Ffrench_The Memory of the Image (La Jetee)

Ffrench_The Memory of the Image (La Jetee) - French...

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THE MEMORY OF THE IMAGE IN CHRIS MARKER’S LA JETE ´ E P ATRICK FFRENCH The fascination that Chris Marker’s short ±lm La Jete´e has exerted since its appearance in 1962 derives from the problems of recognition the ±lm proposes, induced by the series of transgressions and transformations it puts into effect. The ±lm’s scenario — the story of a man haunted by the image of his own death — draws on the enigmatic force of the scenario of the ‘second death’ which ±nds exemplary literary ±gures in Faust, Dorian Gray, Poe’s Mr Valdemar, Balzac’s Raphael Valentin, and in Oedipus and Antigone as read by both Freud and Lacan. In the history of cinema too, the survival of one’s own death or the trope of suspended death is a privileged ±gure which has its avatars in Wiene’s Caligari or Murnau’s Nosferatu , and in Hitchcock’s Vertigo . In these instances cinema, which gives a semblance of life to a disembodied image, makes visible a double of this visual afterlife at the level of narrative and puts itself en abyme. This strategy is found also in the formal construction of La Jete´e , which consists famously of a series of ±lmed photograms or stills; the material basis of the moving image in the photogram is made visible, as if the moving image, dissected and arranged as a series of still images, is then re-±lmed to create a ‘moving’ image which shows its deri- vation from photogrammatic stillness. The fascination of the ±lm also derives from this stillness and from the ±xation of the gaze on the still, a stasis dynamically resolved through the montage and the narrative voice. The proposition of a memory of one’s own death and of a ‘still’ but ‘moving’ image both pose problems of recognition; fascination derives from this incapacity to recognize. Following Blanchot, for whom fascina- tion relates to a paralysis of meaning 1 and an absence of time, 2 it is also possible to read the movement of the protagonist as an Orphic and Oedipal transgression. For Blanchot, ‘La me ` re [ ... ] concentre en elle tous les pouvoirs de la fascination’. 3 The encounter with the maternal gaze of the female protagonist which the hero has sought, emerging from within her sleep in the ±lm’s sole ‘moving’ image, precedes the encounter with death in the form of the emissary of the underworld. A further doubling # The Author 2005. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: [email protected] 1 L’Espace litte´raire (Paris, Gallimard, 1955 ): ‘Ce qui nous fascine, nous enle ` ve notre pouvoir de donner un sens’ (p. 25 ). 2
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This note was uploaded on 09/08/2010 for the course RTVF 188 at San Jose State University .

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Ffrench_The Memory of the Image (La Jetee) - French...

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