La jetée (1962)

People generally tend to watch certain films because of specific individuals in them. Yes, even I do this. And I imagine that, quite often, they do so because they’ve got the hots for that person. So it is with me and Chris Marker’s La jetée, because I’m weird like that. For whatever reason I found myself having a bit of a thing for Helene Chatelain, the woman in the film, after seeing one of the stills from it in an issue of Sight & Sound a very long time ago. I can’t really explain why, and to be honest I’m not even sure she’s particularly attractive, but I do find her awfully interesting to look at. The same, of course, is obviously true of the film itself, one of the most singular ever made; technically, of course, all films are “made” of still images, Marker just takes that to an extreme of sorts… but where I said the other day I might’ve liked Méditerranée as a photo book, I can’t quite imagine this working that way (even though I know it was published as one). You still need the sounds, the music and the whispered voices (which I never realised until tonight were speaking German, giving the film an even more ominous cast presumably meant to suggest the losers of the first two world wars would eventually win the third—that must’ve cheered French audiences in 1962, not 20 years since they were liberated from German occupation). There are many interesting things about the film—the Criterion DVD offers an excerpt of a French series looking at how the film relates to Hitchcock’s Vertigo—but for me one of the most fascinating things is how, during the film’s rather abstract experiments in time travel, the man travels forward in time to when the world has been rebuilt. La jetée is unusual in many ways, but it’s an extremely unusual post-apocalypse fantasy indeed that indicates civilisation actually does survive nuclear holocaust, and even improves on its pre-atomic state…

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