A cinematic essayist and audio-visual poet, Chris Marker was one of the most innovative filmmakers to emerge during the postwar era. Working primarily in the arena of nonfiction, Marker rejected conventional narrative techniques, instead staking out a deeply political terrain defined by the use of still images, atmospheric soundtracks, and literate commentary. Adopting a perspective akin to that of a stranger in a strange land, his films -- haunting meditations on the paradox of memory and the manipulation of time -- investigated the philosophical implications of understanding the world through media and, by extension, explored the very definition of cinema itself.
Born Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve on July 29, 1921, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, the intensely private and enigmatic Marker shrouded the personal details of his life in mystery. He rarely agreed to interviews, and during his rare tête-à-têtes with the media he was known to provide deliberate misinformation (as a result, some biographies even list him as a native of Outer Mongolia). It is known that during World War II, Marker joined the French Resistance forces (and also, according to myth, the U.S. Army). He later mounted a career as a writer and critic, publishing the novel Veillée de l'homme et de sa liberté in 1949. He also wrote 1952's Giraudoux par Lui-Même -- an acclaimed study of the existential dramatist Jean Giraudoux, whose use of abstract narrative tools proved highly influential on Marker's subsequent film work -- and appeared in the pages of Cahiers du Cinema.