Sans soleil (1983)

I think this is my second time watching this, and I’d forgotten how difficult it actually is. Which may or may not be at least slightly ironic considering we’re dealing with a film “about” memory. And when I say “difficult”, I fear I’m making it sound worse than it is, that there’s something aridly academic or something about it. And there isn’t, it’s a perfectly pleasurable (if you discount certain sequences of animal slaughter) piece of work, a fascinating collation of images, sounds, thoughts, etc. It doesn’t try to alienate the viewer or anything. It’s just that the film does what it does in an unconventional way, starting with the narration, which is Chris Marker hiding behind a fictional persona, with the actual narration text being read by another person altogether as letters from this other persona. Which is not the only way it screws with conventional documentary form, but it’s a start… Marker offers some complex ruminations about memory, and at one point he says something about how his filmed images have displaced his own memories of the things those images depict, the images have become his memories. One crucial aspect of the film is the business with the video synthesiser that electronically mutates the pictures fed into it; as the narration says, at least these fucked-with images have the decency to announce themselves as the images they are, unlike the images in the news, on the TV, maybe even Marker’s own. Which I suppose might lead us to consider the meaning(s) of those images, given what he also says about memory being rewritten just like history is rewritten… and I suppose this is the sense in which I describe Sans soleil as “difficult”, cos Marker’s technique doesn’t really make it easy to come up with concrete answers, which may not exist anyway. I liked it on first viewing about five years ago, I liked it tonight, but I think I really do need to see it again, and at intervals of less than five years. And probably not so late at night, too…

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