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a review of la jetee

The movie that inspired Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, Chris Marker’s La jetée is a landmark of science-fiction filmmaking, a 28-minute masterpiece told almost entirely in still frames.

Set in a post-apocalyptic near-future, it tells the story of an unnamed man whose vivid childhood recollections make him the perfect guinea pig for an experiment in time travel. After a lengthy and nightmarish period of conditioning, he is sent into the past, where he falls in love with a woman whom he once saw on a pier. At the experiment’s conclusion, he is visited by an advanced race, who offer him the opportunity to journey into their future world, but he instead requests that they send him permanently into the past, where he can remain with the woman of his dreams. A singular experience. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi

What got me was that this is the first film I have seen composed entirely of still images and a soundtrack. Mind-blowing on an epic scale! Chris Markers still powerful 1962 post-apocalyptic short film, with its classic anagnorisis finale, produced entirely with still photographs, music and voice-over narration, it portrays a horrifying future world and the melancholic vision of a man consumed with nostalgic love for a dead woman he saw as child. Becoming the subject of the subterranean totalitarian governments attempt to throw emissaries into time, to call past and future to the rescue of the present, he just might have a chance to see her once again.

La Jetée, as a movie, is one of the most interesting I have encountered. Virtually the whole movie involves narrating still shots. While this sounds like a glorified slideshow, its anything but. The pacing is magnificent. The mood created is truly immersive. In a truly astounding feat, Marker traps the viewer in this slide show” mentality, and then, as the movie is discussing whether the character can decipher what is real or not, he pulls the rug out from under us.

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