- Sun, Oct 27 + Wed, Oct 30Dirs. Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme, France, 1963, 145 min., NR, DCP, New Digital RestorationOfficial Website
Part of Doctober. Showtimes posted the Monday prior to opening.
The restoration of Chris Marker's legendary portrait of Paris in May 1962 premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival, exactly half a century after the original won the International Critics Prize there. Meticulously restored by the film's cinematographer and co-director, Pierre Lhomme, according to Marker's Instructions—trimming the original by almost 20 minutes—and featuring a lovely English voiceover (Marker's preference for anglophone audiences) by Marker's comrade and friend Simone Signoret, LE JOLI MAI emerges as one of the director's most poignant and important works.
Characteristically witty and generous, Marker's epic "direct cinema" inquiry into the possibility of happiness during France's first springtime of peace in many years (following the recently signed ceasefire that marked the end of the Algerian War) is structured in two parts. "A Prayer from the Eiffel Tower" orchestrates a heady polyphony of Parisians—a nervous clothing salesman who is happy only in his car or when his till is full, a besotted couple who know they are unique in their bliss—offering acerbic and sometimes hilarious observations on the state of the nation, and often dodging the obvious. "The Return of Fantômas" broadens the film's scope to examine the social and political history of Paris, including recent street demonstrations, racial tensions, and—the future always contiguous with the past in Marker's cinema—technological revolution. (Alain Resnais and Marker's usual feline menagerie appear fleetingly.)
"Is this the most beautiful city in the world?" Marker muses. "One would like to see it for the first time." In its philosophical and poetic profusion, LE JOLI MAI allows us that virginal vantage. (James Quandt, 2013 Toronto International Film Festival Program Guide
"An epic of inquiring photography." —J. Hoberman, The New York Review of Books "The greatest documentary about Paris." —Trois Couleurs "A sincere, brilliant, clever and highly idiosyncratic essay." —Paris-Presse