Dir.: Alain Resnais
“Again I had the feeling that no one understood your words.”
I'm pretty sure I watched Last Year at Marienbad about 25 years ago, close enough to seeing another Alain Resnais film, Hiroshima mon amour, that I've mixed them up in my mind. The one thing that I can quite clearly remember is how annoying I found both of them. As I learned a year ago while trying to watch Andrei Tarkovsky's The Mirror, I haven't developed a taste for sombre non-linear art films narrated with precious poetry delivered in a hushed drone.
Five minutes into this revisiting of Last Year at Marienbad I already felt like I had my fill of it; but then I stopped feeling that way, partially. As a nameless man (Giorgio Albertazzi) tries to convince an resistant woman (Delphine Seyrig) that they not only met last year, they felt something profound for each other, but with neither able to determine, in their circular dialog, when or where or what exactly happened, I wouldn't say I started to enjoy Resnais for the first time, but I no longer wanted to turn it off and find an excuse to forget to finish it.
Maybe it was the increasingly beguiling imagery — starting with the mesmerizing long take of the woman walking, one shoe on, through a windy palace garden; and the striking silent-film style grandeur during the climax — that overrode my natural aversion to movies that act as if something of the utmost value is happening while all of the content is incoherent gibberish.
I think that experimental narratives like Last Year at Marienbad work best when infused with the cheekily pointed mischief of a Luis Bunuel or the droll wit of Jean-Luc Godard, and Resnais takes himself far too seriously (so does Terrence Malick, who has recently turned into the new Resnais). Still, there's either a bit of humor in Last Year at Marienbad, or, I desperately read some into it, particularly in the hapless games of chance, and the woman's Lurch-like husband-type figure (Sacha Pitoëff), and the oppressively dirge-like organ-moaning score, and moments where the movement of the stone-faced people is so deliberately unnatural, it's reasonable to speculate that Last Year at Marienbad might have been a key influence on George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead.
Although the intentionally disconnected images and sounds, and out of sync thoughts and memories, and seemingly endless repetition of the same phrases over and over and over and over are taxing, at first, when they finally, if briefly, align or manifest, it's somehow satisfying enough to tolerate the tedious set-up. Still, in a film that is almost nothing but haunting questions with no answers, and a circular journey down the same corridors of the mind again and again and again, the question that most haunts me is: Does Last Year at Marienbad try, in its elusive way, to get to the heart of anything? Or is it just a false scenario, presented in a false style, with false dialog, meaning nothing of consequence? I suspect that it is; but, at least this time, I didn't hate the experience of it like I did the first time, and I might have even liked parts of it.
Last Year at Marienbad was assigned to me as part of a Secret Movie Exchange, as an alternative to the primary pick The Earrings of Madame de..., which I watched earlier this month. My benefactor was revealed as Flickcharter DrWade42. He ranks it on his chart at #3 / 3280 (100%).
Flickcharted: #1930 (54.10%)