Grin Without a Cat

Director: Chris Marker
Year Released: 1993
Rating: 3.0

Rich, troubling essay film by enigmatic auteur Marker revisits the crazy late '60s/early-to-mid '70s and the rise of socialism and political revolt in various parts of the world brought about by disgust with imperialism (the conflict in Vietnam) and a desire for sweeping reform; Marker tries to be neutral, but realizes the respective movements in the U.S. and other countries were doomed to fail for a multitude of reasons (the power of the governments to quell uprisings, the revolutionary groups fracturing internally, etc.). At three hours - cut in '93 from an even longer film! - it's overambitious and exhausting, with Marker moving from one issue to another so rapidly - to get as much information in there as possible - that his points get a little obscured, but his eye for key footage and telling moments is so awe-inspiring that I consider this an impressive work of visual research and Marker himself a poet of lost causes. The English title - a reference to Lewis Carroll's confounding and disappearing feline - is oddly perfect and hauntingly poetic (the revolutions were, in a way, a lot of talk and not a lot of lasting substance and as I'm typing this I'm actually drinking a decaf coffee from Starbucks) and one of the final montages of wolves being gunned down by men in helicopters says more than words could (it doesn't matter which way you run...).