5 Films That Make You Feel Smart

Sans Soleil (1983, Chris Marker)

Chris Marker is a filmmaker who even many film students haven’t even heard of, unless they paid close attention to Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys and noticed that it’s based on a short, experimental film by Marker called La Jetée. After making a series of radical political documentaries, in 1983 Marker made Sans Soleil, a film that defies simple explanation. Its literary equivalent might be travel writing. For the film, Marker compiled footage he shot in the ’60s, along with some footage shot by others, and ties the images together with a twenty page-long narration that takes the form of letters written by “Sandor Krasna,” a cinematographer, read by the narrator. It also includes some of the earlier examples of computer-manipulated video. Krasner globe-trots between Japan, Africa, France, and San Francisco. The letters deal with subjects ranging from videogames, Japanese culture, life, death, colonialism, time, memory, and the nature of cinema, among other things. Marker is as much a writer as a filmmaker with Sans Soleil, and makes observations like “I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember; we rewrite memory much as history is rewritten.”

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