As part of Movie City Tokyo, FilmInFocus looks at a list of 10 diverse movies shot in Japan’s capital by Western filmmakers.
Slide 7: Sans Soleil (1982)
Chris Marker's seminal film essay plays with the documentary form as it focuses on Japan and Guinea-Bisseau, places the film's female narrator terms “two extreme poles of survival.” Marker's movie is made up of documentary footage shot by the (fictional) cameraman Sandor Krasna and sent to the narrator, along with clips from movies (such as Vertigo) and excerpts from Japanese TV shows and commercials. Jonathan Rosenbaum, in his essay written for the Criterion Collection release of Sans Soleil, describes Marker’s vision of Tokyo as a place that "consists of relatively marginalized activities having to do with animals, death, and video and TV images." One of the most compelling images Marker finds of Tokyo is the temple dedicated to cats, where we see a couple praying for their lost pet, kneeling in front of an arresting array of porcelain felines. Describing the city's transportation system, Marker (through Krasna) poetically writes: "Tokyo is a city crisscrossed by trains, tied together with electric wire she shows her veins." A few years later, another major European filmmaker, Wim Wenders, would also make a Tokyo-centric travelogue with Tokyo-Ga (1985), a documentary about the filmmaker’s 1983 journey to the Japanese capital to pay tribute to directing great Yasujiro Ozu.