In homage of Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962), Director James Lee uses a series of still frames to tell the story of a time traveler going back to visit his wife. The wife, who has not yet met the man, begins to feel the charm and love of a relationship that carries a profound romance despite never meeting previously. As time progresses, the man reveals that the trips in time are tearing his memories apart and that their meetings have to come to an end. But one final gift to his wife gives them the chance to be together and avoid tragedy.
Projects that utilize stills to convey a story rely on the success of narrative, audio and quality of images, as performances, cinematography, and many other facets of traditional film are pushed aside. This also puts emphasis on the few creative elements, that are able to be critiqued, under greater scrutiny. With all this in mind, it is more often that these productions end up failing, but Director James Lee does an exemplary job of taking on this form of storytelling to create something beautiful and engaging.
Looking at the audio and visual presentation, the stills used are well selected with no photo feeling redundant or unnecessary. These photos catch the wonderment of romance, the wonderment of time travel and the air of mystery of the whole situation. The stills are complimented by a score that flows well with the tone of the story, transitioning along with the dialogue and the scenario presented. The actual voice over work is clear and matches well with the images. Overall, the presentation is superb in executing the elements essential for a production of this ilk to leave a mark.
The story, which is possibly the strongest aspect of the production, really melds the genres of science fiction and romance in an engaging way. With the narrative coming from the perspective of the wife, we get to experience her coming to terms with two different abstract concepts of time travel and an implicated romance. These hopes and dreams are projected well, drawing the audience into believing the situation, or at least able to entertain it as believable given the degree of wonder and love exuded in the dialogue. “See You Next Century” definitely paints a romantic vision that audience will appreciate in spite of the approach to presentation.
Productions of this ilk (Still frame story telling) will always remain a niche genre, and for understandable reasons. Even with my own appreciation of this production, and the amount of grace and skill given to the format, it will never be able to match up to a live action or animated film. However, that critique comes as a way to somewhat soften my overall praise for a short film that really thrives under its own limitations. Overall, James Lee shows he has the ability to create something profound and beautiful under self imposed conditions, a true testament to being a talented filmmaker.