Le Fond de l'Air est Rouge
Le Fond de l'Air est Rouge.

In March 2001, the Courtauld collaborated with the Institute of Contemporary Arts to project Chris Marker's 1977 landmark film A Grin without a Cat, in the context of an overview of the French film-maker's extensive filmography. Screened two days running, on 10 and 11 March, the two-part film was sold out for three of the four showings. Audiences had reason to attend, for Le Fond de l'Air est Rouge - as it is titled in French - was last seen in Britain in 1993, on BBC2. When viewed together, Parts I ("Les Mains Fragiles") and II ("Les Mains Coupées") form a magnum opus, a three-hour long epic documenting the upheavals which marked the decade 1967-1977. Marker edited fragments of documentary footage from television broadcasts, amateur anonymous super-8 reels, feature-length commercial cinema, and his own filmed images, creating a kaleido-scopic patchwork at the intersection of fiction and truth, of coherent narrative and stream-of-consciousness. The overall effect could only overwhelm the viewer, seeing so many events in such close succession: the commemoration of Jan Palach's immolation during the "Prague Spring"; long, intimate soliloquies of Fidel Castro; Daniel Cohn-Bendit's rapid-fire justification for the Paris barricades in May 1968 and the death of General De Gaulle. Towards the end of the film the narrative wound down, the takes became longer, the film's initial energy dwindled to a trickle. In 1977 Marker expressed his disappointment in a decade that failed to accomplish the resolutions taken at that turning point, the year 1967-68. Nevertheless, Marker observed, those struggles "transformed politics in our time," a transformation that constitutes an important component of Dr Sarah Wilson's MA course, "Intellectual Revolution: Art and Theory in France from 1958." A Grin without a Cat might be a useful possible text-book for a course whose subject remains so controversial. I wish to thank those who gave so generously of their time and energy to ensure this event came to fruition: Mr Jim Hearnshaw, for his professional and tactful support; Prof. Mignon Nixon, Joanna Large and Pauline Hudek, for their gracious and invaluable contributions.

Antony Hudek
(MA student 2000-01)