La Jetée, Chris Marker’s Masterpiece Short Film, Is Streaming Free

If you’ve never seen La Jetée and are unfamiliar with video auteur Chris Marker, stop what you are doing right now and spend the next 27 minutes watching this groundbreaking post-apocalyptic dream. It’ll be a half hour spent far more wisely than virtually anything else you could be doing.

[Edit: I’ve realized that the video does not include either English audio or subtitles, so please watch the film on Hulu where it has English audio – don’t worry, purists: it’s solely narration, not a dub. My bluray edition features this and original French and both are legitimate, as Marker wanted the viewer to be focusing on the imagery, not reading text.]

Singularly obsessed with memory, time, and understanding our own narratives, Marker was never meant to become a blockbuster filmmaker, cranking out digestible films with recognizable story arcs. His film work is art in the truest sense: beguiling and confronting us with our own perceptions and lack thereof. Leaping with absolute freedom between history and personal recall, dreams and stories, his video projects have an uncanny grasp on the grey areas where most people are afraid to tread.

More than simply conveying the ambiguous nature of memory in perfect clarity, Marker often strikes the root of perception itself, holding a mirror to the connective tissue between things that we consciously perceive and think we know. This is cinema of the back alleys and neural highways between fact and fiction and history and fantasy. To take in a film of his, like Sans Soleil, is to dive headfirst into the places where associative understanding is born.

Now, back to La Jetée. You’re likely more familiar than you know. Terry Gilliam’s 1996 science fiction masterpiece 12 Monkeys, starring Bruce Willis, is based entirely on this experimental short film. If 12 Monkeys is a fully fleshed out novel, the original work is an impressionistic poem. They both convey the story of a post apocalyptic man, time traveling to unravel the mystery of what’s behind societal ruin.


The first and most striking aspect of Marker’s original vision is that it is shot (almost) entirely in still images. Along with fluid voice work and music that helps carry the tone, these separated singular instances convey the imperfection of memory far better than continuous film ever could. The closest we’ve got in modern film would be Christopher Nolan’s Memento. While that film’s backward narrative worked as a gimmick to induce confusion in the audience – thus connecting with the memory-impaired protagonist – La Jetée is consumed wholly by nature of its fragmented style. Our memories and dreams are never contiguous reels of film, spooling forward in logical fashion. Chris Marker not only deeply understands this; he gets us to understand with him.

There is a transcendent moment in this film, breaking from the still image motif, that will be etched in your mind forever. I can promise this. There’s nothing more to say, other than: prepare to be astonished.

You can buy an incredible disc from Criterion containing both this film and Sans Soleil, plus a host of supplemental material that will submerse you in Marker’s world. Check it out HERE.

Slowdive – Here She Comes // surreal fan video

Slowdive band 1993

Here’s an admission: shoegaze is still one of my favorite genres. The gauzy dream-sound of guitars blurred into pure haze.. it’s never left that soft, nostalgic center of my brain. Effects pedals, ghosted vocals, and a sort of spectral swagger will always their place in my heart.

Today I listened to Slowdive‘s monumental second album, Souvlaki, and it all came flooding back. I got those old familiar chills right in the middle:

Here She Comes is the simplest, most direct song on the album. The impressionistic lyrics are just dark and weird enough to not seem juvenile; combined with the melodic cloud of hand drums and reverb-laden guitar, they form a surreal love poem.

It’s so lonely in this place
So cold I don’t believe
And as no-one knows my name
It’s easy to pretend
It’s easy to believe
There’s a shadow on my wall
It dances like my soul
Dances like my soul
It’s so cold now
I swear it will be warm
Here she come now

Since the band recently reformed, I’m hoping for at least one chance to see Slowdive perform in this lifetime.

slowdive souvlaki

Someone was kind enough to upload the entire Souvlaki album on youtube, so give it a listen if you don’t already own it. As one of the best albums of the 90s, and easily one of two or three crowning achievements of the shoegaze genre, it’d be a damn shame to miss out on this experience. Buy the album for less than $10, if you’re interested. Or listen first below.

There’s a shadow on my wall / It dances like my soul

Armistice Day and Kurt Vonnegut’s Birthday


“…all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans Day is not. So I will throw Veterans Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.
What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.
And all music is.”

Kurt Vonnegut


I mean no offense to those who support Veterans Day. It is simply a different holiday, meant to honor US soldiers in general. I believe that there is room in our cluttered calendar for both observances. While soldiers deserve our respect and empathy, of course, Veterans Day has usurped a holiday with far deeper and more historically specific meaning. Armistice Day was meant to commemorate possibly the gravest moment of recorded human history. I’m partial to the profoundly spiritual nature behind this original intent, as Mr. Vonnegut so eloquently spelled out 41 years ago.

Happy birthday, Kurt. I wish everyone a peaceful Armistice Day, and a moment of silence at 11:11.

Thoughts On ‘Interstellar’

I just watched Interstellar. I had a great time. I feel like director Christopher Nolan really nailed the feeling he was going for – which, to me, was a bold mixture of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Brian Eno-scored NASA documentary For All Mankind, life affirming earth panorama Koyaanisqatsi, and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos… with a sprinkling of exquisite 90s galactic haunted house Event Horizon and Terence Malick’s The Tree Of Life. It may not be for everyone, but for my particular tastes and predilections, it hit the spot in a very specific way.


It never coheres perfectly, but I was genuinely caught up in the illusion he was pulling off this time. I was high on the experience, despite seeing his influences splattered everywhere, in startling clarity. Hell, the main theme is an unabashed riff on the final movement of Philip Glass’ Koyaanisqatsi score. In that last sequence, we watch a Russian cosmonaut rocket explode on takeoff, then tumble to the earth, pirouetting in slow motion. See it here:

Powerful stuff, right?

It’s an apt metaphor for the fear driving this film’s ambitions. Writer Jonathan Nolan was quoted saying, “We’re not fucking going to space,” to originally attached director Steven Spielberg. He goes on to say, “We’ve literally peaked as a species with a little flag on the moon. Can you imagine in a million years when the alien anthropologists turn up and they find the flag and say, ‘Fuck they almost made it. They got that far.'”

I get the feeling that when a science fiction film is considered, all bets are off for the pedants who normally respect the illusory irrationality of cinema. While I will make no case for Interstellar as a perfect piece of cinema, or an important one, I will say that it’s not only a grand ride; Neil DeGrasse Tyson agrees.

As I reminded a friend: Tyson is an astrophysicist, not a film expert. I’m merely making the case that, because someone who has dedicated his life to what most of us deem speculative fiction can fully accept the film and take it on its own narrative terms, surely the armchair (or wood panel basement) equivalent can learn to relax and enjoy sci-fi as you would any other genre. Or not.

I suppose that tangent was merely a nod toward the fact that, hailed as a “true” sci-fi epic or not, this was a supreme aesthetic experience that never blows audience intelligence out the airlock. It may not even attempt the depth most of its inspiration (especially Tarkovsky’s The Mirror, which Nolan has specifically mentioned and is totally fucking streaming in full on youtube here) but it grabbed me on a gut level that few films do. I think you should watch it.


Sitting at work this morning, contemplating Armistice Day, I recalled a line from Interstellar, regarding the spaceship under construction. “Every rivet could have been a bullet.” This appears to be a direct nod to President Eisenhower’s famous Chance For Peace speech, where he intoned the following:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

This reinforces my understanding of the film as not only a thoughtfully grand magic trick, but a call to arms (so it were) for the current generation to focus our ambitions beyond ourselves, and look to the skies rather than our borders. It’s a remarkably similar sentiment expressed countless times throughout the modern iteration of Cosmos, which is now streaming in full on Netflix. Watch it if you have yet to.

Vote Today: November 4, 2014

For US based readers and listeners: I just thought I’d drop a friendly reminder that, however fucked our so-called democracy has become, voting still matters. It’s not only important to voice your opinion where it counts (as opposed to the internet); it’s important to exercise your primary duty as an informed citizen. One reason so many asshole Republicans get into office is that my generation lets old, cynical, fearful people dominate the polls. That is something that could change.

Since this is a music blog, I’m also sharing a song that I’ve probably listened to 40+ times this year.

Sandwell District’s Feed Forward collection is probably the best and dark techno release of the past decade. I can, and have, felt lost in this music for days at a time. Keep this playing as you brave your local polling station.


If you need help with the local issues and candidates, as well as the location of your local station, go here:

Thank you, friends!