DVD Review: La Jetee; Sans Soleil

The Criterion Collection
Movies •••• Picture •••• Sound •••• Extras ••
La Jetée (1962), Chris Marker's post-apocalyptic time-travel story told in 27 minutes of still photos, has lost none of its power to astonish. That power is only enhanced in this DVD transfer. The restored black-and-white images seem almost fathomless in their richness, depth, and contrast. The mix of sound effects and understated narration really gets under the skin, and the only audio flaws are one or two moments when the beautiful score comes close to overload.

Marker's feature-length Sans Soleil (1983) is more ambitious, a collage of images and narration contrasting impoverished Africa with all-too-modern Japan, and the mundane with the amazing. It's all unified by elaborate, instinctive cross-cutting and another complex soundtrack. The DVD transfer unashamedly preserves the graininess of the 16mm footage, as if to underscore that the images are unquestionably authentic; it's just our interpretation of them that should be examined. The sound reveals layer upon layer of location recording, studio effects, music, and narration, mixed into a compelling whole - all of it clean and clear.

Both films come with the choice of English or French narration; I find that the English works perfectly well. Extras include a new interview with filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin and a video piece on Marker by filmmaker and critic Chris Darke. More informative, though, are comments by Marker, an essay, and a rare interview with the elusive filmmaker included in the booklet accompanying the DVD. Both: [NR] French and English, Dolby Digital mono; letterboxed (1.66:1) and anamorphic widescreen; dual layer.

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