"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.