“How to describe Letter from Siberia?,” wrote André Bazin. “Negatively, at first, in pointing out that it resembles absolutely nothing that we have ever seen before in films with a documentary basis.” Marker’s early essay film remains a breakthrough work, blending travelogue, reflexive analysis, animation, still photographs, and a disarmingly intimate epistolary frame to limn the complexities of Siberian culture and its representations.
Sunday in Peking (Dimanche à Pékin)Directed by Chris Marker.
France, 1955, 16mm, color, 22 min.
French with English subtitles.
After World War II, Marker traveled across the world as a journalist and still photographer and as editor of a series of French travel books that combined personal impressions with facts—a style that would come to inform his own highly personal film essays. This was his first solo film (after collaborating with Resnais again, as assistant director on Night and Fog) and must be one of the first accounts by a western filmmaker of Mao’s China. The film gives us plenty of Beijing city life and glimpses of a China unknown in the West, all set to a witty voiceover commentary that delights in the oddities and contradictions of Chinese society.