Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 05
Sans Soleil October 26, 1983
Sans Soleil opens

In 1982, when the French avant-garde director Chris Marker released his travelogue essay Sans Soleil, most critics were uncertain what to make of it. While Marker, a fellow traveler with the French New Wave, had made his mark twenty years earlier in 1962 with La Jetée, a half- hour science fiction poem that The New Yorker’s critic Pauline Kael called “The greatest science fiction movie I’ve ever seen.” But Sans Soleil, a meandering video diary involving different to trips to Africa, Japan and beyond, was hard for most to define. At the New York Times, Vincent Canby spat out, “In Sans Soleil, Mr. Marker pretends to be examining the quality of contemporary life, though what he actually is doing is examining his own, not always coherent or especially interesting reactions to our world.” In a more kind way, The Village Voice’s J. Hoberman termed it “philosophical journalism,” adding “Sans Soleil’s Tokyo is a comicbook futuropolis more startling than Blade Runner’s.” But over time, the film’s poetic and perplexing mix of video and voiceover, photography and philosophy, helped shape the emerging documentary form of the “essay film.” And even more, Marker’s jittery narrative, darting quickly from observation to digression, presaged what we have come to call new media. In his recent review for The Onion, Scott Tobias notes, “at a time when technology has given rise to ‘vlogging’ and other forms of personal expression, Marker's Sans Soleil stands as a model of the essay film.” And Nathan Lee at the Village Voice adds, “Engaging this multivalent polyphonic poetry is strikingly akin to surfing the Internet.”


More Flashbacks
December 5, 1963
Charade released

When Charade, director Stanley Donen’s distinctly Hitchcockian Euro thriller starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, was released on December 5, 1963, it represented the end of a very long road scriptwriter Peter Stone had taken to bring his work to the big screen.

Read more »
December 5, 1976
Bound for Glory Remembers Woody

On this day in 1976, Bound for Glory was released, a vivid cinematic portrait of one of the 20th century's most compelling counterculture heroes, writer and folk singer Woody Guthrie. Based on portions of Guthrie's memoir of the same name, the film was directed by Hal Ashby who – after the record breaking box office success of his previous picture, the Warren Beatty sex comedy Shampoo – had been given carte blanche for his follow-up. Though Bound for Glory ended up becoming an Oscar contender that year (going up against films like Network and Rocky for Best Picture), the movie’s production had not been without its problems. Firstly, Ashby couldn't get his first choice actors to play Guthrie and ended up casting TV's Kung Fu star David Carradine, and then production went massively over schedule and almost twice over budget as the logistics of a huge period film – not to mention the director's cocaine habit – led the film to becoming something of a runaway train. Though one of the few quintessentially American films released in the bicentennial year, Bound for Glory lost out in the major categories at the Academy Awards (instead taking Best Cinematography and Best Score) and, due to the lack of attention Ashby's films in general receive nowadays, remains unfairly overlooked as one of the finest biopics of its period.

Read more »