La Jetée – Chris Marker (1962)


La Jetée ([la ʒəte]) (‘The Jetty’, here referring to an outdoor viewing pier at an airport) is a 1962 French Left Bank science fiction featurette by Chris Marker. Constructed almost entirely from still photos, it tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel. It is 28 minutes long and shot in black and white. It won the Prix Jean Vigo for short film. … A man (Davos Hanich) is a prisoner in the aftermath of World War III in post-apocalyptic Paris, where survivors live underground in the Palais de Chaillot galleries. Scientists research time travel, hoping to send test subjects to different time periods ‘to call past and future to the rescue of the present’. They have difficulty finding subjects who can mentally withstand the shock of time travel. The scientists eventually settle upon the prisoner; his key to the past is a vague but obsessive memory from his pre-war childhood of a woman (Hélène Chatelain) he had seen on the observation platform (‘the jetty‘) at Orly Airport shortly before witnessing a startling incident there. He did not understand exactly what happened, but knew he had seen a man die. … La Jetée is constructed almost entirely from optically printed photographs playing out as a photomontage of varying rhythm. It contains only one brief shot (of the woman mentioned above sleeping and suddenly waking up) originating on a motion-picture camera, this due to the fact that Marker could only afford to hire one for an afternoon. The stills were taken with a Pentax Spotmatic and the motion-picture segment was shot with a 35 mm Arriflex. The film has no dialogue aside from small sections of muttering in German and people talking in an airport terminal. The story is told by a voice-over narrator. The scene in which the hero and the woman look at a cut-away trunk of a tree is a reference to Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1958 film Vertigo which Marker also references in his 1983 film Sans soleil. In Black and Blue, her study of postwar French fiction, Carol Mavor describes La Jetée as taking ‘place in a no-place (u-topia) in no-time (u-chronia)’ which she connects to the time and place of the fairy tale. …”
Wikipedia
The Mind Reels
On La Jetée by Jean-Louis Schefer
YouTube: La Jetée (1962) [english subtitles] 26:37

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