French filmmaker Chris Marker, famed for the short La Jete and once dubbed "the still little-known genius of documentary," emerges to offer a three-hour cinema master class, playfully dubbed A Grin Without a Cat. In Marker's film, an updated version of his 1977 documentary, he examines both the success and failure of the left during the 1960s and '70s. In the demise of the Soviet Union, Marker observes, "The Communist dream is over. Capitalism won a battle, if not the war."

For all his filmmaking prowess, Marker can hardly be accused of being easily satisfied. Not when he gives his audiences the likes of the real Che, the real Fidel and other figures who took the political stage during those volatile years. Meanwhile, the influence of the once elusive La Jete continues to intrigue both the filmmaker and the filmgoer, almost in tandem. The film's French title, Le Fond de l'Air Est Rouge, suggests that revolution was in the air, but not on the ground.

True to form, Marker seems to reconnoiter the past while observing the future, his reputation long secure, if only via his Resistance fighter days during World War II. A Grin Without a Cat can only burnish that esteem. Like a feline who appears in a room almost magically, Marker mischievously turns up at key moments in reality and in cinema, only to vanish immediately like A Grin Without a Cat. Hopefully, Marker will continue to make provocative films which embrace politics and philosophy.

--Ed Kelleher