CVII: Sans Soleil (Sunless, Chris Marker, 1983)
But let us talk about the audience. We pass over the old guy in the front row who fell asleep for the first half. We've all been there. No, the people that walked out - twelve or fourteen of them, even up to seventy minutes in. I get that it would not be everyone's cup of tea - in many ways I found it baffling - but after an hour you've surely figured it's not going to suddenly have dialogue and characterisation and a car chase (though in a weird way it does
have the latter, in a Vertigo
sort of way). It didn't even seem to be the killing of animals - which was disturbing - which triggered it. Marker's best known for La Jetee
- which is almost all still images with as I recall a brief exception - so surely anyone in would know it's avant garde and would have their Hiroshima Mon Amour
Anyway, there's no plot to speak of, so no spoiler cut. After a film that looks like a documentary (La Battaglia di Algeri
), a documentary that looks like a film. Sandor Krasna sends a woman (Florence Delay) letters recounting his thoughts on life in Japan, and to a lesser extent in Guinea, France, Iceland and the USA (especially San Francisco). He reflects on time and memory, and how people remember things if they don't photograph them. The film spirals around on itself - and, after the narrative of Vertigo
is retraced on the streets of San Francisco, it includes reflections of the Icelandic psychogeography of an unmade film, San Soleil
, set in the year 4001. Of course, you never quite know what is Krasna and what is the woman - and Krasna is at the very least standing in for Marker.
The title comes from a Mussorgsky composition I'm not familiar with, and presumably some of it is used in the film. Alongside stock footage, there is lots of 16mm material - which looks rather distressed despite it being a BFI print - and some computer enhanced footage, apparently filtered through the video equivalent of the Moog. None of the sound is synchronised, and it struck me that it's a mono mix.
Again, I can see it would be possible to have an allergic reaction to this Top 100
film, but it's fascinating, with its account of shrines to cats and to dogs, of mourning for pandas, of Marlon Brando's thoughts in Apocalypse Now
, on what survives on the ground of Vertigo
and of Iceland post volcanic eruptions. There's a fascinating Japanese game:
I saw these games born in Japan. I later met up with them again all over the world, but one detail was different. At the beginning the game was familiar: a kind of anti-ecological beating where the idea was to kill off—as soon as they showed the white of their eyes—creatures that were either prairie dogs or baby seals, I can't be sure which. Now here's the Japanese variation. Instead of the critters, there's some vaguely human heads identified by a label: at the top the chairman of the board, in front of him the vice president and the directors, in the front row the section heads and the personnel manager. The guy I filmed — who was smashing up the hierarchy with an enviable energy — confided in me that for him the game was not at all allegorical, that he was thinking very precisely of his superiors. No doubt that's why the puppet representing the personnel manager has been clubbed so often and so hard that it's out of commission, and why it had to be replaced again by a baby seal.
And then there's the fashion based on JFK, with a JFK simulacrum miming to a song about not asking what your country can do for you. And there's talk of Pacman taking over the world.
The text, by the by, is hereTotals: 107 (Cinema: 43; DVD: 59; TV: 5)