Main content

Chris Marker's Bestiary

Chris Marker's Bestiary

If you are not affiliated with a college or university, and are interested in watching this film, please register as an individual and login to rent this film. Already registered? Login to rent this film.

French filmmaker Chris Marker (b. 1921) is best known for politically engaged documentaries (A Grin without a Cat, Le Joli Mai and Cuba Si!), for his personalized "cine-essay" films (Sans Soleil, Remembrance 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. 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.

CHRIS MARKER'S BESTIARY for the first time collects his short films devoted exclusively to animals.

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. (2 minutes 57 seconds)

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. (3 minutes 21 seconds)

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. (2 minutes 47 seconds)

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. (4 minutes 10 seconds)

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." (4 minutes 9 seconds)

Related Films

The Case of the Grinning Cat

French cinema-essayist Chris Marker reflects on French and international…