Chris Marker, A Grin Without a Cat, 1977

The Future's History

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 7:00pm

Introduction by Matthew Jesse Jackson, Associate Professor, Departments of Art History and Visual Arts.

In 1967 Chris Marker happened upon Aleksandr Medvedkin’s 1935 film satire Happiness and discovered for the world a lost giant of the Soviet cinema. Further research into Medvedkin’s work led Marker to the “film-train” that Medvedkin had conducted for a time in 1933-1934, in the heady days of the rapid industrialization and collectivization. The thoughtful, inventive and humorous political films of Medvedkin and his comrades not only proved consonant to Marker’s own practice as a film-essayist, but also provided a powerful impulse for Marker’s efforts to encourage insurgent filmmaking at the grass-roots level. Featuring several films that have rarely, if ever, been shown in the United States, this screening series explores a friendship between filmmakers, exemplifying the powerful yet tenuous intimacy that becomes possible when technological media are adopted for the international struggle for social justice.

Tonight, we conclude the film series with Marker’s magisterial reflection on the history of the international Left, A Grin Without a Cat (Le fond de l'air est rouge). An overview of the International Left in the 1960s and 1970s, including footage of Cuba, the Vietnam War, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the coup d'etat in Chile and other revolutionary moments. Marker informs each sequence with his signature acuity of vision and comment, highlighting the dialectic of hope and illusion that drove the national liberation movements at the height of the Cold War. In his words, its subject is “what happens when a party, the CP, and a great power, the USSR, cease to embody the revolutionary hope, what looms up in their place and how the showdown is staged.”  (Chris Marker, 1977, 35mm print, 180 min)

Film courtesy of Icarus Films.

This film series is part of The Soviet Art Experience, a Chicago-wide showcase exploring the arts of the Soviet Union, in conjunction with The Smart Museum’s exhibition Vision and Communism and Professors Robert Bird and Matthew Jesse Jackson's seminar Vision and Communism at the Franke Institute's Center for Disciplinary Innovation.

The series is sponsored by The SMART Museum, The Soviet Arts Experience, Arts Council and the Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies.