Sunday, January 13, 2008
“Last Year at Marienbad”
The NY Times has an excellent piece today on the Alain Resnais film “Last Year at Marienbad” which first came out in the early 60's.
I developed a fascination for French cinema from the 60's when I was a junior in college circa 1998. At that time I had no interest whatsoever in getting clear answers from any filmic plot or figuring out a moral to the story. At that time, it was solely and entirely about the literal, movie-going experience. It was all a great text.
Something about the impenetrability of that cinematic experience appealed to me. That, and I truly responded to its awkwardly appealing aesthetic. It must have been congruent with something, I suppose.
If Fellini's and Antonioni's work satisfied my viewing pleasure as a teenager, French film from the 60's took the front seat when I turned 20. I loved all about it. The little black pants, the skinny ties, the decadent dresses, the impeccable hair, the conversations that were always about something else rather than the supposed premise of the film, and the endings, those seemingly incoherent endings.
And “Last Year at Marienbad” is one such example.
Mark Harris of the NY Times observes:
"In January The New York Times had run an article from Paris calling “Marienbad” the “most controversial French film ever produced,” explaining that the dispute was between those who found it “merely an exercise of style” and those who believed that the movie “succeeded in adding a new dimension of the filmmaker’s art — the process of actually portraying the drama that takes place within the human mind.”"
I concur with Harris' take. Marienbad is not about what happens to the characters on the screen, but rather what happens in the mind of the viewer. It's this very introspective journey on which one feels one can go when the lights go out at the movies that appealed to me so when but 20.
The Times article concludes:
"To revisit “Marienbad” today is to glimpse a vanished moment when American audiences drank in European films not because they were universal or “relatable,” but for their otherness, their impenetrability, their defiant contrast to the simplistic and elephantine Technicolor epics that much of Hollywood was then embracing."
Read full article here.