WHEN I FIRST SAW Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (1982), I felt that I was watching a newsreel of consciousness. It is a film that stands alone as a literary document in the medium of cinema, layering intellectual and historical labor and play into a sublimely reflexive discourse. Along with La Jetée (1962), Marker’s science-fiction short composed almost entirely of stills, it has recently been released as a Criterion Collection DVD. (Marker’s other films, fifty-plus and counting, are still hard to find, and the filmmaker has never been much occupied with building their reception.) La Jetée and Sans Soleil feature as their respective protagonists a post–World War time traveler chasing a memory and a globe-trotting cameraman making literary and visual notes on history’s margins, and these two figures in combination turn out to be a close enough description of Marker himself—the film essayist
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