While Chris Marker is best known for his bravura post-apocalyptic photo-roman La Jetée, celebrated travelogue Sans Soleil and enthralling Paris symphony Le Joli Mai (in that order), A Grin Without A Cat arguably remains the magnum opus and most monumental achievement of this maverick, trailblazing and enigmatic poet, essayist, Marxist and avant-garde artist. Discursive, ambitious, bristling with stunning topical breadth, nuanced, exquisitely subversive, moving, profoundly meditative and unavowedly personal, this complex, oftentimes daunting and multi-faceted masterwork provided for an engrossing examination, interpretation, reflection and lamentation on the myriad leftist, socialist and communist movements across the globe over the 60s and 70s. Suffice it to say – and this is applicable for most of his best works, albeit more than most in this case – this presupposes political consciousness, understanding and awareness of its viewers, along with a fair degree of mental faculty and acuity too. The sprawling, kaleidoscopic film began with a powerful montage where the iconic Odessa Steps sequence from Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin were brilliantly juxtaposed with actual shots of political protests, resistance, turmoils and crackdowns from across countries and periods. Thereon, through formal playfulness, historical evocations, political dialectics and personal impressions, and using documentary footage shot by himself and found artefacts, he cut across a stunning breadth of events – May’68 Paris, Vietnam War, Washington March, anti-war movements, Castro and Cuba, Allende and Chile, Mao and China, Japan and Minamata, Watergate Trials, Che’s assassination in Bolivia, Prague Spring, and a lot more. As ironically alluded to by its title, it was suffused with undercurrents of melancholy, despair and disillusionment – a sense of what could’ve been and the eventual loss of dream – evoked through dry, ironic, weary and sardonic multi-hued voiceovers.
Director: Chris Marker
Genre: Documentary/Essay Film/Political History/Avant-Garde