Archive Fever! 5.0
Le Joli Mai
dir. Chris Marker, France, 1963, DCP, b/w, French w/English subtitles, 145 min.
Introduced by friend of IHP Paul Lewis
“A far-reaching meditation on the relationship between individual and society” (Film Comment), Le Joli Mai is a portrait of Paris and Parisians shot during May 1962.
It is a film with several thousand actors including a poet, a student, and an owl, a housewife, a stockbroker, a competitive dancer, two lovers, General de Gaulle, and several cats. Filmed just after the March ceasefire between France and Algeria, Le Joli Mai documents Paris during a turning point in French history: the first time since 1939 that France was not involved in any war.
Part I, “A Prayer from the Eiffel Tower,” documents personal attitudes and feelings around Paris. A salesman feels free only when he is driving his car, and then only if there is not too much traffic. A working-class mother of eight has just got the larger apartment that she had been wanting for years. Part II, “The Return of Fantomas,” is an investigation of the political and social life of the city. Marker and Lhomme alternate between public events and private discussions: the former focusing on the Algerian situation, such as a funeral for people killed in Paris street demonstrations after the Algerian settlement. The film ends with sweeping views of Paris, the façades of its prisons, and the faces of its people as they struggle to make sense of their moment in history.