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The Sixth Side of the Pentagon / The Embassy cover photo

The Sixth Side of the Pentagon / The Embassy 1967/1973

Recommended with reservations

Distributed by First Run/Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by Les Films du Jeudi
Directed by Chris Marker and Francois Reichenbach / Directed by Chris Marker
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
American Studies, Film Studies, History

Date Entered: 11/28/2007

Reviewed by Christopher Lewis, American University Library, Washington DC

The Sixth Side of the Pentagon is Chris Marker and Francois Reichenbach’s documentary on the Oct. 21, 1967 March on the Pentagon by anti-war demonstrators. The event was made famous by the planned levitation of the Pentagon and the bloody confrontations that ensued.

Marker’s juxtaposition of images and anthropologist’s point-of-view narration provide a compelling record of the events that day. From the gathering by the Lincoln Memorial, the march to the Pentagon, and the violent confrontations that occurred as demonstrators rushed an entrance into the building, the film records a cross section of the images and voices. Despite its sometimes clinical tone Marker’s descriptions of the action leave no doubt as to where his sympathies lie. An underlying theme is the exalted moment when a group’s commitment to a cause catalyzes from that of making symbolic gestures to taking direct action.

Second on the DVD is The Embassy, a fictional narrative also by Marker. It’s a film diary about left-wing political refugees holed up in an unnamed embassy in an unnamed country where a coup has occurred days before. The refugees spend five days with the ambassador and his wife killing time until it’s safe to leave. At the end it’s revealed that the city where the coup occurred is Paris. It’s framed as a found piece of super-8 film narrated by an unknown cameraman. It’s mostly silent save for the deadpan voiceover and some background music. The political context of the film seems rooted in the May 1968 protests in France suggesting the country was ripe for a coup. It hasn’t aged well though and will be of most interest to Marker scholars and to those who experienced the times firsthand.

Chris Marker is considered by some to be a cinematic genius, particularly for La Jetee and Sans Soleil. Because few of his films are in release in the U.S. this DVD should be a valued addition. There probably isn’t a film that covers the March on the Pentagon better than The Sixth Side of the Pentagon so this is also recommended, though not essential (based on cost), for collections with strong coverage of the Vietnam War and 1960s protests and radicalism.