“That’s great fun! I really like to do that!”

Chris Marker (29 July 1921 – 29 July 2012) was a French writer, photographer, documentary film director, multimedia artist and film essayist. Among his best known films is A Grin Without a Cat, released in 1977.

The film’s title refers to the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. The metaphor compares the promise of the global socialist movement before May 1968 (the grin) with its actual presence in the world after May 1968 (the cat). The original French title is Le fond de l’air est rouge, which means “the air is essentially red”, or “revolution is in the air”, implying that the socialist movement was everywhere around the world.

Grin Without A Cat was intended to be an all-encompassing portrait of political movements from May 1968 to 1977; a summation of the work which he had taken part in for ten years. It is divided into two parts: the first half focuses on the hopes and idealism before May 1968, and the second half on the disillusion and disappointments since those events.

The clip below begins with a reference to the hopes of the early 1960s, followed by the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, and the American war in Vietnam. It segues to a American fighter pilot–clearly hamming it up, as he narrates an action packed Sky Raider mission over the rice paddies of Vietnam.

Note the eerie resemblance to Stanley Kubrick’s nuclear war
satire Dr. Strangelove.


NYRB article: Chris Marker, Always Moving