Sans Soleil (1983) Poster


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An amazement
cromwell-326 January 2000
I've only seen this film twice, both on the same day, nearly fifteen years ago; and yet its poetic-philosophical themes, its melancholy, its images still remain with me. Viewing it was an intensely personal experience; I find myself a little startled to find that other people have seen it. I find myself plagiarising it constantly; I think of it at odd times (when I accidentally catch someone's eyes and immediately look away; whenever I visit San Francisco); it is a work of lingering and subtle beauty that percolates through my bloodstream, informing the hours and days, changing the things and ways I see...
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In the entire history of cinema, there have been only two truly important, indispensible, founding films - this is one of them.
the red duchess31 October 2000
'Sans Soleil' opens with a ferry trip to Japan, with the camera peering at sleeping passengers. This is a perfect encapsulation of the film as a whole, a beautiful mixture of journey and dream. The film is ostensibly a documentary, that holier-than-thou genre convinced of its own superior truthfulness. And the film is full of documentary images, snapshots from the faraway places Marker visits, Japan, Africa, South America, San Francisco, Iceland, Paris. The film is full of the observations of the filmmaker about the cultures he observes.

But 'Sans Soleil' couldn't soar further from the prosaic ambitions of the documentary. Like the film it most resembles, Marker's own 'La Jetee', it is in fact a work of science fiction, as much about time travel as literal travel. Each place Marker visits is stripped of its familiarity, and made eerie, alien. Concrete images become springboards for dizzy philosophical speculations. The film moves with ease from the court of 11th century Imperial Japan to the revolutionary struggles in 1960s Africa to emus on the Ile de France to an interpretation of Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' to astrological rumination on a desert beach, and still remains thematically coherent and full of the most startling connections.

It is this structure that creates the feel of science fiction, the linking of seemingly disparate images, symbols, stories, experiences, places to create a strange pattern which emanates something spiritual, that seems to make sense of increasing chaos, dislocation, displacement. But we are constantly reminded that these are secular, man-made, ad-hoc, arbitrary constructions, as phantom as the relationship in 'La Jetee', but, similarly, a necessary construction to cover the abyss.

The distortion of the soundtrack, the mixture of silence and mooged classics; the computer visuals of Marker's friend, known as The Zone, which seep conventional, representational images and turn them into ghosts, traces, stripped of history, recognisability, humanity; the film's fictional framework (the narrative comprises letters to the narrator by the filmmaker, Sandor Krasna) all add to this unsettling science fiction appropriation of the documentary genre.

When the history of cinema comes to be written in centuries to come, there will really only be two films that will survive from its first century, films dense, supple, playful, renewable enough, and full of enough possibilities for future direction, to transcend the local, the generic, the pretentious, the narrative. One is that final gasp of modernist cinema, 'Vertigo'; the other is this epitome of post-modernity. in many ways, 'Sans Soleil' is a stunning exegisis on Hitchcock's masterpiece (which had only just been re-released after two-decades withdrawel), echoing its circular structure, its concern with time, memory, the elusiveness of history.

'Soleil' locates the crisis of post-modernity in Japan, that most modern of modern capitalist societies. With the curiosity of an anthropologist, the good humour of an essayist, and the eye for the unusual of a rare filmmaker, Marker gives us a Japan we rarely see, even in the country's own cinema; on the one hand a culture of startling modernity, leading the way in computers, technology, department stores etc., on the other full of residual traditions, rituals, superstitions, ceremonies, going back centuries. The co-existence of these two time-scales has resulted in a kind of blur, a temporal vacuum, whereby all sense of time and perspective is lost, where religious ceremonies for the souls of stray pets co-exist with state-of-the-art video games.

Japan is like a ship that has lost its anchor, where all time is the same, and therefore irrelevant, just as Scottie Ferguson wanders around dazed, in a loop of fantasy and distorted memory. Without history, memory, a culture ceases to be a culture and lays itself open to all sorts of vulnerability. But this lack of foundation ironically leads to a greater freedom, particularly of the mind, and the film, as it reaches its conclusion, becomes visionary and hallucinatory.

'Soleil' is anything but bleak - its stories, myths, cultural tidbits, observations are unfailingly entertaining and full of good humour. Krasna compares the overcultured, saturated Japan to the timeless emptiness of Africa, to the spooky otherworldliness of Iceland, as his 'objective' narrative becomes increasingly a personal odyssey that must be teased out from hints and ellipses. In its focusing on the minutae, the forgotten, the arcane, the ephemeral, the back alleys, the garbage, but suggesting that 'Soleil' is ultimately only one film out of a possible multitude made possible by new technologies, Marker's film is at once profoundly democratic yet exhilaratingly idiosyncratic; an apocalyptic vision teeming with life.
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re: pretentious claptrap
catchdog25 January 2009
A response to the reviewer who called the film pretentious claptrap: This movie is not for everyone and I can easily understand the sentiments of one who finds it pretentious. But when one says "Assumptions include that the east is superior to the west, television is bad, capitalism evil,etc." you are so thoroughly missing the point of the film that I have to wonder if you watched it out of the corner of your eye while doing a crossword puzzle. Perhaps one doesn't hear "Capitalism is good" and understands "capitalism is evil," but that all occurs within the viewer. I for one never saw any of these "assumptions" being made here.
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A film that can make earth seem like a strange and foreign planet
joeloh30 June 2005
A poetic and rambling essay film, in the form of a letter from a lost and lonely traveller. Chris Marker lets his mind and camera roam through the landscape of early eighties Japan, and his imagination drift across the world. Memory history and emotion blend into a loving study of human existence. The film's form is loose and sprawling and it it almost impossible to try to follow it in any linear fashion. Instead it washes across the surface of you conscious mind, occasionally burrowing deep with images you can never forget. It is a completely unique film and is inspiring in its ability to bring the political, the philosophical and the poetic together on screen. Chris Marker is one of the unsung greats of film history.
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This is not a documentary
carrienations8 February 2004
To call this film a documentary is to cheapen it. It's life on screen, not a mere document. It's poetry... and I'm not sure that word is adequate. How about your view of how you live and the world around you? Have you ever seen a film that gave you the questions to ask yourself? This film is startling... I can't praise it enough. My mind was exhausted by considering the layered imagery, both audio and visual, and the contextual shifts between them. How does anyone pick up a camera after seeing this? You might as well toss it in the trash because Marker has made Earth's last film.

It's a crime that this film is not available on VHS or DVD in the U.S. Fans of this film should also seek out "The Koumiko Mystery", another transcendant film by Chris Marker.
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Documentaries record the real; this is beyond 'real'.
alice liddell12 April 2000
When is a documentary not a documentary? SANS SOLEIL is a film comprising 'real' images, narrated with 'real' observations. The subject-matter is Japan, post-modernism, the erasion of memory, the flattening-out of history, decentring, surface, pastiche. It records life-styles, trends, habits, rites, artistic movements with the rigour of an anthropologist. It is a film about travel: throughout the world, throughout time. It is science fiction (Terry Gilliam's TWELVE MONKEYS fleshes out an anecdote here). It is a Borgesian fantasy, (the filmmaker is actually a fictional creation , Sandor Krasna). To call it a documentary, or even a film, would be like calling the Sistine Chapel a ceiling.
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Eastern cultures through a Western lens. Also, boring.
trippycheez18 May 2005
I'm surprised to see that so many other reviewers tolerated and even loved SANS SOLEIL. In my opinion, SANS SOLEIL is an inferior version of KAYAANISQATSI (which was released the same year): while KAYAANISQATSI lets its images of different societies, machines, and crowds speak for themselves, Chris Marker layers a monologue of pseudo-intellectual babble over his. The footage itself is pretty interesting: we see Japanese people performing ancient purification rites, some nice shots of Iceland's lunar landscape, and other scenes from societies around the world, but the voice-over pretty much ruins it. It's like a failed poet hijacked National Geographic and forced them to make SANS SOLEIL instead of something interesting. Honestly, you could probably find more meaningful prose in a teenage goth's LiveJournal.

I had a few ideological problems with the movie as well. Chris Marker (a Frenchman, I assume?) darted about in non-Western societies, viewing foreign people through a camera lens. He then mashed all the footage together, drawing inferences from the images which he then communicated to us, the (primarily Western) viewers through a voice-over. He never interviews anyone he films. His voice is the only one we hear, he is the sole authority who controls the information we receive, and as a result he can construct other cultures to fit a message of his choosing.

What to the people living in the jungle have to say about life? That's what I'd like to know. But instead we hear through Marker that they are noble savages, free in their own way despite being so primitive, practicing mystical rituals the narrator doesn't actually comprehend, etc. Even Japanese TV somehow serves to illuminate Japanese culture for Marker, despite the fact that he admits he doesn't speak Japanese and can't understand a word of what's going on! Edmund Said explores this form of representation in his book "Orientalism," but basically I see Chris Marker as the Rudyard Kipling or Marco Polo of our day. He travels abroad, reports back to us with a romanticized description of other cultures (which the cultures themselves do not contribute to directly), we accept it, and the discourse ends. We never learn anything tangible, besides the fact that Marker found this experience to be personally significant in some vague way.

Also, I had to close my ears while the narrator discusses Hitchcock's VERTIGO... I haven't seen that one yet and had a feeling Marker wouldn't include any spoiler warnings.
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A film about memory that you won't forget
Robert-15915 December 1999
With "Sans Soleil," Chris Marker skillfully blends image, sound, and voice in a powerful way that I've never experienced before or since. No mere description can begin to convey this film's stunning effect on my intellect and my senses. Not quite a documentary, not quite fiction, Marker's film emerges as a mesmerizing meditation on the meaning of time, space, and memory. "How," he asks, "does one remember thirst?" A film you won't forget.
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save this film for a day when you have energy
flippo16 July 1999
I must be brief. This documentary, which splices in cuts from Vertigo and from some guerrilla films, is definitely worth seeing. Though a student of French literature, and therefore habitually and terminally bored by pretentious studies of memory, this movie is remarkable in the way it makes connections across continents through the filmmaker's memory, extended as it is by the visual images he has stored on film. To put it disrespectfully, there is a lot of eye candy in this film, some of which is extremely beautiful ... the computer graphics towards the end might even remind Cocteau fans of some of scenes from Blood of a Poet (these, though, were what I found to be a bit over the top). So far I have only seen this film once, and so many of the memories that it prodded just three weeks ago have faded, like for example the name of the composer whose Bez Solntse inspired the title, and the documentary on volcanic activity I saw somewhere sometime which was echoed in the section filmed in Finland. In any case, this film will give you insight into the fascinating co-existence of traditional and modern culture in Japan. This struck home with me because I lived in Asia during the 80s when the technology of video-games, computers, and stereophonic luxe were exploding in the very same culture in which colorful Hindu and golden Buddhist temples w/ smoking incense, bird-singing contests and kite races were popular Sunday diversions from production. Bref, a fabulous film. As others have suggested, be prepared to suspend the Hollywood mindset for this treat.
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Nice images, but pretentious claptrap
eyeseehot15 April 2004
Some interesting shots strung together with a pretentious, artsy narration that mimics profundity in a familiar jejeune style. Assumptions include that the east is superior to the west, television is bad, capitalism evil, etc. Sample insight: "Pac-man puts into true perspective the balance of power between the individual and the environment." With a different narration it could be a much better film. One key to its superficiality: the people are only seen, never heard. The narrator's voice covers all, like ketchup. Marker has a good eye, a good feel for faces and gestures, but a mushy brain. If you're a young aspiring artist in an MFA program who's attracted to "theory" the humorless self-importance of this film may appeal to you.
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The Two Poles of Survival = Tokyo / Africa
chris-25123 November 2009
Visionary filmmaker Chris Marker creates a portrait of ever encroaching globalization in this 100 minute odyssey between the 'two poles of survival'.

Probably one of the greatest 'avant-garde' films of all time, don't let its classification dissuade you. This is a very simple film with a very simple message: though time changes, what nourishes humanity remains constant, namely love, memory, hope, understanding, recognition and belonging.

The only frustrating thing about this film is that one viewing is not enough. This is a work you will cherish re-watching for years to come.

Direct cinema science-fiction set on Planet Earth.
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horrible use of sound throughout
vailsy16 May 2007
yawn, lets bundle a bunch of disparate audio, visual and narrative elements together into a movie and call it art

i lost count of the amount of times i rolled my eyes at the extremely poor use of sound in this piece. in particular the part where 80's spectrum game audio plays to a swinging owl shop sign/advert

the only good bit in this is the section that analyses Japanese media (around 19mins 30 to 24mins 30). finally Marker looks at something about Japanese society that he can truly comment on in a constructive way, and its a pity the doc didn't entirely stick to this area

unfortunately it veers off again into the clouds and looks at social/religious issues among other things, and overall its the type of thing that a pretentious media ma student might hand in for their final paper

'trippy' twaddle from a person in a creative trough, and not a patch on la jetee
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Better than Postcards
Preston-107 October 2003
This is one of these self-indulgent movies where the main objective is for the artist to draw the audience into his world under the assumption that there's a mutual agreement that what we observe may appear too distant and unreachable to us. It's kind of like if your mother-in-law came back from visiting Europe and she starts showing you all of her pictures for 2 hours. Chris Marker isn't so crude, however, I always felt that when one is experiencing the culture of a distant land the medium of film was never the choice way to experience it. Rather, the exploration of different cultures when traveling must be experienced within the moment, rather than taking the moment with a camera and experiencing it at home. This is where Sans Soleil becomes a success or a failure in the eyes of the audience: do we live in the moment close to the same way the filmmaker does? This is something only you can answer when watching it. Personally, It was all over the map for me (no pun intended), I think the traveler has the gift of reading people and of showing how their culture has become a mirror for their lives.
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thinking, memorizing, feeling in images
mingus_x28 July 2002
a memory in pictures. everyone in the world should make such a visual personal statement/essay.

there is no better way in communication. ...and all this films should be released on DVD. let's start with Chris.Marker's "Sans Soleil".

[who ever got the rights on this one, start digitizing and polishing sound and picture and afterwards release it on DVD, everyone should get the chance to see it]
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Sunless: the memory of itself.
Polaris_DiB3 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I had to struggle over whether or not I could do this movie justice by writing a review of it after only seeing it once; it's definitely one of those films that, though you can understand it as it goes along, and it is not in any way what one would call difficult, is one that has so many different details and points that it seems relatively rude to try to shorten it down to a synopsis. Then again, as it's work in memory, impression, and time precludes, who's to say that the instant of reviewing it does it injustice merely by struggling with it's impression of it? Well okay, now I'm just being pretentious.

"Sans Soleil" can be generalized as an almost two-hour visual essay on memory, poetry, and imagery, based around Chris Marker's travels around the world, focusing mostly on Japan and Africa. It lacks the visceral and unsettling effects of his short "La Jetee", but it isn't like it's meant to be... though both films can be considered "contemplative", this one is much more meditative and philosophical, continually reworking it's ideas even to various points of self-awareness made ironic through the narrator's "He wrote... He said..." misdirection.

For some reason, it may be impossible to describe just how such a film can be considered so striking and yet still sound so simple (read any review that likes it, they will be awed but there'll be doubt in the minds of any that have seen it that it couldn't possibly be all that). What's interesting about it is that it is, in fact, a very simple work, especially structurally. It is even in a way dated since it uses computer effects of the time that, though they still are used experimentally today, still feel older in a this-was-new-back-then-but-we're-past-it-now way. But still... somehow it works, gets under the skin, says things in ways that you think you understand and then snap too and realize that you've been so lost in what's been going on that you've not paid attention--or was it too much attention? It is, indeed, like it's own memory of itself.

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A film which has to be seen to be believed
Sans Soleil is a 1982 nonlinear essay film by French documentary filmmaker Chris Marker (La Jetee) named after a song cycle by Mussorgsky. The film is a collage of images gathered from Africa, Iceland, San Francisco, France and Japan— all set to non- direct sound. Throughout the film, an unseen woman's voice (Alexandra Stewart) narrates letters written by a possibly fictional traveler in poetic verse accompanied by sections of electronic music. Each segment begins with the phrase "He wrote me" and explores matters such as consciousness, Japanese television, modern culture, technology and even the act of filming. Images in the film include children in Iceland, a carnival in Guinea-Bissau, a ferry in Hokkido, girls in Cape Verde, and a shrine to cats in Tokyo. Sans Soleil has been hailed in some quarters as a masterpiece, however a more accurate description is "a horrendous waste of space which gives avant garde film-making a bad name." Hitchcock may well have said drama is "life with the dull bits cut out", but Sans Soleil is life with the interesting bits cut out. The narration is an affront to the English language, the images flat and tedious and the less said about the sound the better. Lines such as "How can one remember thirst?" merely confirm the film as a Monty Python sketch masquerading as an art-house film. An atrocious waste of two hours which makes Russian Ark look like Face/Off.
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If you loved "Le Jetee" you'll love this one. And, if you hated it, don't bother with this one.
MartinHafer25 February 2015
If you look through the reviews here on IMDb for this film, you'll find quite a few that praise it and you'll find a bunch that thoroughly hated it. You can place me in the latter group. This same thing could be said about the director's short film "Le Jetee"- -folks think it's brilliant and artsy or folks think it's crap. I'll tell you what I saw and you can make your own decision--this way at least you cannot say I didn't warn you.

The film plays like a travelogue done by someone with a severe head injury. You see lots of lengthy and seemingly random footage from around the world (with an emphasis on Japan) and a narrator drones on and on about nothing in particular. As for the footage, despite being in color it's rather grainy and generally uninteresting. It's also accompanied by electronic music that generally is annoying and I think it was honestly meant to be annoying. And, this goes one for over 100 minutes.

I'll be honest. I stopped watching this one after a while--and that's saying a lot considering I almost never bail on a film. Additionally, I've probably reviewed at least a couple thousand films and rarely have I felt like I wasted my time more than with this one.
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If you want to be bored to tears, this is the movie for you
jaantonyvkary16 November 2007
The problem with this movie is that nothing happens. This is one of those horrible "artistic" films that tries to explore philosophical ideas, but the result is a mind-numbing, long-winded narrative with pretty pictures. No new ideas or information is explored -- just poetic words which boil down to brilliant observations of the obvious. This is the sort of movie that pretentious idiots who wish to appear intelligent will claim to love.

I like documentaries -- you learn about interesting new facts and ideas in documentaries -- but this is definitely not a documentary. It's a bad B movie masquerading as art. The only way this movie could be enjoyable would be with a MST3K soundtrack.
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a masterpiece without peer
butchcorum19502 February 2007
At the core of "Sans Soleil," it seems, is the way society chooses to remember things -- and what happens when assumptions are replaced by new facts and a new reality. If this sounds (to use a 1960s expression) "far out," that's because "Sans Soleil" does what few other nonfiction films have done before or since: Link disparate cultures (in this case, Japan, Iceland, Guinea- Bissau and the United States) through street scenes that range from the mundane ("banality," in Marker's on screen words) to the extraordinary.

One example: Marker shows sleeping Japanese passengers on a ferry, then a subway framed by Tokyo's skyline, then a bird walking serenely on water, then an African woman smiling, then a cat temple in Japan where families pray for felines. "We do not remember -- we rewrite memory much as history is rewritten," says the film's erudite narrator as she reads a letter supposedly written by Sandor Krasna. In truth, Krasna is actually Marker, who invented the person of Krasna to ... well, it's anyone's guess because Marker doesn't give interviews and prefers to let his work speak for itself. Here's one guess:

Marker, who's never seen in "Sans Soleil," doesn't want to take full credit for a film that draws from so many displays of public rituals.

Like Edward Steichen's "The Family of Man" photography project, "Sans Soleil" captured lives and moments that were ordinarily overlooked -- though instead of a team of photojournalists, it was just Marker who roamed various continents for the material in this unforgettable movie. Few other filmmakers but Marker would travel to the outskirts of Guinea-Bissau, take pictures of working-class people, then juxtapose the footage with a rolling commentary about the country's revolution that toppled Portuguese rule. That revolution inspired revolutionaries in Europe, but as Marker dryly notes, "Who remembers all that? History throws its empty bottles out the window." In reading Marker's lines, actress Alexandra Stewart ("Exodus," "Day for Night") cites everyone from the Japanese poet Basho to Marlon Brando. (Marker's footage of San Francisco was inspired by Hitchcock's "Vertigo.")
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strong-122-47888517 August 2014
Directed by French film-maker, Chris Marker, Sans Soleil (meaning Sunless) was a bore.

It was without dialogue (only narration) and had a gruelling running time of 100 minutes.

Shot in colour, this film's imagery was live-action, showing endlessly repetitive activity in urban Japan.

It's too bad that there is nothing memorable to say about any of this film.

For me, the only way to watch this dreary picture from hell was in fast-forward mode.

Between this 1983 film and 1962's La Jetee, movie-director Chris Marker has shown absolutely no improvement in his craft.
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A fascinating exploration of humanity via counter cinema
porlawright4 July 2006
This film keeps coming back to me. It utterly confused me at first but something about it made me go back and watch again. It is a film that can fit into many definitions, none of them however, definitively.

The problem of capturing reality is a problem central to film theory, most do it by creating the 'reality effect' via the familiar codes of continuity editing etc, but it is just that, an illusion. Marker, like Godard, purposely confounds these codes and explores the limits of film/the image/art in order to examine what Benjamin called 'erfahrung' - a formulation for experience aligned to memory as apposed to immediacy. True experience is the recollection of events, a retracing of the path of memory. Only when experience is assimilated in this way can meaning be derived from it.

Sans Soleil plays with the idea of grand historicising themes, focusing on the narratives left untold in the history books, the story of the defeated, strange cultural idiosyncrasies, the easy, lazy way emotions are manipulated by the camera, so a man's tears of gratitude are revealed by context to be tears of rage. Marker takes canonical historical signposts and challenges their ability to tell us anything of worth about the world and humanity within it. He jolts (and it is a jolt) our attention away from the official processes of historification, that goes on beneath our noses in cinema, towards the banal and the everyday detail that comes the stuff of life itself.

On first viewing, especially if you are unfamiliar with the codes of progressive, experimental or 'counter' cinema, you may well be confused. But you will also be intrigued and on second viewing its secrets begin to reveal themselves. This is released with Marker's short la Jetee, another treat.

This is a truly remarkable film, the only piece of cinema that has, for me, chimed on a similar level of complexity and profundity with the works of Shakespeare and one that similarly continues to resonate.
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Philosophy and Documentary.
doctorsmoothlove26 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Every once in a while I watch a film that leaves me agape in the creativity of the director. I certainly feel this way about Sans soleil. It's as bizarre a movie as one could ever hope to find but it does work as a documentary. The film is in no way concerned with entertaining the audience. It is a philosophical text presented in film format. It also describes the culture of Japan and Guinea-Bissau.

The movie explains a lot about the reverence of the land in Japanese society. We see people praying with their heads bowed to the Earth and the narrator provides commentary about it. We also learn the importance of the dog to the Japanese people. Also, the film discusses the importance of the train to the Japanese. Something intriguing about the film is how the narrator discusses the artistic possibilities of video games. Since the film was released in 1983, video games were in crisis due to the crash that happened earlier that year (in North America and Europe). Now looking at games like Metroid Prime and Shadow of the Colossus, I understand what she meant. For Guinea-Bissau, the narrator discusses the political history of the country and the risks of being a revolutionary. I'd like to write more about it, but I cannot recall anything to say.

Those who choose to watch Sans soleil, would be best served to read the script before and after the viewing. Then, they should talk about what they just watched. I will do that when I watch it again, as I have for many philosophical texts. This film is not intended for a large audience, and those wishing to watch it should be knowledgeable of that. Also, if you enjoy Hitchcock, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the homage Marker plays to him.
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eye popping and enigmatic philosophical film essay
framptonhollis8 July 2017
Bizarre in its extreme unconventionality, "Sans Soleil" remains the second best known film in Chris Marker's prolific and legendary filmography. During his lifetime (one not at all wasted due to his massive and consistently brilliant production of art in almost all of its forms, most famously the cinematic form), Marker remained a mysterious figure, and his films only add to the mystery. "Sans Soleil" is perhaps among the most enigmatic works in all of cinema's history; it is something of a collage of images, a travelogue primarily taking place in Japan (Africa is also often visited, among a few other areas from around the world) scored by atmospheric electronic music and a narration injected with profound philosophy, occasional wit, provocative melancholy, and a knack for unique and sometimes absurdist detail.

Dealing with everything from the primary theme of memory and the existential nightmare of time's passage (or, as the narration at one point puts in (more poetically): "the moss of time") to oddly humorous (yet still often thought provoking) encounters with phallic statues and an animatronic designed to bear the appearance of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, "Sans Soleil" reaches a point of pure unpredictability. While mildly slow in bits, the overall product is uniquely entertaining in its ability to portray and provoke a wide and diverse palate of human emotion. With its grainy yet pleasantly colorful cinematography and semi surrealist atmosphere, "Sans Soleil" successfully entertains the eyes and the mind of any viewer that can appreciates its wildly experimentalist and almost structureless style. This is a film likely to divide viewers, but big enough fans of art house and avant garde cinema can all agree that it is among the finest documentary/experimental/drama/essay films ever made; a truly fresh and original project that is playful and profound like no other masterpiece before or after] it.
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Gimme subtitles!
jonathan-5777 June 2007
This is Marker's much-lauded travelogue-essay film about Japan, Guinea-Bissau, and Hitchcock. The imagery is gripping and the intuitive structure is marvelous, although I think he's jaded about resistance and in spite of his best efforts there's some exoticizing going on in the Weird Japan stuff. Also - the version of this Siue's roomie got from the library is dubbed by this BBC type woman, and her civilized recital almost wrecks the movie! I guess in art you can't get away with that heartlessly professional tone of voice without sounding utterly pretentious, even in an avowed 'masterpiece'. Well, let that be a lesson to you. I stuck with it and would advise you to do the same, it goes places.
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unwatchable twaddle
federovsky1 August 2014
One of the most worthless things I've ever seen put on celluloid. I had previously tried to get through it twice and failed - finding it miserably tedious. The images were barely more than home movie quality, every sentiment was abysmally banal, and there was something me than faintly self-congratulatory about it all. What on earth can Marker's fans get out of this…? He seemed to think he was the first westerner to set foot in Asia - and with a camera too! He tried to invest everything he saw with such utter gravity and meaning, but fell head first into every clichéd image and hackneyed idea of Asia there is. I waited for something to grab me… some remarkable insight or pearl of wisdom… nothing… just a film-maker (a fairly amateurish one) desperate to film every little oddity, and when there are none, every little banality.

I knew this was going to be a hard ride, but I tried to shrug off any preconceptions and prejudices to give this another try. After only three minutes I had to hit the pause button. Later I tried again, a non-believer reading the Bible.

Bland images. This kind of thing needs-pictures like Baraka to at least provide some justification. Five minutes are spent watching a Japanese street carnival. Marker takes a fascination in people that comes across as simply naïve. He waxes philosophical about a man frying food on a hotplate, presumably because it's the first time he has seen it happening. A Japanese cameraman of equal naivety might well point his camera at a little old woman frying chips in a British chippie and call it meaningful. Thankfully, nobody ever did.

His camera craves little oddities, such as the temple of the beckoning cats, but it's no more than touristic innocence.

The observation that people ought to look in the camera is typical of the 'aren't I being meaningful by seeing something that no-one else can?' attitude. But by doing so they are not revealing themselves with curiosity, only hiding themselves with insecurity.

There are two ways of looking at every human emotion. A blithe side and a cynical side. Marker is full of the tourist's childish fascination in things he little understands, and which he photographs for precisely that reason. Every image is the gawping of an idiot - at the beginning we stare at people asleep on a ferry as if there is something unique and profound about this particular ferry this particular day.

Drawing filigree connections is his main past-time: Marker thinks it clever to move from formal stylised movements of a Japanese traditional dance to awkwardness.

He sets himself a challenge at the very beginning - how to follow an idyllic image of three Icelandic girls? Nothing works - certainly not the fighter plane he suggests. He gives us a long black pause instead. So, there's a game of meaning going on, couched in a game of imagery. Absolutely every piece of film here is the same.

The woman's deadpan voice-over constantly riles. She has the tone of Virginia Woolf reading her suicide note. She is narrating the traveller's letters. It's earnest, adulatory - and you never forget it is Marker talking about himself, massaging his own ego through a fantasy girlfriend because it conveniently avoids the too-blatant first person. There's something unpleasantly adolescent, almost JD Salingerish, about this trick, and I instinctively resist.

I felt like I was supposed to be impressed by the fact that Marker had travelled, had had reflections, that he was alive. It was not just self-congratulatory, but self-ratifying, self-aggrandizing; the immodesty of the adolescent that hasn't yet learned sophistication.

At the end of it he had shown me nothing about the world or about people. He had made mountains out of philosophical molehills and was dining off the tale.
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