Marker’s magnificently composed, freestyle, structurally innovative and formally fluid “city symphony” Le Joli Mai achieved a startlingly chiselled display of tonal and thematic balance – between meditative and documentation, direct and discursive, playful and agitational, disarming and radical, ironic and edgy, humorous and combative, and poetic and political. Like its illustrious predecessor Chronicle of a Summer from two years back – with a shot of Morin and Rouch to make its influence eminently clear – it was foregrounded on Parisians, in the way they think, interact and exist; however, while the latter had a relatively tighter scope recorded over a longer timeframe, this had a dizzyingly wide arc, albeit within a shorter horizon. He, along with co-director and cameraperson Pierre Lhomme, made this at a delicate juncture for France, with the bloody Algerian War finally coming to an end, thus marking the collapse of French colonialism, while the French society was simultaneously experiencing a consumerist boom. Broken into two halves – personal and impish “A Prayer from the Eiffel Tower” and defiantly political and serious “The Return of Fantomas” – it explored diverse complex themes, including the Algerian war, the French army’s use of torture, racism, exploitation of workers, hubris, housing resettlement, middle-class ennui, etc.; and, on a fascinating note, each idea casually raised in one vignette became the defining leitmotif in the next, thus building an exquisite inter-connectedness. Further – akin to a collection of essays with a prologue and an afterword – this exuberantly began with a lyrical yet sardonic elegy on Paris, and ended with deadpan, discomfiting statistics. And, not least of all, it was gorgeously photographed in high-contrast, intoxicating B/W which captured the immediacy, zeitgeist, malaise and disaffection through its dazzling images.
Director: Chris Marker & Pierre L'homme
Genre: Documentary/Essay Film