TOKYO DAYS a film by CHRIS MARKER with ARIELLE DOMBASLE. 1988. Japan. 20 min. Glimpses of Japan’s bustling capital in the ‘80s from one of France’s most beloved filmmakers.

This film screened exclusively for a week and is currently not available online.

We’re pleased to present a rare screening of an amusing video-diary by the great French filmmaker Chris Marker to celebrate the release of The Film Desk Books’ new English language edition of his photo-essay, Le Dépays, and Metrograph’s accompanying series. Marker’s unconventional take on the travelog film collects several of his recurring fascinations with the Japanese capital—cats, owls, samurai movies, and snoozing subway passengers—into a ruminative tour through its streets and shops.


Marker begins his tour of Tokyo by zooming in on a live mannequin in a store window, setting the scene for his survey of the city’s technological staples. Made during Japan’s economic bubble era—a period of overzealous financial speculation that saw the rise of the nation’s computer chip industry—Marker films the city’s technological novelties with both a sense of awe and suspicion. As impressive as the arcades, towering skyscrapers, and neon-lit electric escalators he captures look, the ominous synth track he overlays his footage with anticipates the economic stagnation that seized Japan in the ‘90s.



“Inventing Japan is just another way of getting to know it . . . Trust appearances, consciously confuse the decor with the drama, never worry about understanding, just be there—dasein—and everything will come your way. Well, something, at least . . .” CHRIS MARKER, from Le Dépays


Halfway through Tokyo Days, Marker stumbles upon his then-girlfriend, the celebrated French-American artist Arielle Dombasle, who starred in several of Éric Rohmer’s films throughout the ‘80s in addition to films by Agnès Varda, Shūji Terayama, Raúl Ruiz, and more. She regales him with an anecdote about being held under arrest in the airport jail for three days. “I was screwed,” she says, explaining that every time she visits Japan now she’s spotted by surveillance computers. Marker’s brief examination of life during the brink of the computer age is full of perceptive observations that extend beyond the year in which it was released; it is one of many works in his endless catalog of films that deal with time and technology, and whose insights on both matters have proven perennially true.


Christian François Bouce-Villeneuve was born in July of 1921, in Paris or Ulaanbaatar. In the 1940s he began using the pseudonym “Chris Marker,” inspired by the “Magic Marker,” to preserve his anonymity while documenting and participating in political struggles across the globe. He was awarded the Prix Jean Vigo Award twice; first, for co-directing Statues Also Die with Alain Resnais in 1954 and again, for directing the science fiction masterpiece La Jetée in 1963. He also received a Golden Bear in 1961 for Third Side of the Coin and both a César Award for Junktopia and the British Film Institute’s Sutherland Trophy for San Soleil in 1983. His official biography reads: “Filmed, photographed, traveled, loved cats.”


Text written by Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer. Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.