onsdag 13. november 2013

Le Joli Mai (Marker & Lhomme)

Scheduled Netflix premiere: November 15th, 2013

Chris Marker is best known among movie lovers for his La Jetée (1962), a short sci-fi composed largely from still photos. The British Film institute, in 2012, placed La Jetée 50th of the "greatest films of all time". Terry Gilliam borrowed heavily from it for his Twelve Monkeys (1995).

However, a restoration of Le Joli Mai (The Happy Month of May) now is set to showcase him as a documentary film maker. The movie, which Marker made together with Pierre Lhomme, was first released in 1963.

The May in question is that of 1962, a point in time that the filmmakers present as a watermark in modern French history. As a result of the ceasefire agreed upon with Algeria, May 1962 marked the first time for the French since 1914 that France had not been involved in a war. The movie is preoccupied with documenting the effects that such a prolonged involvment in war and conflicts had had on society, but also the opportunities which now existed in a new reality where the resources of society could be directed to civic purposes.

It gives you a Paris far removed from your regular tourist experience, or how the City of Light may be portrayed in the pages of travel magazines. The sense of a truly historical moment and the earnest portrayal and reactions of ordinary citizens result in some impactful moments. There is enthusiasm and hope for the future (such as the beautiful scene with the architect planning for "Trees, I would start by planting trees"), but also stark realism (people in prison and some shots of Paris that are far from making it as post cards). The looking ahead and the 'there and then' make for a powerful contrast and give a thought-provoking view of history and society. Marker and Lhomme shot more than 50 hours of street interviews with random strangers that give us a thick, vibrant slice of Paris.

The movie may come off a bit self-indulging through the commentary, and the movie is very loosely structured which also may be off-putting to some. We encourage you to give it a try, though, it shouldn't take long to establish whether or not it's "for you".

Le Joli Mai was originally narrated by legendary French singer and actor Yves Montand, in the English version it is Montand's wife of many years, Simone Signoret, who speaks.

IMDB's: Chris Marker, La Jetée, Pierre Lhomme, Le Joli Mai, Twelve monkeys, Terry Gilliam

Pierre Lhomme talks about how the movie was conceived and made (turn on subtitles!)

La Jetée is available on youtube (French narration and no subtitles)

Yves Montand's wiki

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