La Jetee/Sans Soleil (Criterion Collection) (S) (Widescreen) product details page

La Jetee/Sans Soleil (Criterion Collection) (S) (Widescreen)

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One of the finest science fiction films ever made, Chris Marker's La jetée is a brilliant philosophical treatise packed into 28 minutes of film. Though it is Marker's only fictional work, it stands as one of the most eloquent visions of his artistic obsessions: travel, images, and memory. Concerning a nameless protagonist who voyages from the radioactive rubble of the post-WWIII present to the verdant past, the film is a travelogue of sorts--a journey through time instead of space--in which the man's childhood memories literally define his existence. Faced with a choice of living in a perfectly ordered distant future or in the moments immediately before nuclear destruction, he chooses to return to the woman from his youthful dreams and live in a vertiginous state of nostalgia. The film's "photo-roman" (still photo) style seems to mirror the impressionistic quality of memory, which the viewer pieces together into a coherent visual experience. Yet, at one point in the film, the protagonist's lover stares into the camera -- until suddenly she blinks. Subtle yet shockingly effective, La jetée brilliantly explodes the rules of what makes a film, forcing the audience to reassess its preconceptions about cinema, as well as about time, memory, and how we experience reality. Jonathan Crow, All Movie Guide

A prime example of essay filmmaking, Chris Marker's Sans Soleil has been extensively detailed by film theorists. Admittedly, it's kind of boring, self-indulgent, and pretentious to gaze at people of various Asian and African cultures while a European narrator ponders the meaning of life. On the other hand, it can also be a soul-searching experience for viewers who like when things are open to interpretation. The highbrow language is part of the problem, but the broad statements about humanity and modern life are fortunately aided by effectively small, personal details. One example is a bronze statue at a train station, a tribute to a dog who waited a lifetime for his master to come off the train. These type of nuances set the right tone for getting lost in a kaleidoscope of cultural messages. With such little regard to space, the film is at least firmly centered in terms of time, with 1980s fashions, music, and technology dominating the mood. Two sequences stand out: the juxtaposition of clips from Hitchcock's Vertigo with actual filming locations in San Francisco and the montage of Japanese horror films with sleeping passengers on a train. Both sequences explore the possibilities of spiritual connection in vastly different contexts, leaving one feeling either ignorant or enlightened, or both. These studies of the collective unconscious are certainly ambitious, but the meaning and importance lies in the efforts of the viewer. Andrea LeVasseur, All Movie Guide