Don't Wait Too Long

*Ah, just a few short hours until Monday's post goes up.

*I think the highlight of my day was probably (finally!) getting to see the terribly famous 1962 short film La Jetée, from writer/director Chris Marker. It's coming out on Criterion dvd this June as a double-feature with Marker's 1983 oddball philosophic/poetic documentary Sans Soleil, but I figured I'd already waited long enough to see it.

And on the whole I was impressed by how the film chooses to derive all of its power from the nitty-gritty of filmmaking modes - if there's anything everyone knows about this film, it's that the whole film is composed of still images, held in place and expertly weaved into a whole, with narration and music set over it. That's all the visual cinema really is, at its bottom - still images passed before the eye in a certain succession -- and Marker is keen enough to exploit those properties as the most effective means of conveying his story, which probably wouldn't have stood a chance if it had been presented in a more traditional manner.

Oh yes, the other thing everyone knows about this film is that it inspired the Terry Gilliam picture Twelve Monkeys, and it's telling that Gilliam took only that basic plot and stretched it out for himself to his own ends. They say the Gilliam film is not a 'remake' - I say it couldn't be, because the whole effect of La Jetée is totally hedged on its unique manner of presentation, a conceptual vision to individual that to adopt it would be futile and to discard it and 'remake' the meat would be disaster. The surface 'plot' of La Jetée is basic, obvious, knowingly absurd, in possession of a concluding twist so screamingly obvious I cannot bring myself to believe that Marker did not intentionally telegraph its arrival, and wholly dependant on Marker's grasp of metaphor to bring it to life. Cinematic metaphor - the procession of sealed moments, still pictures, in illustration of the story of a man forced to travel time by remembering things in tiny blocks. To remake this properly, you would have to create something new, which is what happened, which means it's not a remake. You dig?

Ah, there's a lot of stunning little bits in here. Sure, there's one stretch where the time-traveling fellow and a lady he's pursuing are walking through a museum for about 340 or so minutes, but many of Marker's soothing past-tense reveries successfully implant their iconic selves upon your brain - you will truly believe that you're reliving fragments of some primal experience, and living through flashes of of the future. It's Marker's made-up 'memories' he's giving us, and celluloid is his time machine as sure as that wacky contraption Our Hero gets hooked up to by the strange men. You can't relive any of your life, but it can be presented to others as simulation, and Marker does what he says!

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