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Sam DiIorio (Hunter College, CUNY) – Cultural Capital: Mapping Marker’s Everyday Paris

    Chris Marker's first feature-length film Le joli mai attempts a comprehensive portrait of a troubled city. In theory, May 1962 was supposed to be the first spring of peace after the Evian accords brought an official end to the Algerian war. While the film captures moments of happiness and calm, it also conveys an image of Paris in the grip of unresolved events too painful to be restricted to the safer confines of the past. In preliminary documents, Marker and co-director Pierre Lhomme propose to approach the major and minor events of that month through the lens of everyday life: they want their portrait of the city to be rooted in the daily lived experience of its inhabitants. This paper examines the ways in which their film constructs both the city and the everyday, asking the question "Can Le joli mai be considered a map of everyday Paris?"

    Exploring Marker and Lhomme's urban landscape first means delineating its borders. My paper begins by examining how the film defines the city, taking into account the people, places, objects, and activities that constitute this cinematic version of Paris. Secondly, I look at how Le joli mai's stable geography is gradually disrupted by representational concerns. I investigate the impact of competing political and aesthetic imperatives on the film's structure. My analysis is built around the following questions: how is city space organized and along what lines? Who is organizing these images? What is the connection between the film's presentation of physical space and the impression
it gives of the everyday?

    Ultimately, Le joli mai is caught between a desire to capture an appearance of everyday reality and a need to interrogate the ideological underpinnings of the image. My paper concludes by placing the film in a wider context, considering it as a transitional moment that links the depoliticized aesthetic revolution of the New Wave to the aggressively militant cinema that comes to the fore at the end of the decade. In retrospect, there's no doubt that un joli mai en cache un autre: in both cases, the terms for revolution are Paris, film, and everyday life.

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