"La Jetée" (1962) Short Film | Sam Gall Movie Review Issue #50 Gem Mint 10.0

“La Jetée“ (1962)

Director: Chris Marker

Writer: Chris Marker

Starring: Davos Hanich, Hélène Châtelain, Jacques Ledoux, Jean Négroni

Rated: Not Rated. Contains some violence and frightening images

Runtime: 28min

Genre: Short, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction

Country: France

Language: French

The story of a man forced to explore his memories in the wake of World War III's devastation, told through still images.

You might like this if you like: "12 Monkeys" (1995), French films, French New Wave, experimental filmmaking, science fiction, thrillers, fantasy, romance, short films, paintings, photography, Christopher Nolan('s work like "Following"1998, "Memento" 2000, "Inception" 2010 or "Tenet" 2020)

Davos Hanich in "La Jetée" (1962)

I first heard about "La Jetée" (1962) from my friend, Simon Balderas, who mentioned it was a fun, experimental French film that was all told in pictures and was the base influence for "12 Monkeys" (1995) which I was more familiar with. I was sold. I was lucky enough to find a copy of the short film on YouTube (which I've shared below).

My first thought when I sat down and started the picture was that I was immediately reminded of how IMPORTANT sound can be. You're not necessarily used to 'sound effects' being incorporated so much when you go in expecting a 'slideshow'. They're used so well in this film you could easily close your eyes and see the pictures begin to move. Even visually, with editing, they somehow make you almost forget it's being told one image at a time.

"La Jetée" (1962)

A precursor to Nolan's work in many ways I felt. I loved how we got to explore the idea of memories; their vagueness, their meaning and how we give them meaning. How precious memories can be to people. The fact that it's all told in pictures all heightens the feeling of latching on to each moment (or image in this case). Each photograph is so refined looking. I'd frame every shot of this film. Each one tells so much. It's a deeply beautiful yet haunting look at humanity and memories for me.

I wasn't familiar with any of the people involved in making the film in front or behind the camera going in but fell in love with the leads played by Davos Hanich and Hélène Châtelain. So much was able to come through in their faces in the little time and lack of frames they were working with.

Davos Hanich & Hélène Châtelain in "La Jetée" (1962)

"12 Monkeys" (1995) is a drawn-out, expanded and explored version of "La Jetée" (1962). A 1990s story equivalent with wonderful additions like Brad Pitt's character 'Jeffrey Goines' and obvious changes here and there. For me, less was more in "La Jetée" (1962) and was inherently more powerful in its images. "12 Monkeys" (1995) feels so huge and expansive that it's almost overwhelming in comparison to the original 28 minute short. The heart of "12 Monkeys" (1995) for me is Bruce Willis' character enjoying the simple pleasures of the 90s that we often take for granted. Seeing how happy he is in the car listening to the radio as Madeleine Stowe is crying her eyes out trying not to freakout over the fact that he just kidnapped her is one of my favorite moments of the entire film. "12 Monkeys" (1995) also seems to explore the issues with time travel more than the preciousness of memories. I mean, it does the same stuff that "La Jetée" (1962) does but I felt the memory of Davos Hanich's love for Hélène Châtelain was the perfect embodiment of fondness for memories that "12 Monkeys" (1995) didn't have.

"La Jetée" (1962)

"La Jetée" (1962) is magnificent study of the past, present, future and how our memories influence each and every one of them. One picture at a time. It's a bittersweet thought being reminded that we can never really escape the present, the past is never as good as think it is, that in fact, we never really understood it in the first place. Check out the full short film for "La Jetée" (1962) below:

Written by Sam Gall on 09/17/20

"Operatic melodies and sensational orchestral music by Trevor Duncan make the film incredibly powerful, even at a mere 28 minutes in length." - Mike Massie, Gone With The Twins

"A brief experiment in film form, a bold challenge to the conventional wisdom of what constitutes cinema." - Matthew Lucas, From the Front Row

"Each black-and-white frame is striking, dynamic, surprising, and tragic; they mark you forever." - Adam Nayman, The Ringer

"It's a stirring, emotional film about the unique hold memories have over people's lives and how experiences themselves are fleeting." - Eric Melin, Scene-Stealers.com

CGC Grading: Gem Mint 10.0


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