Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sans Soleil

The original French version of Sans Soleil opens with the following quotation by Jean Racine from his tragedy Bajazet (1672):

"L'Éloignement des pays répare en quelque sorte la trop grande proximité des temps." (The distance between countries compensates somewhat for the excessive closeness of time.)

This quote was replaced with the following one by T. S. Eliot from Ash Wednesday (1930) for the English version of the film:

"Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place".

Sandor Krasna sends the simply voiced woman letters. She shares them over the span of the movie. One part reads: I was in Nara with the sacred deers. I was taking a picture without knowing that in the 15th century Basho had written: “The willow sees the heron's image... upside down.”

Chris Marker, the director, lives in Paris and does not grant interviews. Less than a dozen photographs of Marker exist. When asked for a picture of himself, he usually offers a photograph of a cat instead. His cat is named Guillaume-en-Egypte.

In the 2007 Criterion Collection release of La Jetée and Sans Soleil, Marker included a short essay entitled "Working on a shoestring budget". He confessed to shooting all of Sans Soleil with a silent film camera and recording all the audio on a primitive audio cassette recorder. Marker also reminds the reader that only one short scene in La Jetée is of a moving image, only being able to borrow a movie camera for one afternoon while working on the film.

From a rare interview originally published in Libération, March 5, 2003 by Samuel Douhaire and Annick Rivoire:

Why have you agreed to the release of some of your films on DVD, and how did you make the choice?

Twenty years separate La Jetée from Sans Soleil. And another 20 years separate Sans Soleil from the present. Under the circumstances, if I were to speak in the name of the person who made these movies it would no longer be an interview but a séance. In fact, I don't think I either chose or accepted: somebody talked about it, and it got done. That there was a certain relationship between these two films was something I was aware of but didn't think I needed to explain - until I found a small anonymous note published in a program in Tokyo that said, "Soon the voyage will be at an end. It's only then that we will know if the juxtaposition of images makes any sense. We will understand that we have prayed with film, as one must on a pilgrimage, each time we have been in the presence of death: in the cat cemetery, standing in front of the dead giraffe, with the kamikazes at the moment of take-off, in front of the guerillas killed in the war for independence. In La Jetée, the foolhardy experiment to look into the future ends in death. By treating the same subject 20 years later, Marker has overcome death by prayer." When you read that, written by someone you don't know, who knows nothing of how the films came to be, you feel a certain emotion. "Something" has happened.

What do you think of DVD?

Godard nailed it once and for all: at the cinema, you raise your eyes to the screen; in front of the television, you lower them. Then there is the role of the shutter. Out of the two hours you spend in a movie theater, you spend one of them in the dark. It's this nocturnal portion that stays with us, that fixes our memory of a film in a different way than the same film seen on television or on a monitor.


Greg said...

Marker is brilliant and a true enigmatic, such a rare creature in our modern world.

theFstopshere said...

this is a wonderful dvd (la jetee/sans soleil)
appears i did not read the enclosed essay as i've been wondering about that short section of moving images. it comes so unexpectedly.. it's shocking and yet, perfect.
thanks for clearing things up for me...