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A Grin Without a Cat
A Grin Without a Cat
Actors: Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Salvador Allende, Regis Debray
Director: Chris Marker
Genres: Documentary
NR     2009     3hr 0min


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Movie Details

Actors: Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Salvador Allende, Regis Debray
Director: Chris Marker
Genres: Documentary
Sub-Genres: Politics, Science & Technology
Studio: Icarus Films
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 05/05/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 3hr 0min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, French, German

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Movie Reviews

Great film at last on dvd!
citizen, jazzmania | Michigan USA | 05/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Readers who already know Chris Marker well should be very happy to see this essential film on home dvd at last--and will add it to their libraries immediately. Other readers may know this singular artist through his better known films LA JETEE (the basis of Terry Gilliam's great movie 12 MONKEYS) or SANS SOLEIL. GRIN is much longer and much more historically focused. That said, it is a spectacular documentary by a great artist so what can you say but... HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Many of Marker's films are documentary memoirs of and philosophical reflections on the radical left's political dreams of the 20th century in the form of refined and at times explosive film-essays. Although certain critics argue otherwise, these are not propaganda or one-dimensional films in that Marker's own political position is obscured through layers of regret, anger, and irony. His is the elegant voice of the revolution's unhappy consciousness. If he wasn't so attached to cats, one might want to call Marker the owl of Minerva. He is often reflecting on the history of revolutionary propaganda and campaigns from a position of sorrow that nothing goes according to plan, not in this vicinity at least.

So, this is a three-hour film essay and careful argument about the rise and fall of the international New Left in the 1960s and 1970s and its later aftermath. Formally, much of it seems to be found news footage, with additional voice-overs, and spare use of music. The film focuses on political and social developments in Marker's home country of France, but follows the "revolution within the revolution" elsewhere as well. Marker uses Regis Debray's New Left phrase to feed his melancholic argument about a revolutionary "grin without a cat." Much attention is paid to developments involving Castro, Che, and Allende (with lots of great footage of early Castro and Allende), as well as the cultural revolution in China, and the flickering New Left movement in the US. Marker's voice-over "essay" is read by a number of fine voices (available in assorted languages on the DVD) and his selection of documentary footage is amazing as always). This film is like a set of essays that you return to time and again to glean new insights or recall terrific turns of phrases, but you get to see the original speakers making their statements in public. Wonderful.

Also highly recommended for use in university classroom, though students will need lots of assistance identifying the many historical figures treated here. My only quibbles: the cover is very misleading (my partner thought it was a new Penthouse video), there should be chapter selections, and there are no extras (not that we would ever expect to see Marker on screen talking about his films). That said, it does come with a nice insert including a short essay by Marker. The film itself is three hours long, and miles deep, so it's certainly well worth the price."
Almost unreviewable
Michael M. Mathog | San Francisco, CA United States | 05/21/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is, simultaneously, the best movie I've ever seen and almost totally unwatchable. I know, a complete paradox, I apologize. The first 45 minutes or hour or so are engrossing, then it goes back and forth between being crushingly dull and back to engrossing. It's some kind of work of genius, rent it, watch it, don't get mad at yourself for falling asleep twice, you might emerge thinking that, in spite of all that, it's the best thing you've ever seen."
In The Time Of Our Time-The 1960s
Alfred Johnson | boston, ma | 07/19/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The old saying- a picture is worth a thousand words- is an apt, more than apt, expression in reviewing this hotchpotch of a film documentary. Why hotchpotch? Well, this two part (on one disc), multi-lingual (in choice of languages to listen in and in the languages spoken in the various segments), three hour documentary exposition originally produced in 1977, of many of the great events of the middle third of the 20th century comes rapid-fire at you in a montage effect. For those who merely want a flavor of those political times (roughly 1960 to 1980) there is enough here to act as a primer, and to whet your appetite for more research of the times. For the political aficionado familiar with the period one has to dig a little to get a sense of the basically social democratic world view that informs the viewpoint behind the production by the filmmaker, Chris Markers. Either way it is an interesting way to spent three hours, although for non-political "junkies" perhaps viewing one segment at a time is the better course.

Some of the highlights here are much footage from the anti-Vietnam war struggle as it began to take center stage in the mid-1960s, especially in Europe; plenty of footage of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara (including his death) and the meaning of the Cuban revolution and rural guerrilla warfare for world revolutionary strategy; the then historic May Days actions in Paris in 1968 by both students and workers (together and in opposition to each other); the seminal events in Prague in 1968; Allende's Popular Front Chile in the early 1970s; and, strewn throughout reflections of the 1960s events from about a decade later perspective. Very little material here on the anti-imperialist struggle in America, but the rest more than makes up for it. Kudos on this one.