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La Jetée / Sans Soleil(1963-1983)
One of the most influential, radical science-fiction films ever made and a mind-bending free-form travelogue: La Jetée and Sans Soleil couldn’t seem more different—but they’re the twin pillars of an unparalleled and uncompromising career in cinema. A filmmaker, poet, novelist, photographer, editor, and now videographer and digital multimedia artist, Chris Marker has been challenging moviegoers, philosophers, and himself for years with his investigations of time, memory, and the rapid advancement of life on this planet. These two films—a tale of time travel told in still images and a journey to Africa and Japan—remain his best-loved and most widely seen.
For more about La Jetée / Sans Soleil and the La Jetée / Sans Soleil Blu-ray release, see the La Jetée / Sans Soleil Blu-ray Review
Starring: Jean Négroni, Hélène Chatelain, Davos Hanich, Jacques Ledoux
Director: Chris Marker
» See full cast & crew
La Jetée / Sans Soleil Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 5, 2012
Chris Marker's "La Jetée" (1962) and "Sans Soleil" (1983) arrive on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include two video interview with director Jean-Pierre Gorin; excerpts from the French television series Courtcircuit (le magazine); "Junkopia", a six-minute film by director Chris Marker; and more. The disc also arrives with a 44-page illustrated booklet featuring Catherine Lupton's essay "Memory's Apostle: Chris Marker, La Jetee, and Sans Soleil"; interview with Chris Marker; notes on the film by Chris Marker; and more. In French and English, with optional English and English SDH subtitles for the main features. Region-A "locked".
After the end of World War III. The world is devastated and those who have survived the nuclear holocaust now live deep underground. But they have limited resources and little information about the atmosphere changes the radioactive fallout has caused.
In the Palais de Chaillot galleries of Paris, scientists are trying to figure out a way to send a man in the past to help them with the dilemmas they are facing in the present. Experiments are performed but the results are disappointing – the time travelers cannot handle the mental shock and die before they could return to the present.
Eventually, the scientists find a man (Davos Hanich) who seems to be responding differently to the pressure of time traveling. He is a prisoner obsessed with a childhood experience - as a boy he witnessed the killing of a man at Orly Airport, where he had also seen a beautiful woman (Hélène Chatelain) whom he never forgot – which they believe could be used as his arrival point. Once there, the man can change the course of time.
After a few unsuccessful attempts, the man arrives in the past and reconnects with the beautiful woman. Little by little the childhood experience evolves into something very special, something the man desperately wants to keep. But then the man is pulled back into the present and redirected to the future. There, another group of scientists give him a power device that could regenerate his world. They also warn him that once his mission is over he will be terminated. They know because they can also travel through time. Realizing that he has been used as a guinea pig, the man asks that he is sent back to the past. After a short stop in the present, the man finds himself at Orly airport, where the beautiful woman is waiting for him.
There are obvious similarities between Chris Marker's La Jetée and Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys, but the two films could not be any more different. The former is a concept film that relies almost entirely on still photographs and stimulates the imagination, while the latter is a visual extravaganza that basically leaves nothing to the imagination. The two films also treat reality quite differently – Marker's film manipulates our perceptions of time and memory and then attempts to redefine our perception of reality, while Gilliam's film is focused on a series of events, all of which are part of a fascinating journey.
Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, La Jetee was completed in 1962. In 1963, the film was recognized with the prestigious Prix Jean Vigo Award (short film category).
Like La Jetée, Sans Soleil attempts to redefine our perception of reality. However, this time around the entire film takes place in the present – a woman reads the letters of Sandor Krasna, a world traveler who has visited Japan, Iceland, and the former Portuguese colonies of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau.
The film does not have a clear direction. Marker's camera roams freely and captures different people, different customs, reactions, statues and symbols, while the woman mentions various trends and statistics. Some make sense, some don't, but it does not matter. What does is that the film offers a unique sense of rhythm, a feeling of what it means to be alive today.
Sans Soleil is undoubtedly a very difficult film to describe and analyze because it does not have conventional beginning, middle and end. It is a colorful mosaic of visuals, which suggest that reality is what one is willing to believe in and remember.
Note: In 1983, Sans Soleil won the Sutherland Trophy at the British Film Institute Awards as well as the OCIC Award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
La Jetée / Sans Soleil Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.64:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Chris Marker's La Jetée and Sans Soleil arrive on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Approved by director Chris Marker, these high-definition digital transfers were created on a Spirit 2K Datacine. La Jetée was mastered from a 35mm fine-grain master positive and Sans Soleil from a 35mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' DVNR was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Lee Kline.
Telecine colorist: Richard Deusy/Scanlab, Paris."
Both films have benefited a great deal from their transition to Blu-ray. In La Jetée, edge definition is clearly improved, while contrast levels have been slightly elevated and then stabilized. The light macroblocking patterns that plagued the DVD release have also been removed (if you already have the DVD release, try to compare the sequence screencapture #13 belongs to). Colors are also richer and slightly better saturated. This being said, there are a couple of scenes where traces of extremely light edge-enhancement pop up (see screencapture #1). However, none of them are even remotely distracting. There are also a few small specks that I noticed.
Sans Soleil looks even better. Obviously, detail, clarity, and contrast levels vary quite a lot here, but the film has a very pleasing organic look that is simply missing on the DVD release. Color reproduction is also far more convincing - there is a wide spectrum of natural soft but stable colors that look a lot healthier here. On the DVD release, colors look soft but more often than not also notably weak. Lastly, I did not see any traces of post-production sharpening. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
La Jetée / Sans Soleil Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are four audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0 and French LPCM 1.0 for La Jetée and English LPCM 1.0 and French LPCM 1.0 for Sans Soleil. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English and English SDH subtitles for both films.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The original monaural soundtracks were remastered at 24-bit from 35mm optical track prints. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation."
I was expecting a strong loseless track for La Jetée, but the dynamic range of the French LPCM 1.0 track is moderate at best. Very similar is the situation with the English LPCM 1.0 track (this isn't a dubbed track, but an original track, possibly even the better one). This is not to say, however, that the loseless tracks have serious technical issues; rather that the film's original sound design has various limitations. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and easy to follow.
The audio tracks for Sans Soleil have similar identities. Both serve the film well but have limited dynamic diapasons. Again, the dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and easy to follow.
La Jetée / Sans Soleil Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
La Jetée / Sans Soleil Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Trying to describe or analyze Chris Marker's La Jetée and Sans Soleil truly is an impossible task. I've seen them a number of times during the years and to be honest each time they forced me to ponder different questions. They are beautiful, very original films, but definitely not easy to immediately embrace. There are some fascinating concepts about time and reality in them, but the possibilities and observations the French director introduces with them could be quite overwhelming for anyone unfamiliar with his style and interests. Regardless, these are very important films that must be seen. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
La Jetée / Sans Soleil Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Blu-ray in February: Marker, Gosha, Dunham, Fassbinder,... - November 15, 2011
The Criterion Collection has posted their full roster of Blu-ray releases for February 2012. Titles include Chris Marker's La Jetée & Sans Soleil, Hideo Gosha's Three Outlaw Samurai, Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's World on a Wire, Otto ...
La Jetée / Sans Soleil Blu-ray Screenshots
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