As the fourth anniversary of Marker’s death has come and gone, the LP is an evocative invitation to rethink one of the richest meditations that we have on the cinematic medium. Listening to La Jetée certainly provides a new angle on the philosophical-narrative premise of the film: that our potential to intervene in the passage of time stems from our faculty to have mental images, to remember. No doubt Marker understood — and constructed in this film a very literal figuration of — one of the central arguments that Henri Bergson made about the relationship between memory and perception (and this was some time before Gilles Deleuze would turn the latter into an unwilling philosophical godfather of the French cinema). In short, memory and perception are different by nature and not degree. It is not, in Bergson’s schema, that perception affords us an image of the present, while memory is the retention of a past one. Perception works in the service of action, a trigger in an action-reaction chain. The image, on the other hand, falls squarely in the domain of the memory. Memory is a condensation of the present moment into an image, lagging imperceptibly behind the now, but opening an associative portal between our most recent images and all those stored up from the past. The image then is a point where the past can project itself, gnawing into the future (as Bergson had it) and intervening in that reflexive chain of perception and action. The philosophical significance, at least for Bergson and so for Marker, is grand: whatever capacity we have to exercise our free will lies in memory, in the image, at least as much as it does in action.

Source: “La Jetée” at 33 Revolutions Per Minute – Los Angeles Review of Books

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