Chris Marker's Bestiary: Five Short Films About Animals

Directed by Chris Marker

17 minutes / Color
No dialog
Release: 2006
Copyright: 1994

On the same DVD as The Case of the Grinning Cat.

French filmmaker Chris Marker is best known for politically engaged documentaries (A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT, LE JOLI MAI), for his personalized "cine-essay" films 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 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.

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

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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)


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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)


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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)


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Two enormous black bulls engage in a contest of brute force, egged on by their screaming handlers, as they butt heads and lock horns to rout their opponent. (4 minutes 10 seconds)


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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)

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