See it compliments of GoogleVideo: [This has been removed, and I cannot find even a trailer with English subtitles.]
Criterion has an essay which opens
However you define Chris Marker's 1963 short La Jetée—philosophical fiction, genre exercise, treatise on cinematic time—one fact is unavoidable: it resembles few other films. In fact, La Jetée does not define itself as a film at all
Senses of Cinema has an analysis here, which begins with this:
Chris Marker's 1962 short film La Jetée (1962) is probably best known today as the inspiration for Terry Gilliam's 1995 film 12 Monkeys. Some also consider it an influence on other popular time-travel films such as the Terminator series. Most serious critics acknowledge that Marker's film is vastly superior to any of its imitators in its brilliant use of still images and sparse narration to construct a story which is both compelling and haunting.
Slant Magazine says,
A half-hour sci-fi short, Marker's clinical poem on time and memory and nuclear holocaust recounts (or recalls) the story of "a man marked by an image of his childhood," a man whose "vision of peacetime happiness" (i.e. a pretty girl deep in thought he glimpsed years ago) is so obsessive, he is thought to be the only soul in humanity's post-apocalyptic underground hideout whose mind can retain the sort of focus necessary to travel back in time without going insane
FilmsDeFrance calls it
arguably one of the most distinctive and memorable of the films which emerged from the French New Wave filmmakers of the early 1960s.
Moria calls it "highly experimental" and says
Director Chris Marker’s unique method is the telling of the entire film in a series of stills. This is most unusual as a narrative device. The effect is that of captured moments, of partial glimpses – something that suits the film’s theme perfectly.
DVDTalk says it is "perhaps more influential than effective - at least for audiences four decades removed from its startling originality."
DVDJournal thinks it's
easily one of the best shorts ever created. Indelible, elegant, and haunting, it is a complete and brilliant experiment delivered in the exact amount of time required for this narrative. And the central force of its cinema — told entirely in black-and-white stills — is not simple gimmickry, but Marker's commentary on memory and how we place things.
10/16/2009: 1001 Flicks has a review.