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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • French PCM 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

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Chris Marker
2011 | 130 Minutes | Licensor: Argos Films

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

Release Date: February 7, 2012
Review Date: February 5, 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.

Forum members rate this film 8.5/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Criterion presents two films from director Chris Marker, La Jetée and Sans Soleil, both in their original aspect ratios of 1.66:1 on a dual-layer disc in 1080p/24hz high-definition transfers.

It appears the same high-def transfers used for the DVD edition have also been used here and the upgrade offers a noticeable but not substantial upgrade. Of the two La Jetée looks the best. The film isn’t the most dynamic one, comprised primarily of black and white stills with very few camera movements, so it’s not going to test the limitations of the format, but the images are sharp and crisp, contrast is perfect with rich blacks and distinct gray levels, and film grain does remain intact and looks fairly clean when rendered.

Sans Soleil proves to be the more disappointing of the two. A colour film with quick edits, faster movements, and certainly more “action” in comparison, it should have probably blown away La Jetée, but the transfer itself is problematic. Colours are what they are but probably the best aspect of the transfer. They are dull in some cases but striking in others, either because of shooting conditions or stylistic choices. The moments where computer graphics are applied probably present the most striking colours. Blacks are on and off, sometimes looking deep and clean, and then crushed in another moment. But this is all fine and expected for the most part. What I couldn’t get past was the rendering of the film’s grain. The film is very grainy and can get heavy in parts, which is all fine, but it isn’t rendered well and it looks very noisy. It can be pixilated and blocky and looks more like compression noise than film grain. I can sometimes look over this (I was able to mostly for 12 Angry Men, though coming back to that one it does look worse than what I remember during my initial viewing) but I couldn’t here and found it a bit distracting. It’s still better than the DVD’s presentation, but I was expecting far better.

There are some minor flaws and imperfections across both films, about the same as what’s on the DVD, but nothing substantial, limited to some minor marks, some scratches and a stray hair here and there.

Both do offer improvements over their previous editions and La Jetée does look particularly good, but Sans Soleil is open to improvement. La Jetée: 8/10, Sans Soleil: 6/10, Overall: 7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed 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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Sans Soleil

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Sans Soleil

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Sans Soleil

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Sans Soleil

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AUDIO

Criterion presents two lossless linear PCM mono tracks for each film: an English one and a French one. Criterion’s notes state that Marker made both tracks and that he prefers one listens to it in their native language. What’s interesting is both tracks do differ in their narrations. The French tracks come with English subtitle translations while the English tracks come with subtitles for the hard-of-hearing.

All tracks are fine though not particularly impressive, limited maybe by the equipment possibly used to record the audio or by the age of the materials, La Jetée more so. Across all tracks for both films dialogue is at least clear and intelligible, but the voices are generally weak and sound effects lack fidelity. In all they’re fine enough but barely average.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The original DVD was supposed to be a bigger, two-disc set with more features but was reduced down to a single-disc edition leaving us with only a few items. It’s possible Marker, who apparently participated a great deal in the production of this DVD, had final say on what appeared on the disc and that’s why we get the little material we actually did. What’s even more disappointing is that the material doesn’t offer too much insight into the director or his work. I had some hope that maybe the Blu-ray might improve on this aspect even somewhat, but alas it’s basically a port of the DVD, except in one area.

The supplements are spread across the menus for each film. La Jetée’s supplements start with collection of musings, I guess you could say, with 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 Blu-ray presents it in a more linear manner in comparison to the DVD: the DVD’s menu laid out each topic (or “Zone”) across the screen and allowed you to watch each one individually in whatever order you wanted. The Blu-ray actually gives a “Play All” option but also allows you to select each segment through an index. The Blu-ray manages to take some of the fun out of the section since Criterion’s menus don’t allow the same type of creativity their DVD menus had. 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 supplements are only limited to two, starting with 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.

The section (and disc) then close with Junkopia, a 6-minute short made by Marker, Frank Simone, and John Chapman about driftwood sculptures that would appear at the Emeryville Mudflats and was shot while Marker was filming the Vertigo revisits for Sans Soleil. This is actually new to this release and was not available on the DVD (unless it was an Easter Egg that I never came across.)

It’s always been somewhat disappointing as to what we did get for this edition, but Criterion’s rather thick booklet, which looks to have been carried over in its entirety from the DVD edition, 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.

6/10

CLOSING

Like the DVD it leaves a little to be desired, and seems surprisingly sparse in its material about the director and his work. What’s most disappointing about the Blu-ray, though, are the transfers, which don’t offer too significant an upgrade, Sans Soleil coming off quite noisy. It’s nice to get these two films on Blu-ray but it’s not the release I would have hoped for.


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