Review:  A restored ‘Level Five’ finds Chris Marker on prescient ground


The seeds, stirrings and detritus of cultural change inspired leftist French filmmaker Chris Marker his whole life, especially as they played out in our collective memory.

The digital revolution was no less intriguing to this multiplatform artist, whose movies often combined elements of documentary, fiction and essay. That makes seeing the restoration and release of his 1997 film “Level Five” — a richly digressive, provocative meditation on the cross-currents of technology, engagement with history and wounded national identity — worthy of any serious cinemagoer’s time.

The framework is the building of a video game about the horrific World War II battle of Okinawa, a project taken over from its deceased originator by his lover, Laura (Catherine Belkhodja), who “logs in” with philosophical monologues on game theory, personal loss and the lasting effect of country-shattering decisions by Japanese military leaders and noncombatants alike.


Hypnotically threading the pop of period-specific digitized visuals through ruminative archival footage Marker shot in 1985 during Japan’s 40th anniversary of the battle, and sobering interviews about the battle’s grimmest details, “Level Five,” with its prescient view of a compartmentalized online future, should rightly take its place among the late director’s best work. It humanely, intelligently questions the very nature of our desire to make sense of the past with the tools of the present, when the human mind remains the most aggressively obliterating battlefield of all.

“Level Five.”

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes.

At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.