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Sans soleil (Sunless) Reviews

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366weirdmovies
366weirdmovies

Super Reviewer

April 15, 2012
Difficult-to-describe, stream-of-consciousness essay travelogue; essentially, it's an arthouse mondo movie. Remarkable images include the disturbing slaughter of a giraffe and a Japanese temple devoted to ceramic cats; it seems random, but every shot is accompanied by a keen observation on culture and humanity. Dreamlike, floating, and poetic, it's a must-see for the intelligent and adventurous viewer.
Conner R

Super Reviewer

March 2, 2010
Incredibly bizarre way to present a documentary, but it's very effective. It's almost as if the film itself had ADHD and was constantly switching topics and moving around in order to stay entertained. There are some great shots of Japan and I actually feel like I learned a tremendous amount about the culture.
Eric B

Super Reviewer

March 9, 2012
"Sans Soleil" deserves academic respect, but this is among the most exasperatingly tedious films I've ever sat through. At least it's unusual -- the most apt comparison may be "Koyaaniqatsi," as director Chris Marker's camera roams through Japan, Guinea-Bissau, Iceland, Paris and San Francisco capturing documentary glimpses of local culture. Ceremonial rites of Tokyo are especially prominent. As with "Koyaaniqatsi," the film is artfully detached and stresses editing rhythm as much as thematic content. No problem so far, but then comes the narration. You'll never see a movie where you wish so much that the narrator would simply shut her yap. The text takes the stilted form of a monotone female quoting letters from a fictionalized cameraman, so the ideas are constantly prefaced with "He wrote that..." and "He wrote me that...." This tic grows old fast. And all the heady philosophizing (memory over time is the dominant motif) is so maddeningly dense and persistent that the accompanying images never get a chance to breathe. What an exhausting film. And unlike "Koyaaniqatsi," it doesn't even have a strong score. Little beyond bubbling synthesizer effects.

A caution to sensitive parties: Some borrowed footage of a giraffe being gunned down is extremely disturbing.
Chris B

Super Reviewer

November 6, 2011
This is Chris Marker's free form travelogue that was released in 1983 (RT is wrong about it being released in 2002) and is a meditation of life on earth and societies impact on man. While this is a film that most modern audiences would be lost with and probably bored by, "Sans Soleil" is an artistic documentary that is a multiple layered conceptual look into society and mankind as a whole. The film uses a combination of film elements including archival footage, nature footage, animal kingdom footage and mostly of man living in their own world. This is a thinking man's documentary and is both serious and humorous as it explored such topics as sexuality, capitalism, and our basic human desires. The film is narrated by Florence Delay and her calming voice overlaps most shots in the film and along with the meditative score, really add a sense of calm to the overall feel of the movie. All of this adds up to a deeply personal yet equally immersive experience for the viewer. Be warned that there are scenes of both graphic nudity, sexual content, and other mature topics throughout the film.
Kyle M

Super Reviewer

January 9, 2014
Well shot and with meandering dialogue (that occasionally makes fascinating observations), the film doesn't hold together for me. I don't know what it's about -- I know it's about memory, but it meanders once every two or three minutes from one topic to another. By the end, I had a headache and was checking my watch frequently; boredom was creeping in -- in spite of the great photography. The dialogue continued. Finally at the end I was relieved when the credits rolled. I have no animosity towards this film -- at times it is interesting, and it is artistically shot -- I can tell it's about something, it's not about just nothing like many films -- but by the end I just kept asking, "Why should I care?" I fully admit I don't understand this film. I think maybe only a certain kind of person can love this film; maybe someone with the same mind as Chris Marker. For me though, it was like boarding a train, looking at beautiful sights out your window, but listening to a narrator describe random objects for an hour and a half as the train goes nowhere. Impenetrable, slowly more exasperating, and eventually somewhat sleep-inducing.

I don't rule out watching it again -- it seems like a movie you can gain a new perspective on each time you watch it. But for now, it leaves no sizable imprint on my memory, my thoughts, or my feeling. On my first viewing, I didn't completely enjoy watching it for its full duration. To be honest, it reminded me of a long meditation retreat I went on, and in the last hour or so of the retreat I really was pushing myself to finish the meditation. Like that, during the last half of this movie I really had to push myself to finish it and it was a challenge to not just give up -- it was definitely testing my patience, which is typically pretty vast (this is coming from someone whose favorite science fiction movie is "2001").

If nothing else, it's a beauty to look at, despite some violent images I couldn't bear to look at (or regretted seeing).
Robert F

Super Reviewer

May 4, 2010
Sans Soleil is more intuitive than rational, so proceed with caution.
Tom S

Super Reviewer

September 11, 2007
I can't even write about this. It just has to be experienced.
MARS9T8D4
June 18, 2013
A stunningly honest and beautiful documentary that serves as a non-linear tale of a globe-trotting, soul searching filmmaker.
July 22, 2012
At its best, Sans Soleil packs powerful images with interesting narration. These images range from the socially casual exploration of Japanese girls turning 20, to the more nightmare-inducing flickering of images from Japanese horror cinema. Which points to the biggest weakness Sans Soleil faces: so much of the film is devoted to Japan that the random excursions to other countries is jarring and alters the flow of the film.

It is hard to criticize too much, since these random diversions showcase some of the strongest scenes in the film.
RicC
October 11, 2010
I'd tried seeing the first half this film at least three times before and was about to give up this last time. Mundane Asia- and Africa-centered images and narrating are just so fascinating, guys!

Clearly this was not cut out for myself, as I think it's grossly outdated and naive. As in, much of the footage focuses on banality and the philosophy about spacetime is sophomoric, lacking an interesting punch. The film depends heavily on its excursionist style, which I think most people took a liking to, but that doesn't really present itself as something worthwhile in my opinion. Point-less.
curlykeysgirl
August 20, 2008
VERY smart movie chock-full of epiphanies with a very tidy, circular ending... or is it the beginning? Only negative would be the length - I get it already.
February 17, 2008
When Japan was still a conundrum to the west, this would have been fascinating. But if you have any modern experience with the East this is a heavy-handed boor.
September 1, 2007
Absolutely stunnnig philosophical anthropology from a master. A dense essay on humanity made flesh with exquisite photography of Japan and Africa. I'm not sure what it all means, but I will visit this picture throughout my life as I have with "2001".
Kyle M

Super Reviewer

January 9, 2014
Well shot and with meandering dialogue (that occasionally makes fascinating observations), the film doesn't hold together for me. I don't know what it's about -- I know it's about memory, but it meanders once every two or three minutes from one topic to another. By the end, I had a headache and was checking my watch frequently; boredom was creeping in -- in spite of the great photography. The dialogue continued. Finally at the end I was relieved when the credits rolled. I have no animosity towards this film -- at times it is interesting, and it is artistically shot -- I can tell it's about something, it's not about just nothing like many films -- but by the end I just kept asking, "Why should I care?" I fully admit I don't understand this film. I think maybe only a certain kind of person can love this film; maybe someone with the same mind as Chris Marker. For me though, it was like boarding a train, looking at beautiful sights out your window, but listening to a narrator describe random objects for an hour and a half as the train goes nowhere. Impenetrable, slowly more exasperating, and eventually somewhat sleep-inducing.

I don't rule out watching it again -- it seems like a movie you can gain a new perspective on each time you watch it. But for now, it leaves no sizable imprint on my memory, my thoughts, or my feeling. On my first viewing, I didn't completely enjoy watching it for its full duration. To be honest, it reminded me of a long meditation retreat I went on, and in the last hour or so of the retreat I really was pushing myself to finish the meditation. Like that, during the last half of this movie I really had to push myself to finish it and it was a challenge to not just give up -- it was definitely testing my patience, which is typically pretty vast (this is coming from someone whose favorite science fiction movie is "2001").

If nothing else, it's a beauty to look at, despite some violent images I couldn't bear to look at (or regretted seeing).
jussi s.
November 20, 2013
A beautiful essay on the importance of context and details in remembering and how memories affects our personal and shared histories that shape the present. Hugely impressive.
August 3, 2013
Sans Soleil is the top of the crops when it comes to the reflective and deep essay documentary, and it is no wonder that it comes from the mind of the always ground breaking and meditative Chris Marker. This film is an overpowering and unique experience, and while the film's challenging nature inevitably restricts its audience appeal, anyone willing to let themselves be carried away by the images and the collection of thoughts will find it very thought provoking and certainly worthwhile.
March 13, 2012
Great film! I've seen it many times. If you relate it to Twelve Monkeys (the original French film by the same director), there are so many similarities. Sans Soleil even quotes Twelve Monkeys at one point, & it appears Chris Marker had a thing for time travel! I love the retrograde sound effects! Yes, it's challenging. Think of it like an adult - as opposed to preteen & adolescent - version of Linklater's Waking Life, but a brilliant travel film.
September 27, 2012
It is truly a beautiful film, a free flowing picture of life and memory.
March 29, 2013
This is the type of film that would feel right at home as an installation piece in a gallery somewhere. And if it was, I'd watch a few minutes of it and move on. But I saw it in a theater. In for the long haul. Did I almost fall asleep? Yes. Did I fall asleep? No. It's a really interesting piece. Meandering and tangential for its entirety, but hypnotically entertaining. There's just something so personal about it. Early in the film, the narrator says something about traveling the world many times over and banality being the only thing that's still interesting, and that theme presents itself throughout the entire film. Lots of people just... being. Don't go into this expecting anything more than an exercise in being human, and you might just be surprised. Oh, and the interplay between the visuals and music is amazing. That was my favorite part. [3.5/5 STARS] [032813]
Mirza A.
February 3, 2013
Few the movies that can change your way of thinking. This is one of them
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