Sans Soleil Screen 95 of 11 reviews

Sans Soleil

1983

Sans Soleil Poster
  • A further advantage gained from this mediation is Marker’s chameleon-like capacity to shift certain national characteristics as he moves from one culture to another. All proportions guarded, one might suggest that he typically comes across as a European Marxist in Africa, as an American obsessed with technology and technical innovation in Japan, and as a French surrealist in the U.S.—always a naturalized tourist of some sort rather than either a citizen or a greenhorn.

  • In these three arbitrary locations, we are presented with a past and future humanity trapped in a global simultaneity: one of ceremony, technology, melancholy, and revolution... Released in 1983 but "dated" only by the spectacular, well-documented use of an analog video synthesizer presumably "lost" to a history whose existence we can no longer accept, SANS SOLEIL will always be the film of the future.

  • It stands as a model of the essay film... A female narrator reads from letters written by a world traveler, whose free-associative comments can leap from a minor cultural observation (like mating habits on the Bijagós Islands) to video games to the Khmer Rouge. It's an arch, difficult film, as fuzzily intellectual as "La Jetée" is precise, but worth getting lost in all the same.

  • Marker sees the very act of communication as a shared and mutual process—not a one-way street as it is with most fictional directors, imposing their personal mise-en-scène on us as a kind of stamp of authenticity. Splitting himself into several voices and personae invites not only a dialogue between them all but also a conversation between all of them and us.

  • Material and metaphor: the Zone is both an active transformation and intervention into the image and a representation of the operations of time—a relentless process to which Marker blissfully consigns his own images at the end of the film.

  • It's a film that can't simply be watched to be fully appreciated; it must be rewatched and reworked in the viewer's mind. I must have seen it 20 times in the past 20 years, but watching it again last week, I was knocked out afresh by the trippy prescience of its sound design; moaning metal in the distance behind a Tokyoscape of "pictures larger than people," computer burbles beneath percussion racket from a Cape Verdean street parade, and occasional shards of angular ambience.

  • It is this transcendence beyond linear and finite physical existence that is evoked in the idyllic, bookend image of the three children holding hands as they travel down a road in Iceland in 1965 - a favorite footage that Krasna acknowledges he cannot "link" to other images and therefore presents apart from the other images contained in the film - now visually resolved and interconnected within the circular, iterative plane of the viewer's created and experienced memory.

  • The Proustian film par excellence... (Among many other things, SANS SOLEIL is perhaps the best outsider's view of Japan in all of cinema.) With references to Tarkovsky (the Zone) and Marker's own LA JETÉE, SANS SOLEIL suggests that fixing an image on film is part of the quest for the "perfection of memory."

  • Trying to remember Chris Marker's Sans Soleil after seeing it for the first time, a viewer might recall nothing but how he feels at the end—dazed and excited, overwhelmed by a smooth, rapid flow of images and ideas. Or he might recall only vivid, random moments.

  • At 100 minutes, Sans Soleil is too dense to easily assimilate on a single viewing but, as Marker's surrogate says of Japanese TV, "not understanding adds to the pleasure." Taking its somber title from a Mussorgsky song-cycle, the film's structure is lyrically free-associational. Sans Soleil's images are often superb—its Tokyo is a comicbook futuropolis more startling than Blade Runner's—but it's the flow of language that binds together the film's disparate vignettes.

  • Succeeded in getting more out of this the second time, though I'm down with Vincent Canby to some extent when he suggests that Marker has merely fashioned a flimsy clothesline upon which to string the edited highlights of years of vacation footage. (Simile mine.) Knowing that the voiceover text is in fact Marker filtered through fictional intermediaries made me note its similarity to Varda's eclectic essays, though I still prefer a bit more focus than we get here.

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