Chris Marker, the influential French filmmaker whose career spanned six decades, has died, France’s Culture Ministry confirmed Monday. He was 91. President Francois Hollande led tributes to the director, whose large body of work includes the 1962 classic La Jetée — an award-winning post-apocalyptic movie that’s often ranked among the best time-travel films ever made. In a statement, Hollande said the 28-minute black and white film comprised almost entirely of stills “will be remembered by history.”
Set in a post-World War III nuclear-devastated Paris, La Jetée tells the story of a prisoner sent to the past and future to save the present. The film was one of the first to use sci-fi notions of circular time and has since spawned a myriad of references. La Jetée will probably be best remembered as the inspiration behind Terry Gilliam’s 1995 feature Twelve Monkeys, which Marker co-wrote, but many critics say its influence stretches as far as James Cameron’s 1984 and 1991 Terminator movies.
Marker — born Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve and still active into his 80s — was also known for the documentary style seen in his other famous work 1983’s experimental essay-film Sunless, which again takes up the time themes used in his earlier material. In Sunless, the thoughts of a world traveler are narrated and used to look at the failings of human memory; especially in creating world history.
Marker’s work was often politically engaged, and in 1967 he produced Far from Vietnam, a documentary film featuring pieces by Jean-Luc Godard and Alain Resnais that opposed U.S. involvement in southeast Asia.
Cannes Film Festival President Gilles Jacob on Monday called Marker an “indefatigable filmmaker.”