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on 15 June 2016
Fascinating films
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on 4 March 2017
These are two films that have inspired a plethora of critical comment and analysis but I thought I'd just make a couple of points I don't think have been made.
La Jetee sits ostensibly in the genre called science fiction but, stripped of the technology, it is really a meditation on love and time, lost and regained. I have a sense of deja vue that the following sentence is a precis of something I once read somewhere in the past: Monty Python has a famous sketch in which contestants attempted to summarise Proust in a sentence and failed miserably. Marker has distilled 'A la recherche du temps perdu', stripping it of its detail - period, society and homosexuality - in an analysis and love letter to Proust , creating a complex poem that is probably unique in cinema. When people mention "the poetic" in film, they invariably mean a lyrical, soft focus, romantic quality (which this certainly has,minus the soft focus), but this has the genuine poetic qualities of depth, concision and precision of language of the genuine poem.

I don't have the space, time, energy or ability to comment in detail on the equally brilliant 'Sans Soleil', except to say that it contains a two and a half minute analysis and appreciation of Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' that is the most concise, perceptive and moving film criticism that I have ever read or seen.
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on 26 January 2007
The first film is a dense little masterpiece in black and white without any budget nor special effects, or so few. A child sees something, some event he does not understand and the world is destroyed right after that. The child will survive and his memory with him. Years later he falls in the hands of a mad doctor who sends him in the past where he meets a woman and falls for her. Then the doctor sends him to the future and the man discovers the future is ready to accept them and that humanity has survived provided a few adaptations producing a world without any war, social problems and shortages. The traditional romantic idealism.

But one day the doctor sends him to the exact time of his recollection and he discovers that the child he was actually saw his own arrival there and his getting shot on the spot. You can then more or less, according to your morbidity, reflect on the meaning of this event: an outsider from the future arrives and is killed on the spot. Not bad at all. But worse indeed is the fact that we must have reached the sixth dimension since time works in both directions simultaneously and space is no longer in anyway two-dimensional and aging. Is that relativity the result of the fact we can look at any space and time from different points of view? The answer has to be positive of course. Post-modernism is the law. The present contains the future and is the future of the past it contains too.

The second film is the illustration of the letters of some traveler who travels a lot in Japan, some in Australia and from time to time in Africa, Guinea Bissau precisely. It is a film on rites and rituals having to do with life and death, trying to accommodate death so that we can survive a little bit more than expected. Life is always a survival and not an end in itself. This is very Buddhist but the filmmaker is trying to make it general.

The interest then when he speaks of the guerrilla warfare in Guinea Bissau is not the communist guerrilla warfare itself that will eventually turn socialist and then realist, but in fact the side remark that in Europe it brought the Portuguese fascist dictatorship down but that it also made the Europeans suddenly dream of a new revolution. It sure was a revolution (dedicated to carnations) in Portugal and then there was the post-Franco era in Spain, but the revolution was a dream in the corner of a narrow-minded communist leader in Portugal and very fast things went back to the democratic order and the soldiers went back to their barracks and let elections decide on who will be governing the country.

This is the real discourse of this second film, emphasized by the killing of a giraffe whose objective was nothing but the final and lethal bullet in its head since the repast, the banquet, the feast will be for a band of vultures. The discourse becomes general then. Life is always the result of death. Something has to die for something else to live, but if you try to force this historical movement, you produce quite a lot more death than life and anyway the vultures will come and put things back in place. It is the vision of Buddhist rites, prayers and meditation in parallel with the tranquil walk of some emus that represent the natural course of history and we do not have the right to get out of the lane: dangerous and useless.

The allusion to Hitchcock's film Vertigo is typical: the prey is in fact attracting the predator and the prey knows she/he is doing that, even if the chauvinistic predator considers he/she leads the game, from behind mind you as if the prey were on a leash, but when a farmer takes a pig to the market with a rope around its neck, who leads who? The farmer or the pig?

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
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on 5 July 2005
This DVD contains two of Chris Marker's works which contrast yet complement. Marker began as a photographer and writer in the 1950's, later moving into a cinematography which was highly idiosyncratic and highly influential.
"La Jetée" is in large part autobiographical, while exploring time travel and the reduction of life to frozen moments of time. It would be the basis for Terry Gilliam's "Twelve Monkeys". In a post-apocalyptic Paris, the survivors are driven underground where they experiment with time travel in order to save themselves. Told in a voice-over as you watch black and white stills flash before your eyes, the tale is at once riveting and disturbing. Your concentration shifts between audio and visual narrative, so it may be a film you need to watch two or three times to really experience it.
The film views like an animated tour through a picture gallery ... or a graphic novel. Only, you move at Marker's pace - you cannot dictate your own, you cannot stop to admire, you are driven relentlessly on. "La Jetée" alludes to Hitchcock's "Vertigo" - it makes reference to the tree rings scene - time here appearing as both circular and bounded, as a line to follow or a line to step across. You are forced to follow the rhythm and line of the moving film by stepping from still image to still image.
"Sans Soleil" continues the theme of time travel, again alluding to "Vertigo", with its concept of video postcards and letters being sent by some fictional traveller. Here Marker interweaves his own moving and still images with those of others. Again, Marker is combining a visual and an audio narrative, but this time with greater complexity and dynamism. It can be an exhausting watch/listen as you try to follow the momentum of sound and vision. Again, it's a film you have to go back to and watch again and again.
Marker presents some astonishing images of conflict and ritual, emphasising that not remembering is not the same as forgetting. Images get imprinted on your brain. Many you may not remember. Some you will forget. But the forgotten can be re-awoken.
He delivers graphic images of resistance and political struggle - including synthesised footage of the police/student confrontations in Japan in the 1960's. He flits from Japan to Iceland, to guerrilla struggles in Guinea-Bissau, to the hideous vision of a giraffe being shot, its death struggle played out in full, dying colour. He looks at ritual and superstition, at a temple for cats which is populated by regiments of porcelain feline caricatures.
Marker's is a commentary on youth as well as on politics, on how we acquire identity and how society enforces it, on how we perceive knowledge - does our society condemn us to predestined knowledge and understanding, or can we have freewill to discover what we know and learn for ourselves rather than be taught? We are not able to create our own language - we are indoctrinated into the one prevalent in our society - so how can we claim that our thoughts, our visions, our values are our own and not something constructed for us by society?
Marker demonstrates that the camera can look at the world in a way in which the human eye cannot. He produces pictures of the extraordinary and the mundane. But, again, he controls the pace. You are driven relentlessly along - maybe forgetting some of what has been shown, maybe simply not remembering because you were concentrating on the dialogue?
Marker echoes the pace of modern life and its depersonalisation - you see exactly the same images as everyone else watching this film, yet which ones will impress you? What will these images mean, to you? Memory is your own opportunity to reconstruct the pace of time and to juxtapose image against emotion and the unique of your inner world.
These two films demand intense concentration. They are hardly a relaxed watch. But Marker poses questions highly relevant to anyone with an interest in the modern world and human consciousness, never mind anyone interested in making or taking films. The DVD offers some entertaining and informative extras which enhance you enjoyment of the main features, and the two works complement one another neatly. A demanding but highly rewarding coupling.
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on 19 June 2005
This DVD contains two of Chris Marker's works which contrast yet complement. Marker began as a photographer and writer in the 1950's, later moving into a cinematography which was highly idiosyncratic and highly influential.
"La Jetée" is in large part autobiographical, while exploring time travel and the reduction of life to frozen moments of time. It would be the basis for Terry Gilliam's "Twelve Monkeys". In a post-apocalyptic Paris, the survivors are driven underground where they experiment with time travel in order to save themselves. Told in a voice-over as you watch black and white stills flash before your eyes, the tale is at once riveting and disturbing. Your concentration shifts between audio and visual narrative, so it may be a film you need to watch two or three times to really experience it.
The film views like an animated tour through a picture gallery ... or a graphic novel. Only, you move at Marker's pace - you cannot dictate your own, you cannot stop to admire, you are driven relentlessly on. "La Jetée" alludes to Hitchcock's "Vertigo" - it makes reference to the tree rings scene - time here appearing as both circular and bounded, as a line to follow or a line to step across. You are forced to follow the rhythm and line of the moving film by stepping from still image to still image.
"Sans Soleil" continues the theme of time travel, again alluding to "Vertigo", with its concept of video postcards and letters being sent by some fictional traveller. Here Marker interweaves his own moving and still images with those of others. Again, Marker is combining a visual and an audio narrative, but this time with greater complexity and dynamism. It can be an exhausting watch/listen as you try to follow the momentum of sound and vision. Again, it's a film you have to go back to and watch again and again.
Marker presents some astonishing images of conflict and ritual, emphasising that not remembering is not the same as forgetting. Images get imprinted on your brain. Many you may not remember. Some you will forget. But the forgotten can be re-awoken.
He delivers graphic images of resistance and political struggle - including synthesised footage of the police/student confrontations in Japan in the 1960's. He flits from Japan to Iceland, to guerrilla struggles in Guinea-Bissau, to the hideous vision of a giraffe being shot, its death struggle played out in full, dying colour. He looks at ritual and superstition, at a temple for cats which is populated by regiments of porcelain feline caricatures.
Marker's is a commentary on youth as well as on politics, on how we acquire identity and how society enforces it, on how we perceive knowledge - does our society condemn us to predestined knowledge and understanding, or can we have freewill to discover what we know and learn for ourselves rather than be taught? We are not able to create our own language - we are indoctrinated into the one prevalent in our society - so how can we claim that our thoughts, our visions, our values are our own and not something constructed for us by society?
Marker demonstrates that the camera can look at the world in a way in which the human eye cannot. He produces pictures of the extraordinary and the mundane. But, again, he controls the pace. You are driven relentlessly along - maybe forgetting some of what has been shown, maybe simply not remembering because you were concentrating on the dialogue?
Marker echoes the pace of modern life and its depersonalisation - you see exactly the same images as everyone else watching this film, yet which ones will impress you? What will these images mean, to you? Memory is your own opportunity to reconstruct the pace of time and to juxtapose image against emotion and the unique of your inner world.
These two films demand intense concentration. They are hardly a relaxed watch. But Marker poses questions highly relevant to anyone with an interest in the modern world and human consciousness, never mind anyone interested in making or taking films. The DVD offers some entertaining and informative extras which enhance you enjoyment of the main features, and the two works complement one another neatly. A demanding but highly rewarding coupling.
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on 13 September 2015
Seeing the same thing every year the soul cries for a 'different' film, something to enrich the senses: Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962) is such a film.

Narrated by a smooth-voiced male telling the story of The Man (Davos Hanich), a prisoner surviving in Paris after World War III. Scientists wish to send him back in time to rescue their present plight. Returning to his past, he meets The Woman (Hélène Chatelain), who he remembers seeing from his childhood during a brutal incident.

Shot in black and white single images, it resembles a comic, the film is not in motion, yet we experience it as such. Everyday sounds, screeching of aeroplanes or the protagonist’s beating heart, enhance the film better than any orchestral score could. Almost inaudible whispers in German offers an added layer of suspense. La Jetée influenced Terry Gilliam’s magnum opus Twelve Monkeys (1995), and to watch them back to back would be an enjoyable experience, noticing the similarities and differences.

I adored La Jetée. It is refreshing in many ways, especially how it highlights the significance of story. No matter what medium story is delivered, moving images, photographs or orally, a gripping story is paramount.
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on 25 April 2011
I am at a loss trying to describe my thoughts & feelings with this movie, as my mind struggles to grasp it in its full extent.

Perhaps the most important thing I can say about this movie is the very first thing that came into my mind the first time I saw it: pure inspiration. Inspiration in all aspects of movie making. I literally haven't come across anything similar on the silver screen (and/or my home cinema) and neither do I expect anyone to attempt a similar feat (because that's what it trully is). Of course, there are a lot of directors and screen writers that are extremely inspired and whose inspired works we have enjoyed over the years. I dare say though that this is in a league of its own.

The best way to enjoy this movie is to not know anything about it (like it was with me). So, if you are reading hard all these reviews that contain information & analyses about the plot, you will get carried away before the movie even starts. I think that this is a movie that gives itself to a lot of analysis and I am sure that many people will have attempted this - and for good reason.

But my advice stands: leave all these for after you have seen this movie. And definitely see it.
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on 7 April 2016
Chris Markers seminal and unusual work a 28 minute short film which is of comprised almost entirely of black and white still images shot in stark contrast (possibly using reversal film?). it Is both unique in form, yet in spirit, typical of the Nouvelle Vague film movement which occurred in the 50's and 60's of french cinema which saw directors challenging and experimenting with the rules of cinema , promoting film as an art form and the director as an artist or auteur.
It may sound as though the film would have an esoteric appeal excluding all but the most bohemian Cinnefiles but this would be unfair because despite the lack of moving image and absence of dialogue the film is brimming with pathos the story it tells of a post apocalyptic future and one mans poignant and beautiful memory watching a women at the end of a pier would later go to inspire the plot for Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys.
The film has a haunting beauty and an emotional punch that will linger with you for long after the final credits roll.
It may be only 28 minuets long but not a single frame is wasted the musical score was provided by Trevor Duncan who's string accompaniment perfectly enhances the films claustrophobic feel.
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on 24 October 2013
La Jetee is undoubtedly a formal triumph and its best to come to it without knowing anything in my view, so if you've no idea, I'm not going to spoil it by even hinting unlike others. So the review falls back on phrases like: unlike anything else, fascinating, experimental but with a clear narrative, challenging, dark, universally about time, memory, desire, loss, the human condition etc but not so you'll get bored. There are moments because of the form however, where you will feel time passing slowly. And there is one moment of supreme almost spine-tingling pure cinema which (because of the form) is unique I think, in all film. I hope I've not spoilt it for anyone who comes to this review first. Sans Soleil is more difficult, longer, fascinating and sometimes a little discomforting, nonetheless and utterly different from La Jetee. There is no plot or narrative in the traditional sense: a kind of documentary but utterly unlike any documentary you'll see and it may leave you drained but elated with its myriad images and intellectual/cinematic interconnectedness.
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on 5 September 2014
Expansive. Watch, listen. True to say you'll suddenly start to feel yourself glowing warmly.
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