Amoeblog

Still Life: Telling Time in La Jetee with Henri Bergson, The Human Torch and EC's Weird Science

Posted by Charles Reece, March 16, 2008 01:52am | Post a Comment

The prisoners were subjected to experiments, apparently of great concern to those who conducted them.  The outcome was a disappointment for some - death for others - and for others yet, madness.  One day they came to select a new guinea pig from among the prisoners.  He was the man whose story we are telling.  He was frightened. He had heard about the Head Experimenter. He was prepared to meet Dr. Frankenstein, or the Mad Scientist. Instead, he met a reasonable man who explained calmly that the human race was doomed. Space was off-limits. The only hope for survival lay in Time. A loophole in Time, and then maybe it would be possible to reach food, medicine, sources of energy.  This was the aim of the experiments: to send emissaries into Time, to summon the Past and Future to the aid of the Present.  But the human mind balked at the idea. To wake up in another age meant to be born again as an adult. The shock would be too great.  Having only sent lifeless or insentient bodies through different zones of Time, the inventors where now concentrating on men given to very strong mental images. If they were able to conceive or dream another time, perhaps they would be able to live in it.  The camp police spied even on dreams.  This man was selected from among a thousand for his obsession with an image from the past. -- Narrator, La Jetée

I hate temporal mechanics! -- Miles O'Brien, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

la jetee poster

Thanks to YouTube, I finally got around to watching La Jetée by Chris Marker. Perhaps most surprising after all the ink that's been spilled analyzing this experimental work is how much it resembles the old science fiction stories of EC's Weird Science.  These stories -- like the majority of those from EC -- featured some twist ending that followed along like fate from whatever course of action the protagonist chose in the beginning. 

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Rive Gauche

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 7, 2008 09:14pm | Post a Comment

Roughly occurring at the same time as the more well-known and more celebrated French Nouvelle Vague (or New Wave), another group of frequently collaborative film-makers were grouped together under the moniker "Rive Gauche," named after Paris' artsy side. These film-makers (Agnès Varda, Chris Marker, Jean Cayrol, Henri Colpi, Marguerite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grillet,) applied to film the concepts which defined the Nouveau Romain in contemporaneous literature. Duras and Robbe-Grillet were also writers and associated with the literary movement in which experimental authors sought to create a new style with each work. Together, they produced an amazing body of film which remains largely overshadowed by the much more popular New Wave, though no less interesting or significant.

Because of the film-makers' approach to art and their being French, as well as contemporaries of the New Wave, they're often lumped in with them even though the New Wave, while radically experimental, was more stylistically consistent due its focus on the director as the film's author. Ironically, the New Wave view served to encourage the personal and recognizable authorial nature of film, whereas members of the Rive Gauche often sought to depersonalize their works in an attempt to defy expectations, placing them in polar opposition in this regard.



Alain Resnais began making films in the 1940s. He is best known for his films Nuit Et Brouiilard (1955), Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) and L'Anee Derniere a Marienbad (1961).

Nuit Et Brouillard stands alone in cinematic history in its depiction of the Jewish Holocaust. Resnais avoided the familiar black and white stock-footage for most of the film and instead presented tranquil scenes of the by-then abandoned concentration camps in color, with flowers growing through the cracks and sun beams shining on the desolate remains. Compare, for example, Nuit Et Brouiilard to a cinematically conservative film like Schindler's List. Spielberg chose to film in black and white (both literally and morally), with big name actors and with action unfolding in a familiarly un-ending winter that makes the events seem cliche and safely remote.

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