The sense of disorientation experienced by the memory crises of global technological modernity isoften described in spatial language. The French term depaysement captures this comminglingof categories of time and space literally: out of country-ness. This is the condition of vertigo activelyconstructed in the seminal films of Chris Marker, whose travelogues, or auto-ethnographies, employa range of new technologies as well as montage strategies to recreate the linear as well as non-hierarchical information flows which characterize global modernity, intensified in the digital era. Four of his films reference Japan centrally: Le Mystere Koumiko ( 1965); Sans Soleil ( 1982); Le Depays (1982); and Level Five (1997). I want to read the ways in which Marker simultaneously stages both Japan’s commodified presentand the traumatic memory-holes of its post-war history, leaning on the work of Walter Benjamin to suggest the films’ radical historiography of a Present Past. Yet, I also want to ask if this reading of Japan remains unwittingly complicit with the Occidental history of reading Japan under the signs of Mystery and the Feminine. Finally, I will trace in Sans Soleil a number of longer national traditions, hidden in the folds of the apparently rootless global metropolis. Exemplary is the Benjaminian dialectical image of the 14 th century Japanese Noh Theatre of ghosts as condensed and distilled figure for a resolutely contemporary historiography of haunting in the film.
Barbara Gabriel, Carleton University, Canada