EMBASSY (Chris Marker, 1973)

All political directions have gone bankrupt.

Another extraordinary film by Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve, a.k.a. Chris Marker, L’ambassade constitutes an anecdotal response to Pinochet’s September 11, 1973, military coup against Chile’s democratically elected Allende government. It risks charges of coyness and rank manipulation in order to create a compelling pseudo-documentary portrait of two things: the chaos that the coup wrought; the wider implication for democracies elsewhere. At the last we learn that what we thought was the French embassy in Santiago is really some other embassy in Paris. It is in Marker’s France that dissidents are being rounded up daily and mass executed nightly. One wonders whether Marker was familiar with the sixties U.S. Twilight Zone episode in which Agnes Moorehead wars with tiny alien invaders, who it turns out are the U.S. military.
     The set-up lays claim to serendipity. Some unidentified cameraman, whose voiceover we listen to, is among those who have reached sanctuary in the embassy and await safe conduct out of the country. People bond as the ambassador, to encourage that everyone pull together, vacuums the floor in their suite. Armed with his handheld camera, the speaker shoots everything in Super 8, achieving a raw facsimile of cinéma-vérité. The silent footage protects the final surprise awaiting us but also consigns the pulsating present to an archival repository of repetitive fascist history. By degrees dissidents become contentious, revealing the fractiousness of the Left that, Marker implies, facilitates right-wing inroads and coups. There are so many “Lefts” confronting the Right, a monolithic beast that can count on the support of the C.I.A.
     Marker therefore takes aim at the complacency of those “good guys” who fail to grasp that their potential to ward off political demons resides in their solidarity, not their free expression or creative individualism.

B(U)Y THE BOOK

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