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A "free form travelogue" and "non-linear essay" are but two phrases I've read to describe this film. Predominantly, it explores aspects of Japanese traditions and folkways; but there are random jaunts across Africa, to Iceland and a genuinely odd segment in which scenes from Hitchcock's Vertigo are re-traced on location in San Francisco.
It appears that Chris Marker wants to explore the nature of time, but got hung up on places. People are largely incidental to this exploration; yes, he covers various rites and rituals, but they are dispassionate, the way a documentarian might comment on the mannerisms of observed elk. It put me in the mood to re-watch Lost in Translation, but I can't say that I feel I even know what questions were being asked by the film to know what I took away from it.
This film is about cats and owls. people will tell you it's an exploration of ..... Nope, cats and owls. there's some filler between the shots of cats and owls, but you want to focus on the cats, or the owls, up to you.
A challenging film, but one that is really worth your time if you are a cinema lover. Trying to sum up this film would be quite a difficult task. You could call it a political, pop-art, existential exploration of history and art, human consciousness, and reality. The narrator's voice is really haunting, probably the best narration in a film I have ever seen.
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In 15 official lists
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This movie ranks #3 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Documentaries of All Time
This movie ranks #73 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
This movie ranks #73 in The Times's 100 Best French Films
This movie ranks #80 in Harvard's Suggested Film Viewing: Non-Fiction Films
This movie ranks #81 in Time Out's The 100 Best French Films
This movie ranks #89 in BFI's 100 Documentary Films
This movie ranks #97 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
This movie ranks #111 in 366 Weird Movies
This movie ranks #155 in iCheckMovies's Most Favorited
This movie ranks #392 in Mark Cousins's The Story of Film: An Odyssey
This movie ranks #411 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #699 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #764 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #777 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #799 in Time Out's 1000 Films to Change Your Life