“When men are dead, they enter history. When statues are dead, they enter art. This botany of death is what we call culture.” This is the opening line of the film by Marker and Resnais, a reflection on the absorption and exploitation of black culture by the West. Les statues meurent aussi is a meditation on the futile efforts to evade death. It was also one of the first films to openly denounce French colonisation in Africa. Banned for more than ten years and cut by French censorship in one third of its original length, this documentary invites us to think how film faces acculturation processes. A pioneer in the genre, even when it is wrapped in the paternalism of its time, Les statues meurent aussi is a statement by two unique filmmakers.
Born in France in 1921, Chris Marker is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, multimedia artists, and documentary maker. He began his career as a member of the French Left Bank, or Rive Gauche, a group associated with the French New Wave, or Nouvelle Vague. His conceptual films seek to shake spectators’ convictions and looks. His most famous works include Lettre de Sibérie (1957), La jetée (1962), Le fond de l’air est rouge (1977), Sans soleil (1983), and the essay films on Akira Kirosawa, A.K. (1985), and Andrei Tarkovsky, Une journée d’Andrei Arsenevitch (2000). Marker lives in Paris.
Resnais (Vannes, 1922) shot his first 8mm short film when he was 14, before studying at the Institut des hautes études cinématographiques in Paris. His first feature film, Hiroshima mon amour (1959), won the Critics’ Special Award at the Cannes Film Festival and became the flagship of the French New Wave, or Nouvelle Vague. Considered to be the architect of a revolution in film scriptwriting, Resnais has always made his films with the same amount of freedom as in the beginnings, creating a body of unusual, unique work.