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Today's sci-fi films are always oriented around common action cliches. Chris Marker's La Jetée is totally different though. It doesn't have a single motion video content (Except for a few seconds, one of the greatest moments in cinema). The entire film's story is told through still images and a guy narrates the story. The final result was so impressive that it inspired many time-travel films including Terminator and 12 Monkeys.
The film begins in an airport in Paris. A boy witnesses the murder of a man and the reaction of a woman to the same. Soon the entire city is destroyed and thus begins World War 3. All the survivors hide underground, including the boy who survives the attack. In a few years, Man becomes capable of going back and forth in time but the technology is still infant and had already driven all the subjects to madness. The aim of this experiment was to save mankind. The next subject of this experiment is the boy himself, now a grown-up. Even now he remembers the woman's face, encapsulated in his memories. This helps him to undergo the experiment successfully. All his memoirs are reflected through the still images, both old and the ones he was going to experience through time travel. When he sent back to the past, he meets the woman and what happens next is a spellbinding experience...
Hehe, I never knew that Sci-fiction films could ever be like this one. All we have seen is exploding stuff and alien attacks, not to mention time travel by a DeLorean. Well, Kubrick's 2001 is of completely another league so comparing these two masterpieces is useless. La Jetee is only 30 minutes long. But it's something any cinephile ought not to miss. The Story is simple, yet the it has a beautiful complexity behind it that can only be felt.
La Jetee is officially #50 on BFI Sight and Sound's Poll.
This is a masterpiece in unorthodox science fiction. I was watching my Criterion Blu-ray and have to say it was one of the most stunning, vivid and lively transfers I've seen.
The technique of still images that are kinetic is astonishingly effective in HD. There are more than a few moments of real shock in only a 30 minute stretch. I know I won't be forgetting some of the things I see when I think about it.
The story itself is exciting, romantic, mystical and tragic.
Chris Marker was a real diamond, Rest In Peace my friend.
Chris Marker's short, La Jetée, is famous for 1) being made up almost exclusively of black and white stills with narration, and 2) having formed the basis for Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys. I was surprised at how much Gilliam adapted from 28-minute story, even the look of its postapocalyptic world, but just as surprised at what he didn't, and that therefore seemed new and interesting to this old Twelve Monkeys fan. As a piece of non-formulaic SF, it certainly works, and the slides have some nice creepy effects. But it's the marriage of unusual form and unusual story that really makes La Jetée a worthy classic. Its treatment of memories as stills, forcing the audience to fill in the blanks or jump in time, Proust-like, from moment to moment, isn't unlike how memory actually works, and the film works as a philosophical meditation on the concepts of time, memory and finite-ness (by which I mean mortality, but the word doesn't evoke enough of what La Jetée gets at). Deceptively simple, there's a lot more to unpack in its poetics than you initially realize.
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In 18 official lists
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This movie ranks #1 in TSPDT's Brief Encounters
This movie ranks #9 in IMDb's Shorts Top 50
This movie ranks #29 in Total Sci-Fi's The 100 Greatest Sci-Fi Movies
This movie ranks #32 in Time Out's The 100 Best French Films
This movie ranks #44 in BFI's 100 Science Fiction Films
This movie ranks #47 in Cahiers du Cinéma's 100 Films for an Ideal Cinematheque
This movie ranks #66 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
This movie ranks #93 in The Times's 100 Best French Films
This movie ranks #117 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
This movie ranks #165 in Harvard's Suggested Film Viewing: Narrative Films
This movie ranks #288 in Amos Vogel's Film as a Subversive Art
This movie ranks #378 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #412 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #463 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #482 in Time Out's 1000 Films to Change Your Life
This movie ranks #484 in Jennifer Eiss's 500 Essential Cult Movies
This movie ranks #517 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #616 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?