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A Grin Without a Cat

A Grin Without a Cat

A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT is Chris Marker's epic film-essay on the worldwide political wars of the 60's and 70's: Vietnam, Bolivia, May '68, Prague, Chile, and the fate of the New Left.

Released in France in 1978, restored and "re-actualized" by Marker fifteen years later (after the fall of the Soviet Union), we are proud to release the film now for the first time in the United States.

Described by Marker as "scenes of the Third World War," the film (the original French title is virtually untranslatable) is divided into two parts, each weaving together two strands:

Part 1: Fragile Hands
1. From Vietnam to Che's death
2. May 1968 and all that

Part 2: Severed Hands
1. From Spring in Prague to the Common Program of Government in France
2. From Chile to - to what?

From 1967 (the year Marker argues was the real turning point) on, A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT is a sweeping, global contemplation of a defining ten years' political history.

"An ingenious collage of archival footage elucidated with a trenchant, sarcastic commentary." Richard Brody, The New Yorker

"A film without a dogma, celebrating the promise of socialist ideas (the grin) while realizing that the brave new world they envision (the cat) remains elusive and intangible as its twentieth-century trial runs slip farther into the past… On a deeper level, A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT is an essay on historical memory itself." David Sterritt, Cineaste

"A unique combination of history, interpretation and testimony of a very high order." Greencine

"The ultimate achievement of an utterly unique cinematic figure, and we've been waiting for it a long time. One of the home-video releases of the year, if not the decade." Andrew O'Hehir, Salon

"No scan of Marker's redoubtable career achievement is complete without strapping oneself to this restless behemoth of a historical documentary… Along the way, Marker is a master weaver of colliding perspectives, forgotten stories and unanswered questions… the poetic questions he raises are never less than stunning." Michael Atkinson, Sight & Sound

"If, as Albert Camus wrote, 'The journalist is the historian of the moment,' it follows that documentarians such as Chris Marker serve as historians for the ages. Whether or not you lived through the heady times of the '60s' and '70s, A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT should be required viewing as a reminder of the cyclical nature of history." Cathleen Rountree, Documentary Magazine

"Indispensable viewing… Marker dispassionately sorts through party politics, revolutionary rhetoric, and deadly propaganda to come to terms with what he has characterized as 'the utopia of uniting in a common struggle those who revolt against poverty and those who revolt against wealth.'" Jaime Wolf, Good Magazine

"Excellent… an extremely welcome release of a movie almost too intense for one theater screening." Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant

"Amazing… a cinematic wonder… This is a type of documentary the likes of which is rarely seen… far more philosophically oriented than most documentaries." Doug Maclean, Home Theater Info

"***** [5 Stars] One of the most towering and extraordinary films to grace the screen! Staggering in its depth and scope…. A monumental political elegy to a not-so-distant era. An event of major importance."—Film Threat

"The subject at hand is how, in the sixties, the 'universal standard of civilization' assumed from the fifties began to collapse. The war in Vietnam - that 'nation placed at the convergence of the world's contradictions' - was the watershed, and Marker skillfully and hauntingly depicts its effect. He goes on to show the many civilian-police battles throughout Europe; the revolution within the revolution in Asia, South America, and Czechoslovakia; the space between the police and union stewards into which the French Left rushed in May '68; the assassination of princes (Che Guevara) and the deposing of kings (Richard Nixon); and those Cheshire Cats commonly known as politicians who cannot explain why what was in the air never quite materialized on the ground." Pacific Film Archives

"Marker doesn't boast that he has succeeded in making a dialectical film. But he has tried (having in his time, he says, abused the exercise of power by the commentator - director) for once to give back to the viewer, through montage, his own commentary; which is to say, his own power." Richard Roud, Sight and Sound (1977)


Main credits

Marker, Chris (film director)
Servolin, Inger (film producer)
Swords, Sarah (film producer)
Broadbent, Jim (narrator)

Other credits

Editors: Pierre Camus, Andrew Collins; music, Luciano Berio.


Marker; Chris; Fond; Rouge; Grin; without; Cat; Film; Video; essay; political; Documentary; War; Revolution; Communism; new; left; Paris; May; 68; Douglas; Bravo; Regis; Debray; Chile; Allende; Che; Guevara; Castro; Vietnam Johnson; Nixon; De; Gaulle; Strike; striking; students; Bolivia; Mao; Soviet Union; invasion; coup; Prague; 1968; "A Grin Without A Cat"; Icarus Films,doc,clad

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