the animation of an owl: famously, one of Marker’s favorite creatures. Although Marker’s many films might not be explicit works of stop-motion or drawn animation, I argue that the tendency to animate is in fact notable throughout Marker’s filmography, and is consistent with his filmmaking style. Indeed, animation is ideally suited to Marker’s idiosyncratic blend of affective, playful, and defamiliarizing techniques. Animation allows Chris Marker to make the familiar strange, thus exemplifying the concept of estrangement as described by Soviet formalist Victor Shklovsky. In this way, Marker’s use of animation creates new ways of viewing old, familiar things, and therefore allows a deeper, more affective, and more reflective, approach to documentary cinema.

But before we analyze the affects and effects of Marker’s estrangement techniques, we must delve into these two films, which, although created early in his career, exemplify the major characteristics of his style.

 

Owls, Mammoths, and Marker’s Soviet Roots

Perhaps no film captures Marker’s animated aesthetic as much as Chris Marker’s 1957 documentary film-essay Letter from Siberia. Within the film, Chris Marker incorporates several animations, two drawn and one stop-motion, throughout its essayistic account of Siberian life in the late 1950s. As I will show, although the film appears at first a documentary account, it subverts the all too common Griersonian claim to documentary objectivity by emphasizing a playful and poetic voiceover, and a creative and highly personal interpretation of events.

Indeed, Letter from Siberia distances itself intensely from John Grierson or Robert Flaherty in its elevation of subjective forms. The film never hides the voice of its filmmaker, who comments on the scenes throughout. In its creative and personalized account, Marker’s film aligns itself with yet another pioneering documentary filmmaker: Soviet avant-garde documentarist Dziga Vertov. As we will see, Marker’s film shares many of Vertov’s own filmmaking techniques, such as the use of actuality footage alongside “tricks” of cinematography such as freeze frame, superimposition, and animation. After all, Vertov often included stop-motion animation within his documentary films, and created drawn animations such as the agit-prop advertisement Soviet Toys (1924).[1] But even aside from the film’s formal structure, the narrative content of Letter from Siberia can already be compared with one of Vertov’s major films: A Sixth Part of the World (Shestaya Chast’ Mira) of 1926. In this film, Vertov sends his camera to far-off lands stretching across the breadth of the newly-formed Soviet Union. The camera crosses topographies as wide-ranging as the Siberian arctic, the Kazakh desert, and the Mongolian steppes; its ethnographic take on the people and wildlife of each region is not characterized by a Nanook of the North-type narrative drive, nor an objective statistical portrayal of each disparate region. Rather, Vertov edits this rare footage from these far-flung regions into a rushing, highly affective art film; beaming faces of Yakut, Uzbek, Kazakh, and Samoyed peoples are juxtaposed and placed into conversation with one another. The drive is one of utopian inclusivity, a fact exemplified by the roaring intertitle, “YOU!” (Ti!), followed by a description of the activities of each ethnicity. It is, in fact, the opposite of documentarian distancing, in favor of affect, subjectivity, and inclusion.

Although Marker most likely viewed A Man with a Movie Camera, especially in the early 1960s when it was frequently screened at international avant-garde film festivals, it is unlikely that he saw Vertov’s A Sixth Part of the World before filming his own ode to Siberia.[2] Yet Letters from Siberia seems unmistakably aligned with the aesthetics of the Soviet documentary filmmaker, and even includes an allusion to his filmmaking practice. This reference is especially evident in the film’s most famous scene: a replay of a single sequence of three individual shots filmed in Siberia, but with three completely different voiceover ideologies: Socialist Realist, anti-Communist, and “objective” Griersonian documentary filmmaking. The shots themselves appear relatively neutral when viewed without commentary: a bus and expensive car cross paths at an intersection, a group of laborers painstakingly level a muddy earth, and a Yakut man with an eye abnormality stares briefly into the camera lens while walking. Nonetheless, we receive three separate and entirely contradictory interpretations of an allegedly objective “reality”: Soviet utopianism, American Cold War propaganda, and distanced educational programming. Chris Marker ironically pokes fun at ideologies that create such disparate narratives from a single cinematic event; in so doing, Marker goes further than irony into the realm of ethics and politics. In formalist terms, he “lays bare” the device of documentary filmmaking itself. As his friend and colleague André Bazin noted in 1958, upon the film’s release:

And this time we are way beyond cleverness and irony, because what Marker has just demonstrated is that objectivity is even more false than the two opposed partisan points of view: that, at least in relation to certain realities, impartiality is an illusion. The operation we have observed is thus precisely dialectic, consisting of placing the same image in three different intellectual contexts and following the results.[3]

Significantly, Marker argues against Griersonian objectivity in favor of personal, subjective filmmaking processes. “Impartiality,” after all, “is an illusion.” Echoing Slavoj Zizek’s argument on the omnipresence of ideology, Bazin argues that the illusion to objectivity is in fact “even more false than the two opposed partisan points of view.” As the narrator of Letter from Siberia states during the voiceover to this sequence:

But objectivity isn’t the answer either… What counts is the drive and the variety. A walk through the streets of Yakutsk isn’t going to make you understand Siberia. What you need might be an imaginary newsreel shot all over Siberia…

The “imaginary newsreel shot all over Siberia” is, in fact, not imaginary at all. The ideal documentary Marker envisions is the same deeply subjective, playfully edited newsreel that Vertov created in the 1920s: A Sixth Part of the World. It might also refer to the Agit-Train (Agit-Poezd) in which Vertov worked, creating and showing films throughout the newly-formed USSR alongside other figures of the early Soviet avant-garde. Both creative projects are founded on an idealistic Utopianism and sense of plurality; as Marker puts it, “What counts is the drive and the variety.” Like Vertov, Marker’s films are playfully subjective accounts of stern reality.

The uncanny reference to Agit-Trains and A Sixth Part of the World, however, are not the only Vertovian traits in Marker’s film. Letter from Siberia, as noted previously, contains several brief animated sequences. The first of these is a playful tribute to the Woolly Mammoth. Marker’s film depicts an animation of a group of Mammoths walking in unison, as well as a brief biological and cultural history of the species and its name in various languages. In one whimsical sequence, a Mammoth poses on a pedestal while a neolithic human hand draws its figure on the walls of a cave. The scene is playful, perfectly encapsulating the animated and distinctly Markerian perspective.

Figure 1.  Letter from Siberia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other similar moments abound, such as an imagined—and then realized—advertisement for Siberian reindeer. As the voiceover states, on the reindeer:

If I had the money, I’d shoot a spot commercial in their honor. And I’d run it between two showings, or better still, between two reels. The picture would break off suddenly, and you’d see something like this:

The film then shows a title frame—“United Productions Siberia Presents”—mirroring Vertov’s Goskino advertisement Soviet Toys. The frame then shows us a toy owl—one of Marker’s familiars, along with cats—moving its head and flapping its wings in slow motion. It inexplicably wears an “I Hate Elvis” pin while standing before a framed picture of a reindeer. It then narrates an animated advertisement for the animal, while the reindeer is represented through a simplistic drawn animation.

Figure 2.  Letter from Siberia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 3.  Letter from Siberia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marker again reflects Vertovian characteristics in this short animated sequence; after all, Soviet Toys was a “spot commercial” much like Marker’s clever ode to reindeer. Likewise, Marker’s desire to show the animation “between two reels,” when the picture “breaks off suddenly,” approximates Vertov’s “theory of intervals,” and the importance of the rupture and gap within Vertovian editing.

The use of “tricks” in the film, however, is not limited to drawn or stop-motion animation. For instance, the film incorporates comedic folk songs: odes to Siberian animals such as eagles, reindeer, and foxes. In one description, a woman sings in an ironically operatic style: “Eagle, oh eagle/ when you walk,/ we see your socks.” The songs are accompanied by images of these animals, to an effect of childlike wonder. Likewise, the film’s most oft-seen protagonist is a tame bear named Uschatik (“Little Ears”), also named in the credits. Marker’s viewer, simultaneously awed and overjoyed, gathers around the movie camera like the children depicted in Letter from Siberia, crowding the filmmaker.

These images approximate scenes of children viewing a Chinese magician, used in Vertov’s Kino-Eye (1964) and Man with a Movie Camera. And, like a magician, the camera brings life to inanimate objects. As Marker’s voiceover states, describing a typical Siberian landscape: “Overhead, the cranes stand aloof, alternatively curious and courteous with one another, like a herd of dinosaurs.” Although all the viewer sees are construction cranes, Marker personifies these objects of construction to which the urban dweller is overly habituated. In other words, he animates them.

Lastly, the film is Vertovian in its methodology, choosing to “lay bare the device” of documentary filmmaking. In his voiceover, Marker describes not only the Siberian scenery portrayed by the camera, but the editing techniques he uses. For instance, Marker reveals the fundamental tension driving his documentary:

Here’s the shot you’ve all been waiting for, the shot no worthwhile film about a country in process of transformation could possibly leave out: the contrast between the old and the new… Take a good look, because I won’t show them to you again.

And, just as Marker warned, the shot exists for a few mere seconds: a 40-ton truck passes a horse-drawn buggy on a Siberian road. The scene cuts. Marker estranges this familiar trope of old versus new and imbues it with fresh perspective. As his voiceover later states, “Don’t get the idea that these Yakuts are distant cousins of Nanook of the North!” Marker resists an objective or false ethnography, preferring his own quintessentially personal glance. As Village Voice critic Carrie Rickey described at the film’s revival in 1982:

…compassionately detached, playful and eclectic…. What still thrills about Letter from Siberia 25 years after it was made is Marker’s sympathetic ethnography, so much against the grain of the partisan American documentaries of the ’50s where the omniscient voice told you how to read each image.[4]

Marker’s film, though also created in 1957, is thus fundamentally opposed to what Rickey calls the “partisan American documentaries” and their claims to omniscience and objectivity. Letter from Siberia is instead “compassionately detached, playful, and eclectic”—and here I would emphasize “compassion,” for Marker’s film does “prick” emotional drives. By folding animation into a documentary film, Marker evokes a pre-conscious affect, lively and anarchic. Rickey also writes: “Marker… has no thesis about Siberia but amazement.”[5] Although Marker’s film does evoke a sense of wonderment, I argue, beyond Rickey, that the thesis of Letter from Siberia lies in its call for subjectivity within a documentary film genre. Neither shying away from politics nor becoming subsumed underneath any one political dogma, Marker insists on a politics of subjectivity and reflection.

Because of Marker’s tendency to avoid dogmatic political inclinations, his work has been compared with Walter Benjamin’s denial of Hegelian synthesis in favor of “nonsynthesis” and a “dialectics at a standstill.” As Kia Lindroos writes in a comparison of the two figures:

In a manner inherited from Soviet directors like Vertov or Eisenstein, Marker’s images demand active participation by the viewer in order to make the film work. Each sequence of images seems to contain a doorway into another independent story, which accidentally lapses together with other stories in the film. The multiple layers are tied together by the (Vertovian) cameraman, who wanders amidst crowds and records silent and deserted places or overcrowded metros and city life. In this case, the film also illuminates the Benjaminian view of the politics of the present in a way in which Benjamin seeks to “explode” the passive and contemplative approach to the aesthetic and the political. Every present imports its own temporal and spatial displacements and reverts back to the move toward a present-time-oriented politics.[6]

Lindroos refers specifically to Marker’s Sans Soleil (1983) but it is equally applicable to Letter from Siberia as well. Marker’s cameraman is inherently Vertovian, in the sense that the author-filmmaker is made present; in contrast to a cinéma vérité-like disappearance of the author in the favor of an assumed objectivity, both Vertov and Marker place their, and their camera’s, singular subjectivity in center-stage. This subjectivity, thrown into the midst of metropolitan life, “explodes” a passive and contemplative approach to politics and aesthetics in the same manner as Benjamin. Echoing Benjamin’s concept of history as read by Lindroos, Marker and Vertov expose the viewer to a present-orient history that demands active participation from the viewer—an active participation aided by both filmmakers’ use of tricks and animation techniques.

 

Inventors and Spacecrafts: A Fully Animated Marker

Chris Marker, however, does not merely include animated techniques within his documentary works. Indeed, Les Astronautes, created with Polish surrealist and provocateur Walerian Borowczyk, is a fictional and entirely animated short film, approximately 12 minutes in length. Although there have been conflicting accounts of Marker’s involvement in the animation,[7] the film does fit perfectly within Marker’s own playful characteristics. The short film uses an extraordinary number of materials and styles within its short time frame, including the animation of not only objects and paper cut-outs but the stop-motion animation of paintings, photographs, diagrams, and script. However, in contrast to Letter from Siberia, the images used are less cartoonish and two-dimensional, and appear more lifelike and realistic.

The plot of the film is undeniably fantastical: an inventor creates an airplane-like spacecraft, and pilots the craft with his pet owl (a classic homage to Marker’s love for the animal, as well as the logo for his production company, Argos Films). Man and owl fly into a town, peek scandalously into women’s windows, annoy heads of state, and finally enter a galactic space battle—upon which the ship is hit, man and owl tumble out, and eventually emerge floating along the sky on a cloud.

Figure 4.  Les Astronautes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 5.  Les Astronautes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fantastical tale, as well as the general shape of the ship, immediately recall Georges Méliès’ cinematographic journeys to the moon. The two spacecrafts are unique in their rotund shapes, in stark contrast to the long, thin shape of rockets, with which Marker was undoubtedly familiar. The spacecraft in Les Astronautes is only distinct from its early 20th century progenitor by the addition of a tail-like feature, while the middle and front are nearly identical.

Figure 6.  Les Astronautes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Importantly, theorists such as Joris Ivens and Siegfried Kracauer analyzed the fantastical voyages of Méliès as the avant-gardist strand of cinema, versus the documentarist strand of the Lumière Brothers.[8] Borowczyk and Marker’s reference to Méliès, then, announces animation as an avant-garde medium. Where the Lumières’ films document and “discover” an external reality, Marker emphasizes the fully “created” medium of animation, internal to the cinematic medium.

This, however, does not mean that Marker’s animated science-fiction fantasy Les Astronautes is devoid of any documentarian tendency. In contrast to Letter from Siberia, the animating style of Les Astronautes is primarily composed of photographs, rather than drawn images, in sequence. Every image and character in the film, including the eponymous astronauts—a man and his owl—are represented through realistic photographs. It can thus be directly compared to Marker’s infamous La jetée: a 28-minute film created entirely with photographs in sequence, except for a single live-action shot. Although La jetée was filmed three years after Les Astronautes, and although the latter film is more playful and comedic, they share a fundamentally similar filmmaking technique: animation through photographs in sequence.

In addition, both films are science fiction, favoring a hyper-reality that allows us to see our own world anew.  Even with all the strangeness and quirk imbued in Marker and Borowczyk’s film, its referent is always our lived, photographable reality. Herein lies the most uncanny aspect of this peculiar animation style: its use of animated photographs creates a more documentarian sensibility than fictional film. After all, we do not normally associate animation with a lived, sensorial reality. We do, however, associate our lived realities with photographs, which document our daily lives. By animating photographs instead of using hand-drawn animation, Marker’s films draw attention to our own lived realities. Thus, both La jetée and Les Astronautes maintain a strong non-fictional sensibility in their use of photographic referents, estranging the viewer from a reality to which she has grown habituated. They accomplish this estrangement, however, with a great deal of artistry and tricks. Indeed, Les Astronauts utilizes a cornucopia of aesthetic styles, creating a film that appears to burst with its own artistry—but this artistry is immensely purposeful. As Peter Graham notes, for Borowczk and Marker, tricks are not a baroque ornament or accessory flourish; they are the essence of the work itself.[9]

 

The Estrangement of Animation

Marker’s films use animation to estrange the viewer from those aspects of life to which she has grown overly habituated. Victor Shklovsky first used the term estrangement, or ostranenie, in his seminal text 1917 text “Art as Technique.”  In it he writes:

Art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impact the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects “unfamiliar,” to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception…[10]

Shklovsky aimed to “increase the difficulty and length of perception” for the reader/audience in order to revitalize the way we view things as common as a stone; he desired to imbue objects with the “stoniness” of their first sensation—to sense an object as it is perceived, and not as it is commonly known. In much the same way, Marker’s animations render the familiar unfamiliar, in order to “recover the sensation of life”. His animated photographs in Les Astronautes render even stranger the narrative of space travel, by then a hackneyed news topic due to the Cold War’s space race. Meanwhile, his drawn animations of Letter from Siberia estrange the common travelogue by employing narratives from Marker’s own imagination.

The device of estrangement, however, does not simply exist to make artifacts more artistic; rather, it exists to return “sensation” to human experience. Svetlana Boym claims that Shklovsky’s “Art as Technique” posits estrangement as a device of mediation between art and life. The artist, she writes, “helps to ‘return sensation’ to life itself, to reinvent the world, to experience it anew. Estrangement is what makes art artistic, but by the same token, it makes everyday life lively, or worth living.”[11] Thus, ostranenie is not merely a theory of aesthetics. In Boym’s definition, “making things strange” via artistic estrangement also helps to “return sensation” to everyday experiences which have previously been under the yoke of automatization. By emphasizing estrangement as that which “makes art artistic,” Boym also subtly refers to the etymology of the word “aesthetic.” The term “aesthetic” derives from the Greek aisthetikos, meaning perceptive; in contemporary English, “aesthesis” suggests pathos, feeling, and sensitivity.[12] The etymological root of the word itself lies in bodily sensation, rather than the dry, unsentimental appreciation of art to which we are currently habituated. By making “art artistic,” filmmakers such as Marker and Vertov allow their artwork to become sensorial—imbued with both affect and intellect. Indeed, estrangement becomes vital for an engaged, and mindful, experience of daily life. This estrangement might manifest as a camera and tripod in stop-motion, moving of its own accord (Man with a Movie Camera), or an animatronic owl reciting information from a public relations film (Letter from Siberia); in both cases, animation dehabituates, and thus brings us to attention. Ostranenie is a “mindful revolution,” an intellectual and a sensorial process that allows us to unlearn the routine automatization performed by our perceptive processes.

Interestingly, Shklovsky was not only a literary critic, but was deeply invested in Soviet film culture. In fact, he even wrote several screenplays, including Abram Room’s 1927 film Bed and Sofa. In 1927 he began thinking seriously about the use of the “animated trick film,” writing the following:

There is one more line that the development of cinema might follow and that is the animated trick film. I have seen several and I am convinced that it has as yet quite unrealised potential… Cinema is, of course, very conventional just as photography itself is conventional but we have trained ourselves to perceive the world through photography and we scarcely notice the conventionality of cinema. Hence one of the opportunities for artistic construction is disappearing: the play with illusion. Perhaps the animated film can be combined with the photographed film?[13]

Shklovsky thus saw an “unrealised potential” of the animated film. Animation entails an illusionistic and magical quality that can be used to dehabituate. After all, cinema is “conventional”; we scarcely notice it. Thus a filmmaker like Marker might resort to animation techniques to render the conventional unconventional. Marker allows his films to “lay with illusion”—especially in films such as Letter from Siberia, whose documentary genre normally seeks to eradicate any illusionistic qualities. Shklovsky sees within animation not mere illusionism, but its potential to surprise, to evoke feeling, and—indeed—to dehabituate. The sensibilities of animation, as well as estrangement, are fundamentally affective.

As Tom Lamarre notes, the medium of animation is particularly suited for the purposes of dehabituation. This is especially true when animation is not “full”: smooth and perfectly executed (as a Disney animation would be, for instance). Imperfect animation has more possibilities than we might have realized. Lamarre writes:

Animation brings with it a different set of possibilities and conventions vis-à-vis movement and perception. Opening a gap between layers of the image has a distinctive feel in animation. Where in cinema such a gap tends to be perceived as an artifact of low-budget or unskilled film making, in animation we are more likely to accept it as art rather than artifact. Animation thus allows for the exploration of a different potential of the moving image.[14]

Animation is thus uniquely capable of creating “a different set of possibilities and conventions,” especially in human perception. For this reason, animation such as Marker’s does not aim for pure realism, and instead tends to treat “full animation” with some amount of suspicion.[15] It is in the “gap between layers of the image” where artfulness resides, whether in Vertov’s documentary films or an animation by Chris Marker, or even Miyazaki Hayao. There is thus a purpose behind animating styles that appear low-budget or unskilled. Animation, as employed by Vertov, Marker, and others, explores different conventions of the aesthetic form; low-budget animation has a “distinctive feel” which is somehow more affective as well as artful.

Eric S. Jenkins argues that animation is unique in its ability to create affective experiences through what he calls the punctum of animation, following Roland Barthes’ concept in Camera Lucida (1980).  Although Barthes uses the punctum to describe a characteristic of a photograph which “pricks” due to its detail or its reminder of death, Jenkins argues that there exists another punctum unique to animation which reminds the viewer of life. This, of course, is animation taken literally as the ability to give life to inanimate objects; as Jenkins puts it, the affective punctum is the “prick” from seeing a never-has-been character come alive—thus eliciting “the medium’s spatiotemporal rupture of the prevailing parameters of the real.”[16] Animation, in its inherent ability to animate the inanimate, disbands with the conventional and taps into the “unrealized potential” postulated by Shklovsky.

Importantly, Jenkins notes that movement in animation derives from the spaces between images and between frames[17]—a similar argument to Vertov’s theory of intervals: the “gap between frames.” This sense of rupture creates a “prick” of coming-to-life, which in turn results in an experience of pre-conscious affect. Animation is uniquely able to evoke this experience. As Jenkin writes:

The punctum sparks a dual animation, an affect and an affection, moving in both directions between image and observer. The image animates viewers by punctuating the spatiotemporal coordinates of their perceptual mode, and the viewer animates images by embarking on adventures into the past or future or into questions of ontology or metaphysics, to name just a few.[18]

Thus, the punctum of animation works by animating both image and viewer through its ability to evoke deep feeling. The viewer then “embarks on adventures” through affective memory, activating her perceptual capacity “punctuating” her “spatiotemporal coordinates”. This rupture reminds one of estrangement, and its ability to rehabilitate the senses; as Svetlana Boym writes, estrangement brings sensation back to life itself.[19]

This punctum, then, is keenly felt in Marker’s films that incorporate animation techniques. Both Les Astronautes and Letter from Siberia evoke “an affect and an affection,” “punctuating… spatiotemporal coordinates.” In Letter from Siberia, Marker’s drawn animations serve as subjective, dreamlike monologues that tear the viewer away from the “objective” footage shown. The reindeer, mammoth, and owl animations “animate” the viewer by refusing a strict Griersonian documentary narrative. On the other hand, the whimsical animation Les Astronautes introduces an eerily documentarian feel to a fantastical tale with its use of photographic imagery. Its blend of reality-based photographs and otherworldly narrative disrupts our own perceptions of even the medium of animation. By serving to estrange the familiar, Marker’s films spark “an affect and an affection” for the many and varied subjects they present.

 

 

Julia Alekseyeva is a PhD candidate in the Harvard University Department of Comparative Literature, with a Secondary Field in Film and Visual Studies. She is also an adjunct professor of Cinema Studies at Brooklyn College. She researches political avant-garde film and media in France, Japan, and the former USSR. She is also the author-illustrator of the nonfiction graphic novel Soviet Daughter, published in January 2017 by Microcosm Press.

 

Notes

[1]. For an analysis of Vertov’s use of animation, see Mihaela Mihaelova and John MacKay, “Frame Shot: Vertov’s Ideologies of Animation,” in Animating Film Theory (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014).

[2]. As Séverine Graff notes, a copy of Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera existed at the Cinématheque Française by the late 1960s, but other films by Vertov were relatively unseen. See Séverine Graff, Le cinéma-vérité: Films et controverses) Rennes: Presses Université de Rennes, 2014), 15, 72.

[3]. André Bazin, Trans. David Kehr, Cahiers du Cinéma, published in Film Comment, 2003. Accessed 15 April 2016: http://chrismarker.org/2015/10/andre-bazin-on-chris-marker-1958.

[4]. Carrie Rickey, “Letter from Siberia,” Village Voice (Oct 5, 1982).

[5]. Ibid.

[6]. Kia Lindroos, “Aesthetic and Political Thought: Benjamin and Marker Revisited,” Alternatives (28, 2003), 247.

[7]. Some sources indicate that Borowyczk only used Marker’s name for budgetary reasons, or to gain a work visa in France (see Amid Amidi, “’Les Astronautes’ by Walerian Borowczyk,” Cartoon Brew (April 20, 2012), Accessed April 17, 2016 http://www.cartoonbrew.com/classic/les-astronautes-by-walerian-borowczyk-61037.html), although others claim that there are many elements of the film that do not recur in other Borowczyk films, and are entirely Marker-specific, such as space travel, equations, and the prototypical Markerian owl (see Philip Strick, “The Theatre of Walerian Borowczyk,” Sight and Sound (Fall 1969), 168.

[8]. Kracauer, along with other theorists such as Joris Ivens, Matsumoto Toshio, Georges Sadoul, or Edgar Morin, describes a “dialectic of avant-garde and documentary filmmaking” which has its roots in Méliès and the Lumière Brothers. See Siegfried Kracauer, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960), 30.

[9]. Peter Graham, “Two Films By Walerian Borowczyk,” Film Quarterly (Vol 18, No 2, Winter 1965-1966), 52.

[10]. Victor Shklovsky, “Art as Technique,” Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, Trans. Lee L. Lemon and Marion J. Reis (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965), 12.

[11]. Svetlana Boym, “Estrangement as a Lifestyle: Shklovsky and Brodsky,” Poetics Today 17:4 (Winter 1996), 515.

[12]. Dirk Koppler, “An Aesthetic of Unsettlement: The (Dis)placement of the Subject in Relation to the Work of Art,” English in Africa Vol. 33, No. 1 pp 59-70 (May, 2006), 59.

[13]. Esther Leslie, Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory, and the Avant-Garde (London: Verso, 2004), 18.

[14]. Tom Lamarre, The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), 9.

[15]. This desire to remove the image’s indexical quality reappears in Marker’s concept of “the Zone” in Sans Soleil (1983), wherein a new film image would be freed from any obligation to realism. Images, then, whether filmed or animated, must be inherently open to imaginative, aesthetic reinterpretation.

[16]. Eric S. Jenkins, “Another Punctum: Animation, Affect, and Ideology,” Critical Inquiry (Spring 2013), 576. Emphasis Jenkins’s.

[17]. Ibid., 578.

[18]. Ibid., 580.

[19]. Boym, “Estrangement as Lifestyle,” 515.