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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

La Jetée (The Jetty) - 1962

La Jetée is a French short directed by Chris Marker in 1962, Marker was a prominent member of the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) movement which itself was part of the much more influential French New Wave.

I am not sure whether to call this work a "film" or not, as it is instead composed entirely of still photos, except for one scene for which Marker had managed to rent a camera for an afternoon.
So many things are peculiar about this work. The fact that there is no dialogue, the story is told entirely through voice-over, the aforementioned fact that it is almost entirely composed of stills and of course the strange yet compelling Science Fiction story.

Of course with such a film as this the quality of the still photographs is decisive. Luckily the photo's are excellent, each one perfectly captures the action and the scene the director is trying to express.

The story is a blend of Romance and Time travel set in a Post Apocalyptic Paris in which the surviving population must dwell under the surface.
All this might sound like in belongs in a film of a far bigger budget and a longer length (for Le Jetee is only 28 minutes long). But I can assure you that this short film, with it's still photo's and voice-over, makes for one of the most interesting Science Fiction concepts and for a film that is far more intelligent and moving than an average modern Blockbuster.

The concept was simply fascinating and incredibly imaginative. Although this was the first work by Chris Marker I had seen he instantly gained my respect and admiration for producing something so intelligent and intriguing on such limited means.
Time travel is a complex subject and films often attempt to base their plots around it but the majority fail, for either they become too complex and caught up in the various explanations that they forget about the characters and their emotions, either they are overly simple and while entertaining aren't really very thought provoking and don't bring anything new to the subject.
This film however strikes the perfect balance between the Time Travel side of the story an the Human side of the story.

The little I can say about the technical side of this work is overwhelmingly positive, the music was perfect for the horrifying and awe inspiring images of post-apocalyptic Paris, each photograph was of remarkable quality and the transitions between photo's were very inventive.

Well I can't think of much more too say about this rather unique work. One can hardly praise the acting or the direction... And I wouldn't want to give too much of the story away, so I think I'll leave it at that.
La Jetee is highly recommended, it is simply one of the finest short films I've ever seen. Twelve Monkey's is also recommended although the brilliance of La Jetee is somewhat diluted, but it's still there.

Click here for a link to the first part on Youtube (great quality!!)

This short review is somewhat of a prelude to my next (and considerably longer) review. It will also deal with a Science Fiction film and just might be my most ambitious review to date...


  1. I really enjoyed your review. Interesting piece of cinema.

  2. thanks Mitch, and I'm glad to see you started a blog, I'll be reading your future reviews!
    Don't forget to follow my blog for I appreciate your comments :)

  3. I saw part of the subtitled youtube which was of poor quality and loved the horrifying visions along with the choral music. It's a film I want to see and trying to get a better print. A short film can be so effective! Thanks for introducing this and the straight forward review.

  4. Thanks Rana,

    I don't think it's the easiest thing to get hold of, but it's worth finding.
    It's extremely simply done but then it's so much more complex and thought provoking than most full length films these days...

    Well I hope you find it!
    Another film by Chris Marker which I thought was extremely interesting was A.K., a film focusing on the director Akira Kurosawa while he was directing Ran, it's a fascinating insight into how he worked...

  5. I managed to see the film in an excellent print and that too with English audio. It is certainly a film with weird beauty. The technique of using only stills and voice-over is an inspired idea since movements and dialog could have added nothing. It is responsible for the suggestive and compressed quality of the film.

    It reminded me of another famous French movie you may have seen-Alan Resnais'"Last Year at Marienbad". This also used voice-over to achieve a kind of mesmeric melancholy. This was in draft form o my blog but I'm bringing it out.

  6. Nice. Don't think I'll ever be able to get myself to watch it though lol.

  7. @S.M. Rana
    Glad you saw it and enjoyed it, have you seen Gilliam's "Twelve Monkey's", because it contains many similarities with this film...
    I would recommend it, if you haven't seen it already.

    I haven't seen "Last Year In Marienbad" but it does sound intriguing, I was just reading about it a bit on wiki and I'm definitely going to watch it, thanks Rana, I probably wouldn't have come across it if it wasn't for you!

    Why not, it's a masterful short film, you'd be missing out on something amazing if you skipped it...

  8. Just goes to show that sometimes brevity is the key to success and quality. That was one of the reasons that "La Jetee" worked so well...there was not a single wasted frame. Modern day filmmakers could learn from it.

  9. Nathanael, I agree, nothing feels out of place or irrelevant to the story, very well done...

  10. By the way, you want to be a director, too? So do I! Maybe one day we will see each other at Cannes...

  11. We surely will!
    Although not at the Oscars, since I've decided to turn down any I might receive, I agree with George C Scott and Marlon Brando, they are corrupt and meaningless... but Cannes is another matter, so are the other festivals like The Berlin or The Venice...

    BTW which film school have you decided on? I have no idea which one to consider at the moment, I mean I could go to one in France or in the UK, but I've still got quite a few years ahead of me...

  12. First off...don't insult the Oscars...those are fighting words!!!

    ;) number one choice is New York University Tisch. It's the film school where Scorsese, Stone, and the Coen Brothers attended.

  13. Well, it surely sounds like a prestigious film school, I'm sure you'll get in though, how could they turn down someone so knowledgeable in Cinema!

    Good luck!

  14. This film is available on Netflix instant watch and on my short list. 12 Monkeys is one of my all time favorite movies so naturally I need to see it. Great review as always amigo.

  15. thanks Bradley, and thanks for checking out my blog!