Deep in this Limbo

On the beauty of one of the most iconic art films of this century — La Jetée.

It is a Tuesday night. I have taken half a sleeping pill. I am watching La Jetée for the first time. And now, I am drifting off into half-dreams, and I am wondering why it has taken me so long to watch La Jetée. Two words popped up in searching for more information about the film’s maker, Chris Marker. One, prolix — meaning verbose and wordy. And, two, protean — indicating someone who is multi-talented. A shapeshifter as some have called Marker. Sometimes you watch a film and realise what a million things you’ve seen before it were inspired by. Looking back at the things I’ve seen, the sprawling influences of La Jetée are many. Music videos. Perfume ads. Countless science-fiction films about time travel. Every frame is a grainy Henri Cartier-Bresson snap, stitched together with a haunting voiceover and the soundtrack of a heart beat. Five gorgeously-shot, motherfucking bad-ass black and white stars out of five.

 

This is the story of a man, marked by an image from his childhood. The violent scene that upset him, and whose meaning he was to grasp only years later, happened on the main jetty at Orly, the Paris airport, sometime before the outbreak of World War III.

Orly, Sunday. Parents used to take their children there to watch the departing planes.

On this particular Sunday, the child whose story we are telling was bound to remember the frozen sun, the setting at the end of the jetty, and a woman’s face.

Nothing sorts out memories from ordinary moments. Later on they do claim remembrance when they show their scars. That face he had seen was to be the only peacetime image to survive the war. Had he really seen it? Or had he invented that tender moment to prop up the madness to come?

The sudden roar, the woman’s gesture, the crumpling body, and the cries of the crowd on the jetty blurred by fear.

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