The Case of the Grinning Cat

The Rice Cinema Web site describes Chris Marker not as a director or a filmmaker but as a “cinema-essayist.” The description is a little pretentious — and spot-on. Marker, whose The Case of the Grinning Cat is screening today as part of the Tournées Festival of French Film, has used the camera as a means of exploring the themes and motifs of the world around him in most of the nearly hundred films he’s created or helped create in the last 57 years.

The Case of the Grinning Cat, for example, starts with a fascination over “M. Chat,” a grinning Cheshire cat spray-painted onto chimneys and abandoned buildings in Orléans and Paris. As Marker tracks the cat, he soon finds himself on the streets of France’s urban centers, recording conversations about suspicion, change and the new atmosphere of public life after 9/11. If anyone’s earned the right to be called a thought-provoking “cinema-essayist,” it’s Marker. 7 p.m. Rice Media Center, Rice University, 6100 Main. For information, call 713-348-4853 or visit Free for Rice students and faculty; $5 general public.
Fri., March 14, 7 p.m., 2008

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Nick Keppler