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 Chris Marker's La Jetée

   
 

Still Life!

   

 

  

 

Composed entirely of black-and-white still photos, La Jetée, Chris Marker's 1962 meditation on time and memory changed cinma forever.  The French filmmaker's use of text and voice-over to accompany his futuristic images shocked viewers accustomed to classical, linear films with actors speaking on screen.  The result was so innovative that La Jetée was talked about as a visual novel or an essay.

La Jetée (The Pier) runs a short twenty-eight minutes and takes place in a post-apocalyptic Paris in the aftermath of World War III.  The survivors have moved underground and unsuccessfully attempt to go back in time to save the world.  That is, until they find a man (Davos Hanich) obsessed by a childhood memory of a woman (Hélène Chatelain) on a pier at Orly Airport that permits him to travel to the past.  He is then repeatedly taken back in time until the film's stunning culmination. 

While his colleagues in the Nouvelle Vague such as Truffaut and Godard were experimenting with long takes and improvised dialogue, Marker went one step farther.  He used jump cuts and flashbacks to create a mesmerizing photomontage that relied on altering the time each shot was held in order to create perfect pacing.  La Jetée also seduces on a purely aesthetic level; the grainy beauty of the photography imbuing the film with a certain haunting quality.  The only non-still image - the heroine fluttering her eyelashes - is shocking, the only ripple of movement on the still lake of the film. 

The maverick filmmaker influenced several generations of cinema students and directors.  Mamoru Osshii's Akai megane (The Red Spectacles, 1987) and Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys (1995) are both cinematic children of La Jetée.  Half a century later, Marker's film still exerts a powerful influence as it meditates on the utopian desire to travel backwards in time to fix the future, knowing full well that "yesterday this day's madness did prepare."

Other films by Chris Marker include the documentaries Le Joli Mai (1963), La Solitude du chanteur de fond (1974) about Yves Montand and Sans Soleil (1983)

 

See: La Jetée 

Tags: film  photography

 

 

 

 

       
 

 
       
     

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