Calling Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (1983) a documentary—or alternatively a travelogue—is deceptive, though it qualifies as both, after a fashion. It might be more correct to call it an essay film, but even that is tricky, since the filmmaker distances himself from how the proceedings evoke his impressions about the things he sees by presenting them as letters written by a “Sandor Krasna” being read by a woman. Marker keeps himself at bay throughout, yet it’s clearly him. As the mysterious Krasna notes at one point, “We do not remember. We rewrite memory much as history is rewritten,” and that seems to be the core of the film and its approach. It sometimes goes further since the San Francisco that filmmaker wants is less the reality than it is the San Francisco of Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). Whether or not it completely works will depend on the viewer’s taste for experimental/non-narrative film, but it’s never less than fascinating.
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