This collaborative film, banned for more than a decade by French censors as an attack on French colonialism (and now available only in shortened form), is a deeply felt study of African art and the decline it underwent as a result of its contact with Western civilization. Marker’s characteristically witty and thoughtful commentary is combined with images of a stark formal beauty in this passionate outcry against the fate of an art that was once integral to communal life but became debased as it fell victim to the demands of another culture.
Toute la mémoire du mondeDirected by Alain Resnais.
France, 1956, digital video, black & white, 21 min.
French with English subtitles.
Alain Resnais’ short documentary study of the Bibliothèque nationale credits “Chris and Magic Marker” as one of several collaborators, but Marker’s epigrammatic wit is evident from the first sentence of the voice-over: “Because he has a short memory, man amasses countless memory aids.” The maze-like library triggers a beautiful chain of ruminations on the nature of knowledge and posterity, with Resnais’ gliding camera movements providing apt visual counterpoint to the riddling narration.
Although Marker's screen credit for "technical cooperation" leaves ambiguous his actual role in this early collaboration – a Surrealist inflected stop-motion collage directed by Marker's longtime friend, Polish animator and filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk – the film's delightful intertwining of frustrated love and science-fiction announces major Marker themes.
Marker only needed a few days to write the voice-over narration for Joris Ivens’ lyrical city symphony, an astonishing fact given its poetic concision and layered ironies. Text and image work together to relate the port city’s geography and class structure; its architecture and folkways; its bloody history and uncertain future.