SANS SOLEIL (Sunless), Chris Marker, 1982.This is the greatest film I’ve ever seen, or probably ever will see, and I’m not qualified to talk about it so here are excerpts from a really brilliant essay on it by Catherine Lupton:”Sans Soleil is Marker’s tour de force as a cinematic essayist, all playful musings and meandering digressions, in which passing observations on such apparently banal subjects as pet cats and video games yield up profound insights into the big issues of twentieth-century civilization: history, memory, political power, the function of representation, ritual and time. The premise of Sans Soleil is a woman reading out letters from a globe-trotting cameraman, who we learn in the closing credits is named Sandor Krasna. Krasna is drawn especially to Japan and to the former Portuguese West African colonies of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau; he also visits Iceland, Île-de-France, and San Francisco, being obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo ….
In Sans Soleil, the avatar of [Marker’s] fascination with digital imagery is Krasna’s Japanese friend Hayao Yamaneko, who designs video games and, as a sideline, obsessively feeds film images into a synthesizer, so that they are transformed into flat, shifting fields of vivid, pixelated color. In treating images in this way, Yamaneko insists that they are literally marked with traces of the inexorable passage of time, and that memory continually fabricates new versions of past events to suit the immediate interests of the present. This holds a key to this intricately worked film’s central themes and obsessions. Marker has always been concerned in his work to probe what Krasna calls “the function of remembering,” both how memory serves to constitute an individual’s sense of self, and the public or collective process of forging an official version of history. Marker’s films abound with incisive interrogations of the multitude of experiences that get repressed or denied in the interest of manufacturing history and national identity, and in Sans Soleil we find the synthesized images used to show precisely aspects of Japanese culture that don’t officially exist: reasonable, anti-Imperial kamikaze pilots and the burakumin underclass, a vestige of the medieval caste system. What makes the treatment of memory in Sans Soleil so compelling, though, is that it is never merely the dry object of the essayist’s inquiry but the very impassioned dynamo of the film’s structure and unfolding. The film flits from one idea or visual association to another, and in it we can trace the habits of our own inner processes of recollection, which condense, displace, plunge us abruptly into forgotten recesses of our past. The fugitive allure of Sans Soleil’s images owes much to the feeling that they are something more than simply records of places and events in the world—they are things that have been cherished and remembered by somebody, because they have momentarily quickened the heart, like the list in Sei Shõnagon’s The Pillow Book that Krasna takes to his own heart while filming. Marker is alert to memory’s self-serving distortions, but even more so to our deep human need for memory as a form of protection, a shield that keeps at bay the losses imposed by time, forgetting, and forced obliteration, even as our emotional investment in a memory exists in a direct ratio to whatever absence brought it into being: “Memory is not the opposite of forgetting but its lining.” This is why Krasna cannot find a place for the delicately flickering image of three Icelandic children that opens Sans Soleil until their hometown is destroyed by a volcano. The poignancy of the image only stands out against the blackness, the annihilation, the absence of the sun. ”

SANS SOLEIL (Sunless), Chris Marker, 1982.

This is the greatest film I’ve ever seen, or probably ever will see, and I’m not qualified to talk about it so here are excerpts from a really brilliant essay on it by Catherine Lupton:

Sans Soleil is Marker’s tour de force as a cinematic essayist, all playful musings and meandering digressions, in which passing observations on such apparently banal subjects as pet cats and video games yield up profound insights into the big issues of twentieth-century civilization: history, memory, political power, the function of representation, ritual and time. The premise of Sans Soleil is a woman reading out letters from a globe-trotting cameraman, who we learn in the closing credits is named Sandor Krasna. Krasna is drawn especially to Japan and to the former Portuguese West African colonies of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau; he also visits Iceland, Île-de-France, and San Francisco, being obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo ….

In Sans Soleil, the avatar of [Marker’s] fascination with digital imagery is Krasna’s Japanese friend Hayao Yamaneko, who designs video games and, as a sideline, obsessively feeds film images into a synthesizer, so that they are transformed into flat, shifting fields of vivid, pixelated color. 

In treating images in this way, Yamaneko insists that they are literally marked with traces of the inexorable passage of time, and that memory continually fabricates new versions of past events to suit the immediate interests of the present. This holds a key to this intricately worked film’s central themes and obsessions. Marker has always been concerned in his work to probe what Krasna calls “the function of remembering,” both how memory serves to constitute an individual’s sense of self, and the public or collective process of forging an official version of history. Marker’s films abound with incisive interrogations of the multitude of experiences that get repressed or denied in the interest of manufacturing history and national identity, and in Sans Soleil we find the synthesized images used to show precisely aspects of Japanese culture that don’t officially exist: reasonable, anti-Imperial kamikaze pilots and the burakumin underclass, a vestige of the medieval caste system. 

What makes the treatment of memory in Sans Soleil so compelling, though, is that it is never merely the dry object of the essayist’s inquiry but the very impassioned dynamo of the film’s structure and unfolding. The film flits from one idea or visual association to another, and in it we can trace the habits of our own inner processes of recollection, which condense, displace, plunge us abruptly into forgotten recesses of our past. The fugitive allure of Sans Soleil’s images owes much to the feeling that they are something more than simply records of places and events in the world—they are things that have been cherished and remembered by somebody, because they have momentarily quickened the heart, like the list in Sei Shõnagon’s The Pillow Book that Krasna takes to his own heart while filming. Marker is alert to memory’s self-serving distortions, but even more so to our deep human need for memory as a form of protection, a shield that keeps at bay the losses imposed by time, forgetting, and forced obliteration, even as our emotional investment in a memory exists in a direct ratio to whatever absence brought it into being: “Memory is not the opposite of forgetting but its lining.” This is why Krasna cannot find a place for the delicately flickering image of three Icelandic children that opens Sans Soleil until their hometown is destroyed by a volcano. The poignancy of the image only stands out against the blackness, the annihilation, the absence of the sun. ”

SANS SOLEIL (Sunless), Chris Marker, 1982.

This is the greatest film I’ve ever seen, or probably ever will see, and I’m not qualified to talk about it so here are excerpts from a really brilliant essay on it by Catherine Lupton:

Sans Soleil is Marker’s tour de force as a cinematic essayist, all playful musings and meandering digressions, in which passing observations on such apparently banal subjects as pet cats and video games yield up profound insights into the big issues of twentieth-century civilization: history, memory, political power, the function of representation, ritual and time. The premise of Sans Soleil is a woman reading out letters from a globe-trotting cameraman, who we learn in the closing credits is named Sandor Krasna. Krasna is drawn especially to Japan and to the former Portuguese West African colonies of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau; he also visits Iceland, Île-de-France, and San Francisco, being obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo ….

In Sans Soleil, the avatar of [Marker’s] fascination with digital imagery is Krasna’s Japanese friend Hayao Yamaneko, who designs video games and, as a sideline, obsessively feeds film images into a synthesizer, so that they are transformed into flat, shifting fields of vivid, pixelated color. 

In treating images in this way, Yamaneko insists that they are literally marked with traces of the inexorable passage of time, and that memory continually fabricates new versions of past events to suit the immediate interests of the present. This holds a key to this intricately worked film’s central themes and obsessions. Marker has always been concerned in his work to probe what Krasna calls “the function of remembering,” both how memory serves to constitute an individual’s sense of self, and the public or collective process of forging an official version of history. Marker’s films abound with incisive interrogations of the multitude of experiences that get repressed or denied in the interest of manufacturing history and national identity, and in Sans Soleil we find the synthesized images used to show precisely aspects of Japanese culture that don’t officially exist: reasonable, anti-Imperial kamikaze pilots and the burakumin underclass, a vestige of the medieval caste system. 

What makes the treatment of memory in Sans Soleil so compelling, though, is that it is never merely the dry object of the essayist’s inquiry but the very impassioned dynamo of the film’s structure and unfolding. The film flits from one idea or visual association to another, and in it we can trace the habits of our own inner processes of recollection, which condense, displace, plunge us abruptly into forgotten recesses of our past. The fugitive allure of Sans Soleil’s images owes much to the feeling that they are something more than simply records of places and events in the world—they are things that have been cherished and remembered by somebody, because they have momentarily quickened the heart, like the list in Sei Shõnagon’s The Pillow Book that Krasna takes to his own heart while filming. Marker is alert to memory’s self-serving distortions, but even more so to our deep human need for memory as a form of protection, a shield that keeps at bay the losses imposed by time, forgetting, and forced obliteration, even as our emotional investment in a memory exists in a direct ratio to whatever absence brought it into being: “Memory is not the opposite of forgetting but its lining.” This is why Krasna cannot find a place for the delicately flickering image of three Icelandic children that opens Sans Soleil until their hometown is destroyed by a volcano. The poignancy of the image only stands out against the blackness, the annihilation, the absence of the sun. ”

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