La Jetee (The Pier) is a delightful and curious creation that seems to polarise opinion. Most hail it as fiercely innovative and influential. Some, vehemently disagree. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times writes,
'I find it tediously pretentious, but there are striking images in it, and it does get across a vague impression of Frankensteinian meddling with the brain.' (2005)
a rather damning critique, but I am sure Mr Crowther would have to agree that La Jetee leaves an impression whether positive or negative. The use of stills throughout burns images to the retina's of the audience. This is perhaps what contributes to making the film so memorable as the audience is subjected to the same treatment as the protagonist. the feeling that somehow one is being experimented on for some hitherto unknown greater good delivers a delicious, riveting unease.
First time viewers will take a while to acclimatise to the experience. Having been used to suckling from Hollywood the sudden introduction of La Jetee's solidity requires an element of weaning. Those who embrace the change will be rewarded.
The story develops awkwardly at first. The omission of a first act throws the audience into a bleak, post apocalyptic future with all the brutality of a splitting atom. From here they are forced to come to terms with their new world as if they inhabit the subterranean Parisian sewers. The premise that this future's higher echelons are experimenting with time travel is a little unclear at first, as are their motives. When Terry Gilliam breathed new life into the plot with his wonderful 'Twelve Monkeys' he took care to nurture the plot's intentions, leaving no room for confusion. A momentary leap of faith is all that is required with La Jetee, any gaps left in the plot are filled by the unforgettable and at times quite jarring soundtrack. The menace of the 'masters' and the disorientation of our hero are palpable throughout.
'It's a stirring, emotional film about the unique hold memories have over people's lives and how experiences themselves are fleeting.' Melin E., (2012)
The use of memory to instigate time travel raises interesting notions about the scientific principle. The use of memory to recall past events is an undeniable form of the scientific principle, even if mathematically and logically the theory falls over. It is this ingenious application that gives the film gravitas, and the plot twisting paradox adds to that sense.
Whether the film inspires, influences, infuriates is academic. There can be no doubt that Chris Marker's work will be remembered long past his death and into a future filled with nuclear uncertainty.
To conclude here is Cole Smithey's appraisal of Marker's masterpiece that succinctly surmises is as,
Crowther B., 'New York Times' (May 9, 2005)
Melin E., 'Scene-Stealers.com' (February 23, 2012)
Smithey C., 'ColeSmithey.com' (January 5, 2008)
Poster Image: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/la_jetee/