Last Year in Marienbad 1961

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The 2014 death of director Alain Resnais provides a welcome excuse to exhume on of his best films, 1961’s haunting Last Year in Marienbad. X (Giorgio Albertazzi) arrives at a gloomy spa resort where he strikes up off relationships with A (Delphine Seyrig) and M (Sacha Piteoff), but it’s never clear who any of them are. Have they met before, are they lovers, rivals, or what? Resnais never revels the answers, but the beautiful deep-focus black and white photography and weirdly looping dialogue make it a pleasure to unravel the secrets of Marienbad’s corridors. Based on the novel The Invention of Morel, the secret is actually a sci-fi conceit; the hotel is a hologram, and the characters X meets are ghosts of the past. For him to fall in love with A, and prefer to become part of the hologram, is an extraordinary conceit, and baffled audiences at the time; absurdly included in The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made, modern audiences may find a more profound heart in Resnais’s pretentious but rich and ambiguous film that his detractors at the time did.

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2 Comments

  1. wait wait, this is really “based on” The Invention of Morel. Or, loosely inspired? I loved this film — I love how timeless it felt, how each conversation seemed replicated by everyone else…. Have you seen Muriel? It’s also worth watching.

    • Hey Joachim. Thanks for your comment. I love this film too. It’s like being part of someone’s dream. My understanding is that although The Invention of Morel is not credited, it is the point of inspiration. It certainly allows a firmer interpretation of what’s going on. I’ll check out Muriel at the first opportunity, thanks!

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