Saturday, August 25, 2012

I've already mentioned two deaths, that of Remy Charlip and of Charles Bergengren. Another recent death was that of Chris Marker, the French filmmaker. He died on July 31st, which turned out to have been his 91st birthday. What was so interesting to me was that all the obituaries claimed that he was such a mysterious person; he never struck me that way. I guess because, over the years, a number of people i knew had gotten to meet him, work with him, know him, and they always described him as amiable and very focused and funny. But i loved his films. Some of the ones i loved were not so admired by others. Everyone seems to love "La Jetee" and "Sans Soleil" but i also loved "Le Mystere Koumiko" and "The Case of the Grinning Cat" and "Le Joli Mai". I liked the fact that, when he found it more difficult to make films, he simply shifted his focus to photography and media installations. But his film-essays will remain as an important "possibility" in the history of film.

It was strange that he died when he did, on his birthday, in the middle of the coverage of the Olympics, because "Le Mystere Koumiko" was such an elegiac portrait of Tokyo in 1964, when it was in the midst of the Olympics. From Tokyo in 1964 to London in 2012, i know that the Tokyo Olympics was one of the first times i was conscious of the media coverage. Then, it was on ABC, and that was the whole "Wide World of Sports" treatment of the Olympics, with coverage of everything. Now, it's become so compartmentalized, and prejudged. One thing about NBC: it was hard for NBC to go outside their playbook. One example was diving. The United States had been the dominant force in diving in the 1980s, but in the past decade, Olympic medals for diving have been very few and very far between. So diving was basically shunted to the side. And there was no plan (at all) to interview any of the divers.

And then, the United States wound up winning four medals. Two bronze (in Men's Synchronized Springboard and Men's Synchronized Platform), one silver (in Women's Synchronized Springboard) and one gold (in Men's Platform). The two big stories were: 1) Troy Dumais, who has represented the US in five Olympics without ever getting a medal, finally won a medal, a bronze in the Men's Synchronized Springboard  with Kristian Ipsen as his partner; 2) David Boudia won the first gold for an American in diving since Greg Louganis in 1988 (as well as a bronze in the Men's Synchornized Platform with Nick McCrory as his partner). Were any of these people interviewed by NBC? If they were, i missed it. NBC simply ignored them. NBC hadn't intended to interview any of the divers, and winning medals wasn't going to dissuade NBC from its plans. The big news was going to be Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, and damn if that wasn't going to be what NBC showed us!

And somehow, it reminded me of "Le Mystere Koumiko": whatever Chris Marker's intentions were when he traveled to Tokyo during the Olympics, once Marker met Koumiko, his focus became a (very gentle) investigation into her personality. For many people, that gentle quizzical quality is a problem, but for me, it's part of the enchantment, an enchantment that i find in many other Marker works, a skeptical but compassionate inquisition which is the hallmark of a sensibility at once agnostic, humanistic, and resolutely affectionate. For Chris Marker, the point of making films was to keep oneself open, even if the evidence is ovrewhelmingly pessimistic (as in "A Grin Without a Cat").


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