Combustible Celluloid
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With: Alexandra Stewart
Written by: Chris Marker
Directed by: Chris Marker
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 100
Date: 02/01/1983

Sans Soleil (1983)

4 Stars (out of 4)

The Cat Comes Back

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

During his distinguished career, the 82 year-old Chris Marker has directed some 40-odd films and videos. Almost all of them fall under the category of "personal essay," and hardly any of them are easily available to see. These two masterworks -- the 1962 sci-fi short La Jetée and the 1983 feature Sans Soleil -- are the only ones reasonably well known in America.

The major influence on Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, La Jetée is made up almost entirely of still photographs that tell the futuristic story of a time traveler. The amazing Sans Soleil more or less documents a trip to Tokyo, focusing on small moments and rituals as well as agreements between subject and camera. The English-language narrator (Alexandra Stewart) drops in bits of universal wisdom from time to time, and virtually any five minutes of the film will astonish by themselves.

Taken together, Sans Soleil makes up a tapestry of memories that questions the entire nature of memory, while celebrating that of cinema. As a kind of bonus, one segment takes us to San Francisco and traces many of Hitchcock's Vertigo shooting locations. Both La Jetée and Sans Soleil are presented in new prints and are in English. The double-bill opens today at the Castro for a week's run.

The Criterion Collection released this double-bill on DVD in 2007, and a Blu-Ray in 2012.

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