Chris Marker Memories of the Future por Catherine Lupton
The precedent set by the early Surrealist-inspired documentaries helped to foster a critical climate in France that strongly valued evidence of a director’s attitude, sensibility and personal style in his or her approach to real-life subject matter. This is in marked contrast to the principles of social documentary associated with the producer John Grierson, whose influence has cast a long shadow over documentary practice in Britain, Canada and other nations.16
Even though Grierson produced several films remarkable for their formal inventiveness and use of avant-garde techniques, notably Song of Ceylon (Basil Wright, 1934) and Coalface (Alberto Cavalcanti, 1935), the most familiar legacy of his theoretical writings is that ‘art’ should be ‘the by-product of a job of work done’,17 in other words that the documentary filmmaker should subordinate his or her aesthetic vision to the demands of the subject matter and the need to make an effective social intervention. In France, documentary flourished within a continuum of short film production, and came to be regarded as at its best a mode of personal reflection on the world, more closely aligned to the authored literary essay than the social or legal document. Even the significant numbers of short documentaries made as commissions for public bodies or private companies, such as Alain Resnais’ Le Chant du Styrène (1957, about polystyrene manufacture) and Agnès Varda’s Ô saisons, ô châteaux (1957, a ‘tourist’ film about the châteaux of the Loire), became showcases for the director’s own perspective – which in the Varda example was markedly caustic – rather than being expected to follow a sponsor’s brief slavishly. These creative circumstances fostered a sense that the boundaries between documentary and fiction were fluid, and Resnais, Varda and Franju among others all made successful forays or transitions into directing feature-length fiction films. When Alexandre Astruc (another signatory of the Declaration of the Group of Thirty) put forward his pioneering ideas about the ‘caméra-stylo’, it is possible that he had in mind the inventive and wide-ranging short documentaries made by his contemporaries, alongside the celebrated fiction films of Jean Renoir and Robert Bresson.