At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
In November the Alliance Française turns to the work of Alain Resnais.
At Alliance Française on Friday, November 13: L'année dernière à Marienbad / Last Year at Marienbad (1961) by Alain Resnais & Alain Robbe-Grillet – 94 mins – France/ Italy, Drama/ Romance. English subtitles. B&W. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 88 out of 100.
With DelphineSeyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoëff, Françoise Bertin.
In a baroque, fairytale château, a man turns up to keep an appointment promised to a woman the year before. Yet, although the woman is there, she doesn’t remember. The man sets out to win her back through a labyrinth of gold and marble where time seems to stand still...
– Alliance description
Rotten Tomatoes: Elegantly enigmatic and dreamlike, this work of essential cinema features exquisite cinematography and an exploration of narrative still revisited by filmmakers today.
In Alain Resnais's masterwork, L'année dernière à Marienbad, each fantasy-laden, heavily dramatized, aesthetically perfect scene is dictated by the memories of a man (Giorgio Albertazzi), who is one of many elegant, aristocratic guests vacationing at the enchanting resort, Marienbad. Because the story consists of foggy memories that may or may not be accurate, the film unrolls like a repetitious dream. In the opening sequences, the man describes the immensity and silence of the lavishly decorated baroque hotel as the camera roams its empty hallways. Soon after, the hotel guests appear, assembled for a theater production inside the hotel. Like the actors in the play, the characters in the film make it obvious that they are also playing established roles and reciting lines. Sometimes they simply pose as the camera passes over them, while at other times, they stand like statues, trying to remember what happened last year. They amuse themselves with parlor games, ballroom waltzes, target practice in the shooting gallery, and strolls through the garden. Meanwhile, the man establishes the abstract plot about a love affair he began last year with a woman (Delphine Seyrig), reconstructed from his partial memories. She remembers nothing of the affair, not even the man's name. In fact, most of the guests cannot even recall the year in which these things might have happened--was it 1928 or 29? Each of Resnais's sets is more remarkable than the one before, as are the costumes by Chanel. Emphatic organ music drums up a fury of suspense as the actors' performances become increasingly overdramatized and unnatural, mocking the meaningless aristocratic resort activity they're depicting, while also epitomizing it. The climax comes in a famous sequence--which repeats itself about 10 times in a row--in which the camera races down the corridor into the embrace of the woman, who is clad in a birdlike white feather gown. Like a Marguerite Duras poem trapped inside an M.C. Escher drawing, Resnais's L'année dernière à Marienbad is a film that stands alone, unique in its dialogue, architecture, style, and its deeply effective, sweeping mood.
At Alliance Française on Friday, November 20: Muriel ou Le temps d'un retour (1962) by Alain Resnais – 115 mins – France/ Italy, Drama. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 84 out of 100.
With Delphine Seyrig, Jean-PierreKérien,Nita Klein.
Alain Resnais's third film, like his earlier ones: «Hiroshima Mon Amour» and «Last Year at Marienbad», is devoted to the vagaries of memory. Bernard, a veteran of the French/Algerian war, was forced to torture and murder Muriel, an Algerian girl accused of sabotage. He is no more successful at recapturing or altering his past than his stepmother Helene is at reviving a romance with Alphonse...
– Alliance description
Rotten Tomatoes: In the haunting drama Muriel, French filmmaker Alain Resnais continues his exploration of and fascination with memory and the impact of past events on people's present lives. Helene is a lonely widow who lives with her stepson, Bernard, in Boulogne. Into their lives walk Alphonse, a lover from her past, and Francoise, who he claims is his niece but is actually his mistress. While Helene and Alphonse are obsessed with their past relationship, Bernard is troubled by his memory of a girl whose brutal death he witnessed while he was fighting in the Algerian War. As in his prior films, Resnais tells the story in a dream-like, stylized fashion.
At Alliance Française on Friday, November 27: Stavisky... (1974) by Alain Resnais – 120 mins – France/ Italy,Crime/ Drama. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 83 out of 100.
With Jean-Paul Belmondo, François Périer, Anny Duperey, Michael Lonsdale, Claude Rich, Charles Boyer.
France, July 1933. Leon Trotsky secretly arrives in Cassis. The French government has granted him political asylum. At the same time, Serge Alexandre, a.k.a. Stavisky, is rocking the Parisian political and financial scene with his many dealings squandering millions...
– Alliance description
Rotten Tomatoes: Director AlainResnais'Stavisky... is a stylized recounting of the life of Alexandre Stavisky, a masterful swindler who sold thousands of worthless bonds, working his way into a massive financial hole and drowning in a riotous political scandal. The film focuses on his heyday, which came in the years just before his arrest and subsequent death in 1934. Surrounded by an aristocratic class of financiers who, like Stavisky, delighted in transferring enormous sums among a multitude of accounts around Europe, he was an expert at moving money. Stavisky inhabited the lavish wooden parlors and grandiose theaters of Paris, the ocean overpasses and casinos of Biarritz, with sexy cars, planes, and women to get him from place to place. The delectably glossy filming of Stavisky..., like its dialogue, is sharp, pointed, tightly framed, and complex. Every scene contains a lingering spatial depth and a feeling of weighted drama, colored by flashbacks and dream sequences that are rendered with fragile grace. All the while, a narrator who watches through binocular lenses follows the subtle subplots of Stavisky's love affairs, sporting affairs, and legal affairs. When Stavisky is arrested in the middle of a dinner party (reminiscent of Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad with red wine spilled dramatically across the white tablecloth and a bejeweled woman in a cocktail dress careening through the air like a wounded bird), the ugly end is near. A thumping musical score from Stephen Sondheim completes this masterwork, sprinkling it with noirish spice.