Monday, July 30, 2012

Chris Marker - Director of La Jetee Dead at Age 91

I was saddened to learn that Chris Marker passed away today.  Most are likely unfamiliar with  his contribution to cinema, but among those that have been exposed to his work it's a sad day.

Perhaps his best known work is the 1962 experimental short film La Jetee which would later form the inspiration for the 1995 Terry Gilliam film Twelve Monkeys.

La Jetee is THE perfect time travel film in my opinion and the fact that he manages to distil so much into under a half hour is an amazing feat.

With the exception of a few brief frames of motion La Jetee is told entirely with the use of black and white still photos that are stitched together in what Marker calls a photo-roman.

La Jetee tells the story of a man who witnessed a traumatic event as a child and is selected as a guinea pig for a time travel experiment. Set in a post-apocalyptic Paris destroyed by World War III the survivors live beneath the city which has become “rotten with radiation”. The victors stand guard over a “kingdom of rats”. Realizing that the human race is doomed, the victors work to manipulate a loophole in time to seek assistance from the future.

The man is sent to past on several occasions to visit the woman from his childhood images, before an attempt is made to send him to the future. In an effort to evade his captors he strikes a bargain to return to the past of his childhood, but it is not to be.

The film manages to explore the horror and futility of war, human degradation of the natural environment, the nature of time itself, and the intricacies of human memory.

I have reviewed the film at length on my site here - La Jetee by Chris Marker and recommend the film to anyone who will listen.

On Twitter today William Gibson, author of Neuromancer and Pattern Recognition, tweeted in recognition of Marker's passing:

Its well worth seeking out  but try to get a copy with the original French narration and English subtitles if you can.

Criterion Collection  released a restored version of La Jetee in 2007 in standard definition and in 2012 on high definition Blu-Ray together with Marker's film San Soliel.

I found a copy of La Jetee in 1999 as part of a short film collection called Short 2: Dreams  that had a number of bonus features including interviews with both Terry Gilliam (Director of Twelve Monkeys) and Janet and David Peoples (Writers of Twelve Monkeys) discussing the Marker’s work and the influence La Jetée had on the creation of Twelve Monkeys.

For further reading check The Guardian which has a very in detailed obituary on its website here: Chris Marker obituary Experimental French director acclaimed for his post-apocalyptic film La Jetée