French Filmmaker Chris Marker Dies at 91

La Jetee Poster - P 2012

La Jetee Poster - P 2012

The enigmatic figure's private life is shrouded in secret, but his art, including films "La Jetee" and "Sans Soleil," has been a major influence on global cinema.

Prolific and enigmatic French filmmaker and artist Chris Marker has died, just one day after his 91st birthday.

Marker, born Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve, was best known for his award-winning documentary Sans Soleil about human memory and 1962 time travel drama La Jetee. La Jetee is said to have inspired Mamoru Oshii’s The Red Spectacles and Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys.

PHOTOS: Hollywood's Notable Deaths of 2012

Marker was notorious for keeping his private life to himself, shunning interviews and refusing to be photographed. He even teased the world by claiming he was born in Mongolia despite the fact that he actually hailed from Paris suburb Neuilly-sur-Seine. However, the  friend to several famous directors of what was known as the “Left Bank Film Movement” like Alain Resnais, Agnes Varda and Henri Colpi, Marker wasn’t a misanthrope according to Costa Gavras who told French newspaper Le Monde on Monday: “He was a profoundly honest man, both politically and cinematographically.”  

He worked as assistant director on Resnais’ famous Holocaust film Night and Fog. Resnais has described Marker as "the prototype of the 21st century man".

Marker certainly wasn’t shy with his art. He worked as a journalist and a critic for famed French film magazine Les Cahiers du Cinéma. His first film was Olympia 52, a documentary about the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. His 1961 title Si Cuba was banned in the US since it supported Fidel Castro and criticized America.

Cannes Film Festival topper Gilles Jacob described Marker in a tweet on Monday: “curious mind, tireless filmmaker, poet in love with cats, videographer, secret character, immense talents” and added that we are all “Chris Marker’s orphans.”  

In addition to making a name for himself in the art world with his films and published novels, poems and essays, Marker was also a member of the French Resistance movement.  Other well-known Marker films include "AK," an essay about Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, and A Grin Without a Cat, his 1971 film about the 1968 uprisings in Paris and MoMa multimedia installations “Level 5” and “Immemory.”