Scen., F.: Chris Marker. M.: Francine Grubert. Mus.: Pierre Barbaud. Su.: Studios Marignan. Int.: Guilles Quéant (narrator). Prod.: Madeleine Casanova-Rodriguez per Pavox Films, Argos Films. DCP. D.: 18’. Col.
I think Chris Marker must have taken into consideration the inherent difficulties involved in trying to get a film distributed that only lasts just over twenty minutes. In any case, he certainly knew how to transform a necessity into a style, so much so that our own sorrow gives way to reflection. The subject matter is so vast that a documentary on it could only be either extremely long or extremely short. As it is, Dimanche à Pékin does not leave us dissatisfied, but intrigued. Like Les Statues meurent aussi, a film Chris Marker made together with his friend, Alain Resnais […], Dimanche à Pékin seems to reflect a new concept of documentary filmmaking. The term ‘documentary’ is too banal to describe this kind of film. We use it here for convenience sake to refer to the origin of the images […] The report Chris Marker brings us from China is at once a body of information, an expression of poetry and a critique. What truly distinguishes this film from predecessors produced with the same intent is the means by which it was made. Dimanche à Pékin is without a doubt a montage film, but Chris Marker imbues this generic term with radically new meaning. In a traditional sense, montage is based on what supports the images and the meaning expressed by their sequence. Whatever the function of montage editing, its power comes from the images chosen and the rhythm with which they are shown. It is in a way adding another dimension to the flatness of the screen. If it is further able to evoke feelings and ideas, it is by induction, like electro-magnetically induced current. In Chris Marker’s films, the montage process relies on three elements: the images, the relationship between the images and their relationship to the commentary, conceived as an explanation of the images and as a constitutional element of the film, which could not be defined without reference to these three components. We could also say that Dimanche à Pékin is essentially as much a literary piece of work as it is a cinematic one, although both of these assertions may also be false. We certainly have heard other brilliant, profound and poetic comments […] but none have been so dialectically linked to the images. Displayed frozen in an album, the images offered here are often very beautiful, and other times extremely banal, but the text rubs against them like the steel wheel of a lighter on the flint, producing sparks.
André Bazin, ‘Sur les routes de l’URSS’ et ‘Dimanche à Pékin’, “France-Observateur”, June 27, 1957