Monday, February 7, 2011

“La Jetée”, Dir. Chris Marker, 1962

This review is analysing the uniqueness of Chris Marker’s movie “La Jetée”, the movie that inspired Terry Gilliam's “12 Monkeys”. It is a landmark of science-fiction filmmaking, a 28-minute masterpiece told almost entirely in still frames. Set in a post-apocalyptic near-future. This review is based on Bill Gibron’s review from, Mark Netter's review from and Scott Telek’s review from “Cinema De Merde”.


Although most of the people one way or another wants to compare Chris Marker’s work with “12 Monkeys”, because it might look a bit more easier to understand, maybe longer and definitely based on the whole plot of “La Jetée”, but it is very concentrated on the most important things, doesn’t distract you from something that you have to see and understand. Scott Telek says: It leaves you a lot to think about. Aside from all the science-fiction stuff, it is about a retreat into memory, a wish to remain in the past, made especially urgent since, in the story, the rest of civilization has been destroyed. Then of course it ends with the ultimate memory loop, which works better in this short version, where that becomes one of the film’s main features. By contrast, I didn’t even remember that twist being in “12 Monkeys”, there was just too much else to distract from it.” (March 6, 2010, "Cinema De Merde") In other words simple version of the same thing sometimes might be just better.


This movie is also filled with symbols of travelling. The airport in the beginning and the end, birds display and the time machine. Bill Gibron states that “It's no wonder the movie is named after an observatory, or jetty, at the Orly Airport, as La Jetée is a narrative centering on travel.” (June 26, 2007, The main character is haunted by a puzzling and violent image from his youth, by travelling back (to 1962, presumably) he finds both a love that could never exist in his own time, and a horrific solution to his own fragmented memory. In Ed Owen’s words : “It is the film, with it's neorealistic science fiction tone, speaks to our twin desires for love and closure, and the terrible cost of resolving the two.” (The date of the publishing is unknown, The interesting thing about this movie is that without being so influential for movies like “12 monkeys” and other sci-fi works, it might have been highly influenced by Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” – It is also about a man re-doing his past and encountering a woman who is his projection of a real woman he once knew. The other very interesting thing is that in “La Jetée” there is a shot very similar to the famous profile of Kim Novak in “Vertigo”. Although it is just a theory it actually makes to think about possible experimental movie evolution and the roots of the influence in every movie.

Figure 4

Anyway, it is an interesting film that leaves you with a lot to think about and is very influential. It only takes 28 minutes and provides a lot of return on a small time investment. It is an experimental movie just like Hitchcock’s “Rope” which is definitely unique and influential.


2. Bill Gibron


Figure2 - Experimenting with the hero in “La Jetée”

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