French filmmaker Chris Marker is best known for his 1962 short film La Jetée, a short film made up of black-and-white still photos on which Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys was based. This 30-minute time-travel movie is both haunting and original and a significant departure for the one-time writer and critic who moved into making documentary films. La Jetée has been re-released on DVD and it is one of those films that should be in the collection of any sci-fi fan or cinephile. Unlike many “experimental” films of the 1960s this has a strong narrative, and a technically strong execution. Each of the carefully composed images manages to traverse the fine line between being staged and being spontaneous, lending a sense of reality that came from his experience as a documentarian. This new release features both the original French dialogue and an English dub.
Also on the same DVD is Marker’s 1982 feature documentary travelogue Sans Soleil. Again, it is a striking work of originality that feels as fresh today as it was innovative on release; employing fast cuts, unusual angles and a narrative based on a series of letters. Another one for any student of film.
Also on release is Marker’s 1997 feature Level Five. Bearing in mind that Marker was in his mid-70s when he made this it is all the more remarkable. It tells the story of a French computer programmer who is playing a complex video game based around WWII’s battle at Okinawa, the last major US-Japanese conflict before they dropped the atomic bombs. Utilising video and computer images it is as much a reflection on war and memory as it is a story about a video game.
La Jetée/Sans Soleil and Level Five are available now on DVD and EST from Play and all discerning retailers.