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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New video interview with filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin
  • Chris on Chris, a video piece on Marker by filmmaker and critic Chris Darke
  • Two excerpts from the French TV series Court-circuit (le magazine), directed by Luc Lagier: the first, a look at David Bowie's music video for "Jump They Say," inspired by La Jetée; the second, an analysis of Hitchcock's Vertigo and its influences on Marker

La Jetee / Sans Soleil


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Chris Marker
1963 | 90 Minutes

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #387
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: June 26, 2007
Review Date: February 25, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

One of the most influential, radical science-fiction films ever made and a mind-bending free-form travelogue, La Jetée and Sans Soleil couldn't seem more different-yet they're the twin pillars of one of the most daring and uncompromising careers in cinema history. Chris Marker, filmmaker, poet, novelist, photographer, editor, and now videographer and digital multimedia artist, has been challenging moviegoers, philosophers, and himself for years with his complex queries about time, memory, and the rapid advancement of life on this planet. These two films-a tale of time travel told in still images and a journey to Africa and Japan-remain his best-loved and most widely seen.

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PICTURE

Chris Marker’s La Jetée and Sans Soleil come to DVD from Criterion, both presented on a single-sided, dual-layer disc in their original aspect ratios of about 1.66:1 and enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Visually the two are very different and one has translated a little better to DVD than the other. Of the two La Jetée looks the best, though it could be because other than one moment it’s primarily composed of still shots and doesn’t offer much that would be stressful for the format. Because of this there aren’t many quick movements and the image remains clean and stable. Blacks are nice and deep, and contrast looks spot on. Compression noise is minimal and the picture stays sharp. Overall it’s still a rather solid looking image.

Sans Soleil on the other hand is a bit of a mess, which is a shame since it’s visually the more interesting of the two. Part of it could be the fact the film was made up from different sources and the conditions of the material are not prime. However while yes the image is very grainy, has scratches, stray hairs, and other imperfections, the transfer is incredibly noisy with some severely crushed blacks. Blown up and upscaled it’s still a bit of a mess and a little aggravating. The newer Blu-ray edition suffers from the same issue, though not to such an extreme degree (this leads me to believe both the DVD and Blu-ray come from the same high-definition master.) Part of the problem with the noise is the fact the transfer just can’t handle the film’s grain level. It looks like some clean-up has gone on but it’s still a distracting issue that does hamper the image.

La Jetée: 7/10, Sans Soleil: 5/10, Overall: 6/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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La Jetée

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La Jetée

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La Jetée

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La Jetée

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La Jetée

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Sans Soleil

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Sans Soleil

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Sans Soleil

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Sans Soleil

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Sans Soleil

AUDIO

Both films receive English and French Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks. The French track plays with English subtitles while the English track has option English subtitles for the hard of hearing. Both tracks do differ from one another in terms of synching and dialogue. Marker apparently prefers the viewer to watch the film in the language they primarily speak.

In all the tracks are a bit flat and have no fidelity, but they’re easy to hear and serviceable. The tracks are clear, free of distortion, and don’t contain any noticeable background noise.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This was originally supposed to be a two-disc set but somehow got compressed down to a single-disc release, which leads me to suspect more material was to be supplied since what we get here fits without issue on one disc. The material we get is fine but offers very little insight into the reclusive director and his work.

When you first pop the disc in you’re greeted with a title menu where you select which film’s menu you wish to go to. La Jetée’s menu structure is more streamlined and this film features a number of supplements, starting with a collection of musings, I guess you could say, from director Jean-Pierre Gorin. In what may be one of the more abstract “interview” segments I’ve come across Gorin covers various topics about Marker’s work, his style, his personality, what others thought of him, the themes found within his work and whatever I guess enters his mind. This is not a straightforward interview at all, and is basically a collection of random thoughts divided into nine sections.

The menu structure for this feature presents each topic (or “Zone” as they’re called in the menu notes) scattered across the menu screen, suggesting you can watch these in any order you wish. There is no “Play All” option. The new Blu-ray edition doesn’t replicate this menu and actually presents the clips in a more streamlined fashion with the option to “Play All.” Each clip runs 2-4 minutes.

Chris On Chris is a 10-minute piece on Marker by Chris Drake, who looks at various aspects of the director’s work, including La Jetée, his interactive CD-ROM “Inmemory”, and his documentary AK made while Akira Kurosawa filmed Ran. Director Michael Shamberg talks about how Marker helped him with the effects for his (one) film Souvenir, and Terry Gilliam even shows up to talk about the editing of La Jetée. Short but decent enough and it’s nice getting Gilliam talking about the film.

On Vertigo is a 9-minute excerpt from an episode of the French television program Court-circuit. The segment, narrated by one of the driest Frenchmen ever, talks about La Jetée and its homage to film, Vertigo in particular, even pointing out similar sequences and compositions (Marker was apparently fascinated by Hitchcock’s film and saw it numerous times.) There’s also a less-than-2-minute segment from possibly the same episode of Court-circuit (I don’t know for sure) which looks at how the film influenced David Bowie’s “Jump They Say” music video. I was hoping for the actual music video but we only get clips from it as the features compares sequences between the video and the film.

Sans Soleil’s menu is scattered a bit more but presents only one supplement, an actual, straightforward interview with Jean-Pierre Gorin. The 18-minute segment features Gorin talking more personally about Marker, including when he first met him, and he talks about many sequences from Sans Soleil and his work in general. As to why Criterion decided to split the interviews the way they did I don’t know but it’s a strong inclusion and worth watching.

It’s a disappointing collection of material but Criterion’s rather thick booklet contains some great material and makes up for some of the slack. It starts out with an essay by Catherine Lupton about Marker, his career, and his work over the years. There’s also some writings by Marker, including a piece on what led to La Jetée and then another on Sans Soleil. He also includes a piece he found written by Catherine and Andrew Brighton for a screening of La Jetée. We then get some notes on the people involved with Sans Soleil and then a reprint of an interview with the director that was made around the time of the French DVD release of Sans Soleil and La Jetée in 2003. This is particularly great since Marker is incredibly private and the rest of this release, even the Gorin interviews, does next to nothing to help flesh out the man any better (though since this edition was approved by the director, or at least by his cat Guillaume, that’s probably how he likes it.) He talks about the various media he’s worked with, talks about DVD and home video, cable, and even his high regard for Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, not buying it when people tell him they prefer La Jetée to Gilliam’s homage/remake. The man seems surprisingly open and gives clear, concise answers, making it possibly the best aspect of this release’s special features.

In the end we get some fine stuff but it’s still a disappointing set of supplements, which barely delves into the mysterious director’s work. Heck, it barely delves much into these two films. Having said that, though, the material is at least worth viewing.

5/10

CLOSING

An underwhelming release for sure. The supplements are fine but lack much insight, and the transfers are a mixed bag, Sans Soleil looking a bit messy.


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