La Jetée

Movie Information

Classic Cinema From Around the World will present La Jetee at 8 p.m. Friday, March 5, at Courtyard Gallery, 9 Walnut St., in downtown Asheville. Info: 273-3332.
Genre: Sci-Fi/Romance
Director: Chris Marker
Starring: Davos Hanich, Hélène Chatelain, Jacques Ledoux, Jean Négroni
Rated: NR

One of the great personal values for me about these World Cinema showings is that they often force me to actually watch movies I’ve been putting off for years—and for years I’ve been passively avoiding Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962). Why? Mostly, I think, because it’s been shoved at me as a “must see” by people a lot keener on Terry Gilliam’s expansion of it, Twelve Monkeys (1995), than I am. Now I’ve seen it—and if this oddity falls a little short of its legendary status, it doesn’t do so by much. And yes, at least as a weirdly influential cinematic dead end, it actually is a “must see.”

For those completely unfamiliar with La Jetée, it’s a 28-minute film that tells its story via a narration and a series of still photographs. That likely sounds a lot less interesting than it is. In its own way, it’s like looking at photos from a movie that doesn’t exist—and that’s strangely apt in this case. What better way to tell a story that in itself may not exist, but which is perhaps built on a memory of something that didn’t happen in the way the protagonist thought. Now, if all that sounds esoteric and vague, we’re talking about a movie that is esoteric and vague. It’s also one that could conceivably be spoiled by saying too much—and one that ought to be left to personal interpretation. This is the kind of movie that you discuss over coffee after seeing. Go to it knowing the approach and that it’s a post-WWIII tale, and let the rest just happen.

La Jetée is being shown with Marker’s 1983 documentary/travelogue Sans Soleil—a work that is, if anything, even less traditional than La Jetée, and probably less penetrable. The two films make for a very unusual evening at the movies, to say the least.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “La Jetée

  1. Me

    La Jetée is really great i still have never seen Sans Soleil so i might check this out.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.