The Lost Art of Photo Films (feat. La Jetee & Chafed Elbows!)

There are times when what you remember most about a superlative film is a single indelible signature image — one supremely stark photograph which stands out in your mind for years afterwards as personal shorthand for an amazing cinematic experience. But what if the entire film was made up of such beautiful, intoxicating stuff? Known under various terms like photo-roman or ciné-roman, the “photo film” is comprised entirely of still images set to voiceovers, music and sound effects — creating a truly dreamlike cinematic space in which each successive frame unlocks an entire universe of possibilities. Tonight, we explore this magical, yet still-underused form with Chris Marker’s landmark La Jetée (the basis for Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys and possibly the most haunting dystopic sci-fi vision of its era), a rare 35mm screening of Robert Downey, Sr.’s Chafed Elbows (the hilariously anarchic, visually agog ground-zero satire of the ‘60s Greenwich Village bohemian scene), a highlight reel of Hollywood’s use of the photo-roman and a heady bonus short subject!
Chafed Elbows Dir. Robert Downey, Sr., 1966, 35mm, 63 min. (35mm print courtesy of Anthology Film Archives with the support of The Film Foundation.)
La Jetée Dir. Chris Marker, 1962, digital presentation, 28 min.

Watch an excerpt from Robert Downey’s “Chafed Elbows”!

Watch an excerpt from Chris Marker’s “La Jetée”!

Watch George Lucas’s student film “Look At Life”!
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