Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chris Marker's La Jetée

I teach the Freshman Seminar course in the photography program at Parsons The New School for Design. The course serves to give incoming students both a technical and conceptual overview of all things photography and a foundation of knowledge that they can build on throughout the rest of their time in the program. Each year one of the first things I do is show the students the 1962 science fiction film La Jetée by Chris Marker.

La Jetée is set in a post-nuclear war Paris and focuses on a group of survivors living underground as they experiment with time travel. It was produced with minimal budget, has no dialogue, and was constructed almost entirely from black and white still photographs. It would seem an odd choice to introduce students to the world of photography, but it is simply one of the most stunning and important visual statements made in the last hundred years.

If you have not seen the film, you must. You can watch it below in three parts (it's only 28 minutes long).

In 1996 MIT Press produced a book of images from La Jetée. That book is now out of print, but this year Zone Books reissued La Jetée in all its glory. The book includes all of the film's original images along with the script in both English and French. You can buy a copy here.
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