THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT (Chris Marker) Rating: NNN
Chris Marker, now 85, remains one of cinema's most dazzling enigmas. His films tend to start one way, but just when you begin to discern a probable destination, he wrong-foots you by heading off in some unforeseen direction.
The Case Of The Grinning Cat (Chats Perchs) starts with look at a series of large, colourful graffiti cats that began to appear around Paris following 9/11, then rambles on to deal with American foreign policy and the French election. That was the 2002 campaign in which Jean-Marie Le Pen's xenophobic right-wing National Front party terrified everyone by grabbing 20 per cent of the vote in the first round, galvanizing the French to re-elect Jacques Chirac.
The problem with Marker is that he's really interesting when dealing with cultures not his own. (Has any Westerner ever made a film on Japan as fascinating as Sunless?) But when he turns to his own culture, in particular to a subject as thoroughly analyzed as a recent election, he's just another cranky left intellectual.
Throw a stick at the Sorbonne and you'll hit five guys saying the same things Marker says here. (Cinematheque, May 26-27)