Glass Objects, Objects Still Intact, Empty Glasses: Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

Avant-garde film has never been so haunting, as it is in Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad.  This film seeps of the screen with its lavish excess, repetitive symmetry and oneiric shadow play.  The dialogue occurs as a narrative that simultaneously builds coherence while deteriorating in logic.  The film is experiential as opposed to methodical, emotional as opposed to rational and somehow dangerously walks the line between expressionist grandiosity and modernist minimalism.  It is a film like no other from beginning to end, the viewer is witnessing art as it flows and is left not to comprehend, but instead to contemplate.

While the films plot is incoherent and arguably nonexistent, it is apparent that the films main character, and man simply named X (Giorgio Albertazzi), desires to convince a woman A (Delphine Seyrig) that they both shared in a fleeting romance exactly one year ago at the estate of Marienbad.  However, the film is not simply showing his rekindling of their relationship, but more tragically, how memories of love and lust can become vague and in many instances harsh when left unattended.  The film repeats motifs of vanity, games of skill and physical silence all as methods to separate past tragedies with contemporary actuality.  The film ends in a moment of shadows as lights fade away noting that no matter how ardently a person strives to recreate the past or experience the present the end is inevitably the cold and existential nothingness of death.

I cannot sing the praises of this film enough! The film is expertly made and soundly paced.  Each panning shot, jump cut, removal of sound and repetition of dialogue enhances the delirious, dreary nature of the film.  It is not so much a film about fond memories as it is one of haunting nightmares.  The angular bushes, overbearing statues and incessant reflection of mirrors become things of disdain for the films characters and the viewers, because no amount of denial or disbelief allow either to escape from their own reflection, reminding them that by simply acknowledging the past they also accept is memories, both those that are grand and those that are terrifying.  It shows that in severe instances nostalgia is not only unhealthy, but also crippling.

I can say without a doubt that this is the best Blu-ray I have seen to date and I applaud Criterion for bringing this film to a wider audience.

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