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La Jetée / Primer: Lost in Translation (083568)

These two films revolved around one of my most favorite of topics or rather plot schemes, time travel. To begin with La Jetée, what surprised me right from the start was the obvious use of still photos to tell the story. Both unique and creative, it was a very intriguing way to go about directing a film as it would immediately capture the attention of its viewers. As to why the director would choose to use still frames, I personally feel it is because it adds to the dramatic effect that this film is all about. With the shocking twist by the film’s end, that the man was actually witnessing his own death as a child, the use of still photographs works well in capturing those moments. As if telling the story in the form of a documentary almost, with the dialogue serving as the voice over for each still frame, it only can add to the dramatic feel of the plot.

The still frames also capture the emotion of each of the films important moments, such as the pain and agony that these test subjects feel during the experiments, or the love that the man feels for the memory of woman he saw in his past. Quite literally a motion picture, La Jetée although may be captivating for its story and plot twists, it is unforgettable for its methodic use of still frames.

Moving onto Primer, I personally really enjoyed this film. It was fantastic, albeit way too confusing for it’s own good, it has perhaps grown notorious for that reason alone. Taking the use of scientific lingo to a whole new level, it’s become commonplace for many first time viewers to despise the film simply for that reason alone, that they just don’t understand the dialogue. However, if one were to look past that, they would find that Primer is an amazing well thought out journey through time and back.

What I really loved about this film was its ability to make the audience think for themselves. It brought about many questions, and although it may not answer them all, it left room for personal interpretation. It didn’t spoon feed the audience which is something I’ve come to appreciate from films that do so, it lets them find out for themselves that this movie is about time travel. I personally found it exciting when the two characters of Aaron and Abe are realizing just what exactly they have stumbled upon in their garage, very subtly it shows the development and growth of these two characters when faced with such power.

My favorite scene in the film was when Abe brings Aaron to a field and tells him to be calm and watch what is about to happen, what transpires is Aaron witnessing Abe’s “double” walking into a building. It’s moments like this why I love the film so much, so subtle and effortless, the film becomes very eerie and almost horror or thriller-like. “What was that? Was that Abe?!” were what I was thinking when Aaron saw Abe’s double, and it was then when it clarified for me that this film was indeed about time travel.

The only downfall to this film, as mentioned before, would be the in depth use of scientific words and phrases that the average movie-goer would cringe at, however what makes it all the more amazing is that every bit of their dialogue is indeed scientifically accurate, no to the point that time travel is made plausible but more to the extent that everything is connected on a scientific level and isn’t complete fiction. Because of that, it leaves one to wonder and really question the possibility of time travel.

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Posted by on 26 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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La Jetee/ Primer: Those without Science Degrees need not Apply (070660)

La Jetee was good, but you had to admit that it was quite artsy. It was supposedly about World War III and a sort of memory slash time travel combination where he gets to meet himself at the end of the movie. And it was delivered in still pictures, and in black and white, which was quite puzzling; isn’t this period the burgeoning of cinema, after having been stuck in silent films for so long?

A possible explanation which makes sense to me is that the nature of the plot made it more convenient to use still pictures. Staging a World War III would cost too much, in the context of a short film. Thus still pictures would make it easier for them to manipulate as much as they wanted. In addition to this, the audio dealt with quick cuts; with scenes quick to change and transition. Consider me an amateur but I don’t really buy it when the director is lauded for having have left the thinking to the imagination of the audience. They filmed it, and this is how it turned out. Not to mention that the only video we see is that of the woman lying in bed, eyes blinking. Interesting a premise as it has, it looks artsy as hell. La Jetee is a movie best left to the curious, and the critics.

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Unlike other films which we have watched for film class, it could be said that Primer does not rely much on the visual aspect, but rather focuses mainly (if not solely) on the narrative in order to deliver its message. This, in my opinion, is both its strength and its weakness.

There are no special camera tricks here, or fancy symbolisms worth overanalyzing; rather, it is purely straightforward science fiction all throughout. From what I understood from the film, scientists accidentally invent a time travelling device, and use said machine to their advantage; whether going back to the past in order to manipulate the stock market, sports bet on March madness, or unentangle the many consequences of their actions along the way. Though the premise holds much promise, its execution on the screen I found to be honestly dry and uninteresting.

For me, there was nothing to look forward to. There was initial curiousity upon the accidental discovery of time travel, but it loses its appeal early on, probably due to the drawn out story telling or the unrelatable main characters. Cold and distant, you couldn’t really sympathize with them for anything. Unlike perhaps Einstein, Hawking, and other scientists; whose scientific endeavours were probably boring as well, but with their stories romanticized, you just can’t help but love those intelligent bastards. On the contrary, I actually sympathized with my other film classmates, whom I noticed were either sleeping or just plain bored.

I couldnt help but feel that Primer’s objective was to deliberately distance itself from the common audience. Its overly technical and esoteric first act had me uninterested from the start.

It left me scratching my head in more ways than one. For me, there are many films which are similar in nature but have managed to captivate: with 2001: A Space Odyssey, and even Vanilla Sky, for instance, among them. I am not saying that films have to be entertaining, nor should the director make it easier for the audience to digest; if that is how he truly gets his message across, then so be it. But if films do have a message to convey, then I was wondering what message this story has and to what audience it is intended for. It has to be lauded for its accuracy, for showing the realism behind scientific endeavours; but then again, we don’t watch House, MD in order to learn more fancy medical terms. I would give it another chance, in that perhaps numerous viewings are required in order to even get what was happening in the story; but the mere thought of watching it again already has me tired and running for the exit. Primer is admirable; who am i to disagree with critics, but I found its dryness to be unwatchable. Though I like the idea and the premise of the movie, its execution leaves much to be desired. Perhaps I would take a degree in the sciences before watching it again; those without science degrees need not apply.

 
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Posted by on 25 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Captured Moments : La Jetee 1962 [092805]

A couple of weeks ago, I watched an old film entitled Somewhere in Time starring Christopher Reeves. After watching La Jetee, I was quite intrigued because its story line was very similar. Whenever I used to think about time travel, I would always imagine time machines or devices that will send people to the past. It fascinated me that their “method” of time traveling was the same. “If they could conceive or dream another time, maybe they could live it.” Another similarity was the fact that what drew them to the past was a certain woman they fell in love with. In La Jetee, they chose him because of an image from the past that he was obsessed with. In Somewhere in Time, Christopher Reeves fell in love with an image in the present which made him want to go to the past. In both movies, they succeeded. I like the fact that I can compare the two in both the romantic and sci-fi aspect.

“This is the story of a man, marked by an image from his childhood.” I liked the film’s first line. It was straightforward but at the same time, it makes you wonder what exactly is meant by it.

I’m not sure about what I feel about the film. There were some elements in the film that I liked and some that I didn’t. At first, I found it difficult to watch because of certain elements such as: One, the film is in French. It might have been easier to watch if the film was in English. Because we have to rely on the English subtitles kind of forces us as the film’s viewers to really focus on the film. One thing I am iffy about is that it can somehow take away our focus on the image or the motion picture. Second, it is in black and white. In a way, I recognize that it’s in black and white because it is a really old movie and somehow, because its setting was during war, that they decided to make the photos look like it’s from the olden times, grainy and in the grayscale. The colorlessness of the film made it look dreary. Naturally, colors would have attracted my attention more. The black and white effect of the film was a different approach but I am concerned that it just may not be appealing for some. Another reason why I did not like it too much was that it was a little too quiet for my kind of movie. It was simple imagery with a man’s voice that was so deep and soothing that it was easy to fall asleep listening to it. All of these elements made the film seem bland.

However, I have a feeling that it appeals to many because it is so different. It is not your ordinary kind of film and it’s less than half an hour long. Though it is not a film of regular length, its story is so interestingly detailed that in a way, we finish the film satisfied. I liked how they were able to tell the story in detail through only images- Except for that moment in where the woman blinked, which I am sure raised the curiosity (and maybe even hair) of each viewer- The pictures were solely based on moments. Important moments in the film. The story was delivered well because its plot was simply filled with moments. Moments from the past, the present and the future. When the unnamed man time traveled, his time traveling was also focused on moments and the things he remembered as a kid. As it was said in the film, he was a slave to a certain experiment and out of a thousand, he was chosen because of his vivid memories and mental images of when he was younger.

Like Primer, the plot was about time traveling. Personally, I am intrigued with the whole idea of time travel, which is why these kinds of films leave me wanting to know more. Sending emissaries into time to summon the Past and the Future to aid the present because the human race was doomed? EPIC STORY. Really.

 
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Posted by on 25 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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La Jetee (071289)

La Jetee is a beautiful film. La Jetee is a photo-roman about a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel. It is a movie about remembering– the main character recalling his past and the whole movie seemingly told from memory by the narrator. It is told in black and white photographs accompanied by voice-over narration and some music and sound effects. Having a somewhat complex story told in a simple manner makes this movie unforgettable. Also contributing to this is the setting of the film- Paris in the wake of a third world war.

I love the use of photographs because I think it captures how we really remember memories- in stills. It makes the memories more real, like they actually happened with no doubts. If the movie was in normal motion, the scenes in which the main character is under the experiment and recalling memories will probably look more like dreams and the movie wouldn’t have the same strong impact. Adding cinematic flair and style would also be damaging to this film.

Unusually, I didn’t pay much attention to the photographs shown in the movie. Being a Fine Arts major, a designer and a photographer, I should probably be writing about the cinematography like the composition of the photographs and how they played with the lighting to show the relationship between good and evil (because they seem to always be about good and evil). But the only thing I noticed about the photographs was that they were predominantly black and nothing more. For some reason I was more focused on the feeling of the movie than what is being shown to the point that I actually closed my eyes in some scenes to fully be captivated by the experience of remembering. I might actually watch this movie again but with my eyes closed.

I didn’t like the part when the main character traveled into a different space and meets these weird group of people. Yes this movie is a futuristic science fiction film but this part was too corny for me. It didn’t contribute to the story too. I’m trying to delete it from my mind.

 
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Posted by on 25 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Time/Space Continuum in B/W

In an era of motion pictures and fast paced living, it is hard to find a film like La Jetee. this documentary style film about time travel was quite the shocker. It delivers the message without sacrificing its artistic rights. I found the film so beautiful in the way it can talk about the fluidity and motion of time in still moments, in still photographs. The photographs themselves were shot so well and the black and white effect gave the film a timeless quality.

La Jetee is the French word for the jetty. It is entitled as such because the last scene is the airport where the main character is killed. There is something about being able to move across the dimension of time that unnerves people. It gives them a false sense of power and security as they have the device to correct mistakes, meet people they’ve left behind and start all over again.

This is what happened in the film. The main character travels through time in order to fulfil a mission. Instead he finds a woman and falls in love with her. In the end, his belief that he could not be touched in the past led to his demise. The death he saw as a child was his own. This movie does not end in full circle but instead it spirals inward, toward its core.

In the aesthetic sense, the film was strikingly unforgettable as black and white stills tell a story of love lost and lives intertwining through the fabric of time. The slideshow gave the film a sense of reality. As if the narrator is speaking of something true and factual. The opening part has the narrator talking matter-of-factly. In a dead, monotonous tone devoid of emotion as he recounts the past events that wracked a nation’s core leaving its citizens poor and hungry. In a way the film blurs the line between reality and fiction. It was quite brilliant how they took something of the science fiction genre and integrated it in a documentary-like package.

The blurring of lines between reality and fiction is what makes the film so unique and unforgettable. Aptly named as the number one time travel film by Time magazine, the film makes an indelible mark on the audience because it goes beyond the usual love story and the usual science fiction story.

Keeping everything else to a bare minimum, the film strives to tell more than it portrays. Despite the lack of a soundtrack or colours, it was still able to leave the audience in awed amazement at how the story unfolded through photos and narration. It was almost like a storybook flashed onscreen.

The realization that the death the man witnessed as a child was his own showed the film’s devotion to the story. With a complicated idea like that, it would have been typical to relay that information through moving pictures that showcase the movements of the characters. Leaving the characters nameless detaches the audience from the people in the film. In a way, it heightens the realistic quality of it as some documentaries have anonymous people giving them vital information.

La Jetee is one of the films that has changed my love for black and white scenes. It does not disappoint with its artistic portrayal. It is unforgettable since this is the only film I’ve watched shot in this way.

 
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Posted by on 25 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The beauty that is La Jetée (090102)

La Jetée is definitely one of the most unforgettable films that I’ve ever seen. When I first watched it, it left me speechless in awe and was surprised on how it was intricately done by Chris Marker. From being a photo-documentary science fiction film that greatly talks about time travelling, the past and the future, and humanity, this film is truly remarkable.

The film’s social milieu was during a post World War III underground network of Palais de Chaillot galleries in Paris, France where people are now in the midst of extinction if a possible solution to their crisis cannot be answered immediately. They are now totally depending on the technology of time travelling to find help from the past and the future which is a very desperate attempt. People are now going in the means of using human test subjects as both sacrifice and unsung heroes (if succeeded), forced to follow their superiors beyond their will for the common people to survive. With this, we must try to reflect the moral grounds being questioned and challenged by the film. The film establishes the relationships of the Time Traveler to his superiors / scientists, the woman, the people from the future, and to himself. Almost all relationships established are mysterious, suspicious, awkward, and with tension or stress because of the plot conflict.

I personally liked the technicalities of the film and how it was executed. The film is made out of entirely optically printed still photographs shot in black and white (from a Pentax Spotmatic) playing in a photomontage sequence of varying pace. A 35mm Arriflex camera was briefly used in the scene of Hélène Chatelain in bed to show a motion-picture effect (the only scene throughout the entire film), this greatly showing the fleeting memory of the Time Traveler and what he momentarily sees as something true. The only thing what is real to him in his whole life. There is no dialogue whatsoever, but only a voice-over from a narrator (voices of Jean Négroni in the original French version and Chris Marker in the English version of the film), stock music from Trevor Duncan and some random murmurings in German. With that, the film paved way for the career of Chris Marker as both director and artist, revolutionized the film industry in France since the concept was very original and highly praised, and the way the character of the time traveler was portrayed to tell a dramatic and tragic story.

In a science-fiction and drama genre, the movie went further in challenging the conventions of motion picture by narrating the story in a photo-montage / photo-essay form, emphasizing every photograph and highlighting the emotions, mood, impact, and theme of the story.

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?

 
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Posted by on 24 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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La Jetée

La Jetee is probably the most unusual movie I’ve seen so far. I’m not even sure if this should even be treated as a movie at all. At first I thought it was a historical documentary because of the way it was presented.  It’s basically just a slideshow of black and white pictures with a voice-over that narrates its story. As an average film viewer, La Jetee is definitely not a comfortable movie to watch.

The movie belongs to the science-fiction genre. It tackles the subject of time-travel in a post-apocalyptic world where men from the present needs to get help from their past or future to solve their problems. The hero of the movie is the number one candidate of scientists in their experiment to send someone to time travel. The hero time travels, he meets a woman who he falls in love with and he fights for his love against the scientists that wants him to complete his mission. In the end, the character revisits his peculiar memory in his childhood, which is actually the first scene in the film. However, I must admit that I didn’t really understand the movie while I was watching it in class. Besides, I’m paying more attention to the presentation style of the movie rather than its story.

The La Jetee’s narration is one of the things I find interesting with the movie. The narrator uses a monotonic voice in telling the story. The narrator does not communicate any emotion as he reveals the story as if he’s only reading a script without any form of connection at all with the hero. This gave me the feeling that the narrator simply analyzes the story and he distances himself from it just like an observer coming from the third person’s point of view. This effect made the film more documentary-like for me since the only way for me to get the story is through an omniscient narrator.

Aside from the voice-over, the use of slideshow as visuals makes La Jetee a very unusual film. Coupled with the monotonic voice-over, the slideshow makes the movie look as if it’s a presentation or a report being given by someone who knows the story. The slideshow is just a sequence of pictures that are related to the story being narrated. Personally, I think the slideshow is not a necessary component for telling the story. Although it helps in adding symbolism to the film, I think its main purpose is to help in creating the atmosphere for the plot. The use of black and white pictures, for instance, creates the gloomy post-apocalyptic aura in which the world seems to have lost its color as it slowly decays as a result of the war.

In terms of character, I think there is little character development in the film at all. However, I think it is necessary for it to be like that since documentaries similar to La Jetee have no character development at all. Or, maybe I just wasn’t able to fully understand the story to begin with.

Overall, I think this movie exceptionally exemplifies the effects of visuals and sounds in creating the atmosphere of the film. It may be boring and hard to understand, but it still is one of the most creative and innovative films I watched in my entire life.

 
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Posted by on 23 May 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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