Chris Marker's "La Jetée" (1962)

Poster for La Jetée

Chris Marker, a French film-maker (and writer and photographer, among the thrips and ranges he possesses) created La Jetée in 1962; a short, 28-minute masterpiece (black and white) that was created using mostly still-images while a narrator fills the viewer in on the going-ons (the "voice-over") of the story. The only non-still image that is in the film is when a woman flutters her eyes to the camera as she wakens from a dream (!!!). La Jetée tells the bizarre story of a "post-nuclear war experiment in time travel"; not to mention, of course, a film about war and memory. Or, perhaps the lack of memory, depending on the science of observation (undifferentiated slaughter of the eyes!).

The story takes place in (or "during") War World III, in Paris, under the crumbling chaos of the city. Van Gogh once said, "I am painting infinity," and somehow this particular film allows me to reflect back on that comment. But in reverse. However, the film, to me, is like disassembling permanence. In all of this, where is the body politic[?], I thought. Anyhow, a man (the man in the image above) is sent back to the past and back to the future to supposedly save all of mankind.

From Wiki: "In the movie, the survivors of a destroyed Paris in the aftermath of World War III live underground in the Palais de Chaillot galleries. They research time travel, hoping to send someone back to before the devastating war to recover food, medicine, or energy for the present, "to summon the past and future to the aid of the present". The traveler is a male prisoner; his vague but obsessive childhood memory of witnessing a woman (Hélène Chatelain) during a violent incident on the boarding platform ("The Jetty") at Orly Airport is used as the key to his journey back in time. He is thrown back to the past again and again. He repeatedly meets and speaks to the woman who was present at the terminal. After his successful passages to the past, the experimenters attempt to send him into the deep future. In a brief meeting with the technologically advanced people of the future, he is given a power unit sufficient to regenerate his own destroyed society. On his return, he is cast aside by his imprisoners to die. Before he can be executed, he is contacted by the people of the future, who offer to help him escape to their time, but he asks to be returned to his childhood. He is returned and finds the violent incident he partially witnessed as a child was his own death as an adult."

The arrangement of the film is stunning, and when I first saw this film (during TCM's Short Film Festival) a couple of years ago (though I had read rviews about it long before realizing TCM was going to be showing it), I found myself questioning my own creativity (!!!) and Imagination (!!!). McLuhan: Imagination is that ratio among the perceptions and faculties which exists when they are not embedded or outered in material technologies. The mayhem in this film is "haunting"; not only with its consolidation thrusted in original-style, but also the film's sheer brilliance in allowing the viewer to be somehow intertwined puzzingly (without being able to actually see the "motion" of each "scene"), like some Apocalyptic-undercutting that could flip shade and shadow into pancakes of light! The mightily measuring-tape was out from my mind as if I had been measured (and, as I imagine, the viewer, as well; all viewers; everyone who has had the opportunity to view this film) by the mere surge at which somehow decontructs our stricture of imagination. Or, perhaps this is my own 'awareness' or Jack-knife!

Interesting to note some of the influences as well (via Wiki): "The scene in which the hero and the woman look at a cut-away trunk of a tree is a reference to Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 film Vertigo, which Marker also references in Sans Soleil." "A famous tiny bar in Tokyo is named La Jetée and is decorated with posters of the movie (I must visit someday!). "The music video for Son of Sam (song) by Elliott Smith (directed by Autumn de Wilde) was inspired by "La Jetée"." Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys was also inspired by La Jetée. {to name a few}

In closing, this film must certainly be experienced, if anything for the totality of the diversified field at which is portrayed (running around with Fred Flintstone feet!). On of my all-time favorite films. Top 50, at least.

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