This is what happens when your car breaks down on a Sunday morning and you have nothing else to do…
"He wrote me..." A woman narrates the thoughts of a world traveler, meditations on time and memory expressed in words and images from places as far-flung as Japan, Guinea-Bissau, Iceland, and San Francisco.
The first image he told me about was of three children on a road in Iceland, in 1965.
On my imaginary shelf of favorites Sans Soleil had always sat slightly out of view, clandestinely lingering in the shadows behind the other cinematic behemoths that had crafted the loftiest statures in my mind. It sat in an indeterminable repose as I time and time again avoided re-watching it, every time hesitating, wondering if this was truly the film I once had thought it to be. Being intimidated by my own inner-circle is just the kind of business I'm in, and baby, business is a-boomin'. Now, after a multitude of revisits, looking back on my imaginary shelf there are still those that…
When it comes to movies these days I really am spoiled by so little want. I mean, it's just so easy to get hold of most things, even if one has to resort to torrent sites like karagarga or other more obscure avenues. Rewatching Sans Soleil reminded me of when I would make almost daily trips to the library in downtown San Francisco and bring home anything on DVD or VHS that looked interesting or that I'd heard about from friends on livejournal or whatever, often browsing a selection of the same old titles, yet anxious to see if perhaps anything new had been returned and not already picked out by another in the constantly ravenous swarm of movie fiends.…
Like any decently-educated cinephile, I was saddened at the passing of filmmaker Chris Marker in 2012. Having only seen La jetee by that time, I grieved based on how insanely original I found that film to be, and it further inspired me to seek out his other work to pay tribute. Well, as all of us cinephiles who vow to watch a canonical filmmaker's filmography can most likely sympathize, things in my life got in the way and that idea was derailed, replaced by other distractions or duties.
It wasn't until I purchased the discounted Criterion Blu-ray containing Marker's two greatest works that my goal was reinstated. I watched La jetee again, loving it even more, and then I moved…
"History throws its empty bottles out the window."
There are few if any avant garde films out there that are as funny and beautiful as this one. This is simply put one of the best film ever made. A fascinating study of memory, life and beauty. The scenes from Iceland were filmed in my hometown, Vestmannaeyjar (Heimaey), and stand here as the image of beauty. Japan is the place of future, the sci fi part of it. Africa is our origin. The world is a timeline, an emotional map and it's on display in this masterpiece.
There is no way I can write a review of this film. Any attempt is futile so these words will have to stand as an invitation to an experience. They in no way reflect the sun. They are in fact Sans Soleil - sunless. The film however is not.
"Who remembers all that? History throws its empty bottles out the window." ~ Narrator
This Chris Marker documentary has been called an "experimental essay-film." It takes the form of a personal travelogue, bringing together images from Japan and Guinea-Bissau, "two extreme poles of survival," along with scenes from Iceland, Cape Verde, Paris and San Francisco. The only discernible thread linking such diverse places is the mind and memory of the writer-director.
An ongoing narration gives meaning to the visual presentation in the form of supposed letters written by a male traveler -- a fictitious cameraman named Sandor Krasna. The letters are read by a female narrator -- Florence Delay in French or Alexandra Stewart in English -- and they address…
#69 — Sight & Sound's 2012 Critics Poll
From my ongoing quest to see all the Sight & Sound films...
Chris Marker's Sans Soleil is a strange and strangely satisfying documentary (of sorts) that focuses much of its attention on the minutiae of life in Japan as described in letters (of unknown provenance) read aloud by a woman with scrupulous diction. (Perhaps the one and only change I'd make in this curiosity of a film is replacing that narrator, as she tends to inflect even the most neutral-seeming ruminations with a smidgeon of haughtiness.)
The literal subjects (Japan and Africa and—to a lesser extent—San Francisco, Iceland, and elsewhere) are ostensible; Marker merely prefers these experiential data as a means of discussing memory…
I took the measure of the unbearable vanity of the West, that has never ceased to privilege being over non-being, what is spoken to what is left unsaid.
Chris Marker's Sans Soleil is, with a second viewing, less foreign, less incomprehensible. Holistically I am still far from 'there', but in the writing, oh God, in the writing how wholly beautiful. I am once more moved to passivity; one day I will return with more words.
Chris Marker's essay/documentary film SANS SOLEIL mystified me as much as his 1962 landmark LA JETEE, but in perhaps a much more confused state. The film juxtaposes images of a post-WWII Japan and a war-torn Guinea-Bissau. Marker intends an experiential viewing with SANS SOLEIL. Images of Japanese cat temples, bloody civil war in Guinea-Bissau, and one of the film's more memorable three Icelandic children walking near an Icelandic road.
An off-setting aspect of this film is perhaps the narration by Alexandra Stewart (English) or the other three language versions for that matter. Stewart recites introspection from Marker himself, describing some of the images like the idea of transcending the image with "The Zone" named after Andrei Tarkovsky's very setting in STALKER. The voice, however, maybe detracts from the image sometimes, but the overall experimental aesthetics makes up for the vocal distractions.
A film for the eyes... a film for the soul.
This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
I would probably never have come into contact with this film had I not been in a film studies class titled "The Essay Film." It is a stream of consciousness type experience with fleeting images and monotonous narration that feels like it is way too intelligent to understand. I felt like I was in a constant battle of trying to analyze while trying not to miss out on crucial information. I couldn't determine what was more important, the images or the audio.
We went into deep discussion on this film in class. It is a study of memory and time and how to relate those things using the medium of film. It is such a "film studies" type film that…
It reminded me formally of the motion poem Un homme qui dort in the incessant monotone soliloquy that can drive you crazy or just plain stop caring after an hour or two.
However in the content I have to disagree with the consensus that it is a heartfelt meditation on human nature, I found it more of a typical late-20th century French (or otherwise western) elitist voice trying to make sense of the world by viewing it through the reflection of its own worldview / perspective, like somehow it doesn't make sense unless it is digested and appropriated by its own spirit (in the Hegelian sense).
A -hopefully- archaic ethnocentric appreciation of other people's cultures, needs, expectations, future, past, relevance...
Some days the swell drowns you under. Other days you surf. Water's still wet.
Though it functions as a spiritual successor to HIROSHIMA MON AMOR, Chris Marker’s egoless 1983 essay film/documentary SANS SOLEIL is inferred not by a single significant tragedy, but by the numbness accrued by hundreds of tragedies globally, separated by time, and distorted by the degradation of memory. The film operates much like Resnais’ works as if it were being recalled to the viewer, images, words, and sounds lucidly expressed amidst a backdrop of sweeping ethereality. There are hundreds, if not thousands of indelible images here, chronicling an journey through letters, and the collage effect of editing together so many disparate ideas and visions into a cohesive assemblage. The film adopts a post-humanist perspective, viewing and interpreting bodies, movement, and women…
I didn’t love a lot of movies in 1983 (Videodrome and the King of Comedy being 2 notable exceptions), but damn, did I love this one. San Soleil is Chris Marker's thought provoking reflection on memory, and how it colors our perceptions of time and history. I found it evocative, endlessly fascinating and beautifully scripted (I was as captivated by the language of these faux letters, as I am the lyrics of a Bob Dylan song). As a bonus it includes some interesting observations on Hitchcock’s Vertigo (a favorite of mine).
Soleil ranked 3rd in BFI's Sight & Sound critics poll of the greatest documentaries of all time (behind Man With a Movie Camera and Shoah). A well deserved honor.
bridging the anthropologies of two cultures with reflective reportage based in free association, memories and dreams flow through one another as humanity takes on its daily rites, almost too personal yet intellectually stimulating
Movies that are slightly off.