A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT (its title refers to Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat) is Marker’s magnum opus: a three-hour overview of the worldwide political upheavals during the Sixties and Seventies.
Marker interweaves footage from the Vietnam War and the antiwar protests in the U.S., May ’68 in Paris, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Salvador Allende and the coup in Chile, Che Guevara and Régis Debray in Bolivia, the Shah of Iran, Fidel Castro, et alia.
Official images, film clips, news coverage trims and neglected reels comprise the basic materials of this major fresco, which concludes with the following credit: “The true authors of this film are the countless cameramen, technical operators, witnesses and activists whose work is constantly pitted against that of governments, who would like us to have no memory.”
With the voices of Jim Broadbent, Cyril Cusack, Robert Kramer, François Maspero, Yves Montand, François Périer, Jorge Semprun and Simone Signoret.
BONUS! A 16-page booklet with text by Chris Marker, including the essay SIXTIES, written May, 2008.
“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.com
“A unique combination of history, interpretation and testimony of a very high order.” —guru.greencine.com
“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.com
“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
“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
"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 (1998)
"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)
*** “Monumental & unforgettable!”— John Anderson, Newsday
***** “Towering and extraordinary! Staggering in its depth and scope... An event of major importance.”— Phil Hall, Film Threat
"Magnificent. The energy and optimism and tragedy of decades of political activism are rendered with that mental restlessness and ingenious pathos typical of Marker's great films."— Susan Sontag
“The documentary form elevated to its greatest heights: it is art and advocacy, memory and history.”— Elbert Ventura, popmatters.com