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aka - Annee derniere a Marienbad, L'
France 1962
Directed by
Alain Resnais
94 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Last Year At Marienbad

It is unfeasible to judge Alain Resnais’s art cinema classic against the conventions of narrative cinema.  There are some aspects shared but they are largely visual.  Sacha Vierny’s marvellous black-and-white photography, Alain Renais’ elegant mise-en-scène give us a surface similarity but the heart of the difference lays in Alain Robbe-Grillet’s script which self-consciously rejects character and plot, the aspects which most film’s stand or fall by, and gives us fragmented, disjunctive, reiterative experience, something akin to a classical surrealist painting come to life.

Robbe-Grillet was one of leading proponents of the Nouveau Roman, a French avant-garde literary fashion that used repetition, reiteration and disjunction to represent a state of affairs. Resnais transposes these characteristics superbly in portraying an encounter between a man (Giorgio Albertazzi) and a married woman (Delphine Seyrig) at a magnificent 18th century chateau in which he tries to get her to acknowledge that they met and had an affair at the same place the previous year whilst she steadfastly denies having met him before.

Lines of dialogue are repeated over and over, sometimes as spoken by the unnamed characters, sometimes simply heard as voice-overs, sometimes in temporal continuity sometimes out of it as the organ music of Francis Seyrig (brother to Delphine) grinds away in what might be loosely as a reverie, of the lovelorn unnamed protagonist/narrator.

Unlike Nouvelle Vague in film, the nouveau roman did not take the world by storm and L'année dernière à Marienbad remains a one-off, a rarity that every self-respecting cinéaste needs to see at least once.




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