“Last Year at Marienbad”

Alain Resnais

The Music Box, Chicago, IL

I have to remark that Italian Neorealism, from which Resnais and other French New Wave directors derive some cinematic style, was immediately apparent to me via the elaborate setting of the French hotel/chateau. Another character in of itself, the chateau was unfurled in all of of its stoic excess; each sequence positioning it as if it were another longing lover in this pseudo-surreal triangle of desire and deception. Enhanced by the director’s dedication to capturing the lonely and sterile splendour of the chateau, one is reminded of Fellini’s hotel/sanatorium in 8-1/2.

Sequence by sequence, the “stilling” of stifled aristocratic love and trite conversations framed by careful attention to architectural detail, hypnotic narrative/repetition, and frozen socialites made this film interesting at best to watch.

The lovers in the film flit between the majestic scenery of opulent gardens and classical sculpture, diving dream-like in and out of the same conversation: “Were we really together last year, at this hotel, same time? Were we lovers then? Would I wait for you? Would you run away with me? Don’t you remember me? Please, leave me alone.”

French film foreplay, and some visuals that occasionally stunned for art’s sake, yet we leave the film house unsatisfied, most likely like our lovers.

Up: Lurch-esque husband and his card tricks; waiter who expertly/gingerly picks up a broken cocktail glass off of the immaculate floor in art-house fashion.

Down: The hideous bush-league “Hawkman” dressing gown our heroine wears for a night of sweet love down by the fire.

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