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Chimage


Chris Marker - La Jetée


A film of still images, like Chris Marker's La Jetée, each with a series of captions. Dynamic interplay between the word and the image, each fighting the other for meaning. The film is called Chimage. [Note: what follows is a sorry re-construction of what I imagine the frames to have been. This does not even evoke the tone of the film. But it provides a fragmentary sense of it - as it resonates in my memory.]




Static interference. White signal, no noise.
Apocalytpic landscapes. A language I can't understand.
She says, "Where do elephants go when they die?"



As each new image is presented time slows down and the meaning sinks in. The imagining of the continuation of the narrative in the next film still/caption is vital and opens up deeper meanings in the current frame.



There beside Arch Stanton, we dug down.
"Is this the one?"
"Deeper. Dig deeper."



But as the film unfolds, as the old images dissolve and the new ones emerge, I forget what the last image was.




Gotterdammerung.
"It is like a dream within a dream."
"Yes," he replied. "But we are not dreaming."



There is only a lingering fog of memory that remains behind. And my frustration to remember is now added to the mystery and beauty of the next part of the film. Indeed, the narrative meaning of the film depends upon it.



"Where do statues go when they die?"
The marble head of a god
falling through my bloody hands
as if they were only tissue.



The still images and words flow by slower and slower and what I have forgotten increases exponentially. The cumulative effect creates a vast space charged with an enormous meaning of what has been forgotten. As the film seems to be coming to its end, I am filled with an aching nostalgia for this unremembered meaning.

The thing is: I saw this film. I remember being there while I watched it. But now there is nothing. And as you begin to question your memory in this way, it all fractals apart into an infinite regression of possibilities.

I ended up doing Google image searches for "chimage" and "chris marker" and various other related terms. What I found were only scattered fragments of the film:


Chris Marker. Silent Movie. 1994-95




Alain Resnais. Night and Fog / Nuit et Brouillard. 1955




Jan Svankmajer. The Ossuary.



But I never found the film itself. Only stills from the films of Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, Jan Svankmajer, Andrei Tarkovski, plus a host of other, seemingly random, images.






However, there are common threads: most of the images have come out of early 20th century Eastern Europe, centered around Czechoslovakia. I believe that whoever made "Chimage" was associated with the above directors, especially Marker, and had direct access to their films. There is also a strange Japanese element in the film. My suspicions are that the filmmaker now lives in Japan. And it is also just a hunch, but I believe he lives there as a fugitive. Perhaps he was associated with the Nazis or one of the oppressive Eastern European regimes. I don't know. That "Chimage" was created out of "stolen" images, I now have no doubt. Maybe this is why I cannot find anything about the film itself on the web, only the stolen fragments that went into its making.

Regardless, none of this explains the curious forgetting effect that "Chimage" has had upon me. My thoughts constantly pick at this "emptiness-full-of-forgetting" within me. I feel like a shipwrecked survivor lost at sea in a lifeboat, gradually coming to the realization that I have amnesia. Bits and pieces of the ship litter the ocean around me, rising periodically to the surface from the sunken ship below. I can't figure out why I am in a boat in the middle of the ocean. Every new fragment of debris that I come across gives me a hint of who and where I am - or was. And the boat is filling up, settling ever deeper into the water.