1983, TSPDT Rank #201
Sans Soleil is an incredible piece of film work by Chris Marker that unfortunately, seems to be going to be largely undiscovered. It's a free-form travel essay film of sorts - about a fictional cameraman who attempts to capture the "two extreme poles of survival," Japan and Africa, in order to form a memory out of film. Marker approaches this by filming whatever seemed interesting, or important to him. Which is to say, things like the daily life of ordinary people, cultural oddities, random curiosities, or some most likely forgotten history. Maybe he's just looking for "things that quicken the heart." Either way, he pulls it off in such a way that there is no pretension at all, and the movie feels really authentic and real. Not to mention quite dreamlike, a feeling which comes from the fact that all the footage was shot on 16mm silent film - not a synchronized shot to be found in the film. The soundtrack is filled with ambient electronic music, recreated sound effects, etc. Plus a narration that is both wise and nothing short of poetic. I could say more things about this film but I feel it's something you should experience, because nothing substitutes for seeing the film yourself. And multiple viewings works really well with this film - you'll miss out on a lot on your first viewing.
The Criterion Collection did well to package Sans Soleil along with La Jetee in their DVD release, because they complement each other very well. However, I must give them both the same rating because for all the similarity they share in their exploration of memory and time, they are such different films that I could not possibly compare them against each other. What matters is they are both very great films!