Thursday, December 2, 2010

Last Year at Marienbad (1961, Alain Resnais)

Not every movie has to make sense, or be an obvious traditional narrative. This French New Wave classic gets away with being rather mysterious and confusing, since that's the whole point. Existing as a dream, or a bizarre nightmare, you have two people struggling with their own memories, and haunted by past events that may or may not have happened. Shot in glorious black and white, with expert cinematography, it is a depiction of a house forgotten by time, yet populated with people when the scene or moment apparently calls for it.

The rather creepy and weird score only underlines scenes that can be best described as pieces of a mythical puzzle-one that is less Rubik's cube, but instead a twisted 10,000 pieces from a box puzzle that takes forever to finish. Part of the film's allure is that there are no easy answers, no attempts at understanding what is really going on. Just as dreams and past fragments of memory, having drifted away and become obscured, end up lacking consensus, even if they still have some meaning. There does not seem to be any rhythm or reason in what is happening, which reflects many dreams randomly composed of elements floating around in our heads.

Overlooked in this analysis is how obsessive the main male character is, as he is 100% convinced that he's right despite the protests of the woman he so eagerly follows. His persistence is a mix of stalker behavior and his desire for a woman who has cold grace and beauty. Her response ranges from rejection and suspicion, which then gives way to wondering if he is indeed correct about their previous affairs between one another. This then gives way to her saying no again, resulting the entire cycle beginning anew.

Romance is often presented in movies as way too wonderful, or being many bitter moments in time. What Resnais' does is present love as neither of those things, yet at the same time does not bother with realism when it suits his movie. The choices made by the final lingering shot could very well lead to another lifetime of regret and longing; one such character suffers such a fate, and becomes lost in a endless cycle of longing, left to their devices in the comfy corridors of an ancient monument to the past. 96