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Summary: Earth lies in ruin after a nuclear war. The few surviving humans begin researching time travel, hoping to send someone back to the pre-war world for food, supplies and maybe a solution to their dire position. One man is haunted by a vague childhood memory that will prove fateful. (imdb)
The film being made up almost entirely of still images is most definitely not a simple gimmick but is essential to the film's effect as it both makes what you see seem either like something out of a memory or seem disorientating depending on the context of the scene. Beats out the later adaptation of La Jetee, Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys, with Marker's film being more ambitious, audacious, beautiful, captivating, thought-provoking and dreamlike.
In this exceedingly beautiful film the origins of cinema as a theatrical form is inverted; photograph to photograph are displayed belying the cinematic nature of motion, deceptively destroying the incantation of matter. Time is imprisoned in vials of amber as the finality of each somber image sets its last course. If there ever was a filmmaker who thoroughly imbued the spirit of auteur theory in every facet it would be Marker. Words cannot even begin to express the anguish of this visual poetry.
La Jetée as a movie is one of the most interesting I’ve encountered. Virtually the whole movie involves narrating still shots. While this sounds like a glorified slideshow, its anything but. The pacing is magnificent. The mood created is truly immersive. In a truly astounding feat, Marker traps the viewer in this "slide show" mentality, and then, as the movie is discussing whether the character can decipher what’s real or not, he pulls the run out from under us.
This is the only time-traveling movie that makes sense, and a perfect fusion of form and function. Probably a perfect film (and a film almost entirely without motion! So much for that definition...). Blows my mind with every viewing.
Although I found it very difficult to get used to the slide-show style of the film, I must admit that in terms of executing the story, the filmmakers did a very respectable amount with very little. A fascinating precursor to 12 Monkeys that any fan of that movie should check out.