In 1962, the French filmmaker/genius Chris Marker made two important films, La Jetée and Le Joli Mai. Both are about Paris, but one, La Jetée, is a work of science fiction, and the other, Le Joli Mai, is a documentary. The former is only 28 minutes long; the latter is a hefty 145 minutes. The former is composed of photographs; the other is shot on film. The former is about the death of the great city (nuclear war, rubble, radiation, rats, underground tunnels, fading memories, mad scientists); the latter is about the life of the city (ordinary people talking about their habits, politics, jobs, hopes, and dreams).
La Jetée is as pure as cinema can get—bold images, beautiful faces, moody music, a poetic but thrilling plot, and no fucking acting. In Le Joli Mai, we experience the moving image in its most ideal habitat, the urban. NWFF's Chris Marker's Revolutionary Cinema series opens with Le Joli Mai and then screens three other documentaries by the director, and one, To Chris Marker, An Unsent Letter, about the director, who was elusive and died last year at the age of 91. But Le Joli Mai must be seen with La Jetée, which can be found on the web but only in a quality that does great harm to its beauty. Chris Marker is the ghost of the French New Wave.
Chris Marker's Revolutionary Cinema runs Nov 22–25 at Northwest Film Forum. See nwfilmforum.org for full schedule.