Virtual Cinema

Chris Marker’s Bestiary: Five Short Films About Animals

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Virtual Screening Available In the USA
Available Friday, July
30 – Thursday, September 16

French filmmaker Chris Marker (b. July 29, 1921) is best known for politically engaged documentaries (A Grin without a CatLe Joli Mai and Cuba Si!), for his personalized “cine-essay” films (Sans SoleilRemembrance of Things to Come and The Case of the Grinning Cat) and the science-fiction classic La Jetée. No matter the subject, however, his films always reflect his deep and abiding love for animals. Indeed, virtually all of his work is suffused with images of animals—real ones as well as fine-art and pop-culture representations—especially cats, owls, wolves, horses, and elephants. CHRIS MARKER’S BESTIARY for the first time collects his short films devoted exclusively to animals. Animals in Chris Marker’s films often function as cultural or political metaphors (“A cat is never on the side of power,” Marker has explained). In this anthology of short films, however, Marker avoids the commercial cinema’s tendency to anthropomorphize animals in favor of a simple celebration of their exotic beauty, primal nature and mystery.

CAT LISTENING TO MUSIC (2min 57sec) – Marker fans are familiar with the cartoon representation of Guillaume-en-Egypte, Marker’s beloved pet cat, which has become the reclusive filmmaker’s alter ego. In this charming short, Marker reveals the real-life Guillaume, stretched out lazily in the filmmaker’s apartment, as he listens to the lilting rhythms of a piano sonata by Federico Mompou.

AN OWL IS AN OWL IS AN OWL (3min 21sec) – A visit to an aviary yields a rhythmically edited series of close-ups of the rapidly rotating or intently staring feathered heads of a colorful variety of owls, accompanied by an ambient electronic soundtrack.

ZOO PIECE (2min 47sec) – A leisurely-paced montage of animals, many of them confined in cages or enclosures-including seals, kangaroos, leopards, gorillas, wolves, monkeys, ostriches, and a sleeping rhinoceros.

BULLFIGHT IN OKINAWA(4min 10sec) – Two enormous black bulls engage in a contest of brute force, egged on by their screaming handlers, as they butt heads and lock horns in an attempt to rout their opponent.

SLON TANGO(4min 9sec) – In this astonishing, sustained shot, an elephant in the Ljubjana Zoo ambles around its enclosure, performing syncopated dance steps to the accompaniment of Igor Stravinsky’s “Tango.”

Playing with One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich