"Le Joli Mai": France Takes a Break From War

Le Joli Mai French filmmaker Chris Marker and his cinematographer Pierre Lhomme are co-credited as directors of the 1963 documentary Le Joli Mai, and while Lhomme surely deserves that credit, it's no less a Marker film. The picture is a you-are-there, occasionally harsh study of the people and politics of France during the lovely month of May, 1962, the first springtime in 23 years that France had not been at war (the concept of "not being at war" feeling terribly quaint in 2013 America). It's never less than fascinating, even though so much of it is merely French people talking about their lot in life. (Because of that reason, in fact.) Largely unseen since in America since its 1963 premiere, and newly restored and re-edited by Marker before his passing in 2012, Le Joli Mai is a missing link in both his oeuvre and in film history overall, a link that we might not have sensed was missing until we see how it fits in: Radio transmissions heard over views of the Paris skyline were clearly an influence on the Berlin of noted Marker admirer Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire, for example, and knowing Marker worked on Le Joi Mai at the same time he was making his post-apocalyptic classic La Jetée sheds a new light on both films.

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