REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS TO COME (Le souvenir d’un avenir) (V)

(director/writer: Chris Marker/Yannick Bellon; cinematographer: Denise Bellon; music: Michel Krasna; cast: Alexandra Stewart (Narrator); Runtime: 42; MPAA Rating: NR; Icarus; 2001-France-in English)

“Finely presented visual essay.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

French film essayist Chris Marker and French director Yannick Bellon collaborate to tell us in this short documentary about the work of photojournalist Denise Bellon (1902-1999), the mother of filmmaker Yannick. Denise is one of the original members of the Alliance Photo Agency founded in Paris in 1934 and bosom friend to the Surrealists. It’s smartly narrated in English by the actress Alexandra Stewart. The film spans the time frame between 1935 to 1955, as it seamlessly leaps back and forth in time showing us family portraits (Denise’s two daughters), her unique photos of pre-war Paris, the first surrealist exhibition in Paris that starred Dali, the 1937 Paris World’s Fair, the Cinémathèque Francaise (showing the famous photo of its founder Henri Langlois’ legendary bathtub that was used to store cans of film during the Occupation), and the Popular Front. Also included are photos and commentaries of France’s African colonies, the brothels in Tunis, the outcast gypsies in celebration, the Spanish Civil War, the military exercises by Germany in Finland that showed the first military activity of WW II and the German Occupation of France. The oddly structured documentary shows the relationship between photography, memory, thinking and history.

The narrator tells us that Parisian photographer Denise Bellon, in the late 1930s, captured the pre-war moments that were soon to turn deadly as the post-war moments. For instance, we see fun-loving holiday parachutists in the pre-war period and during the war there’s the deadly serious paratroopers. The finely presented visual essay explores through its striking images the destructive path leading to another war, and shows us that art is necessary because it leaves us the scars of what we have gone through as reminders to try and make a better and more peaceful world.

Remembrance of Things to Come Poster