Last Year in Marienbad View large image


Film Details

Directed by: Alain Resnais

Produced: 1961

Countries & Regions: France, Italy

DVD Details

Certificate: U

Length: 94 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 23 May 2005

Cat No: OPTD0132

Languages(s): French
Subtitles: English
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Last Year in Marienbad

Cast: Delphine Seyrig , Giorgio Albertazzi , Pierre Barbaud , Sacha Pitoeff , Jean Lanier , Francoise Bertin , Luce Garcia-Ville , Héléna Kornel , Françoise Spira , Karin Toche-Mittler , Wilhelm von Deek , Gérard Lorin

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Widely considered to be one of the masterpieces of the French New Wave, this existentialist fantasy tale is the result of a collaboration... Read More




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Widely considered to be one of the masterpieces of the French New Wave, this existentialist fantasy tale is the result of a collaboration between director Alain Resnais and French novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet. In a luxury hotel somewhere in Europe, an unnamed man (Giorgio Albertazzi) attempts to persuade one of his fellow guests, a similarly unnamed married woman (Delphine Seyrig), that they have not only previously met, but that they had an affair and made plans to elope together. The woman, however, does not appear to recognise him, and so begins a cinematic puzzle that questions the very nature of truth and narrative.

For most continental Europeans Last Year In Marienbad's position as a high point in art-house cinema has never been disputed. A teasing yet profound exposition of the way in which the other-worldliness of dreams and sub-conscious thought can often reveal more truths about the state of relationships than any wide-awake rationalisation can ever achieve.

For English speaking audiences reaction to 'Last Year.' has always been a little more mixed. Whilst many subscribe to the view that Alain Renais' 1961 film is a masterwork in the canon of a great film-maker others remain unconvinced that Last Year In Marienbad is anything more than an over extended vanity exercise that ends up mired in it's own pretentiousness.

Perhaps British and American are a little more wary of being taken for a ride by intellectual charlatanism or it could be they are all too aware that European directors, even great ones, can sometimes succumb to self indulgence on, very often, monumental scales (look at virtually any Goddard movie from 1968 to the late 80s for proof of this).

Whatever the reasons, Last Year In Marienbad, probably has as many detractors as admirers this side of the Channel.

It also has the distinction of being the film made by a Nouvelle Vague director to get a mention, albeit mispronounced, in the BBC series 'Steptoe and Son'. During yet another argument about Harold's social aspirations Albert dismissively observes "You're always trying to make out how clever and sophisticated you are with the birds. I mean look at that lah-di-dah film you took that poor girl from the fish shop to see last week, that what-was-it? - Last Year In Mirienbad, gawd strewth!"

What Albert was expressing was a long held strain of British derision for intellectualised art in general and intellectualised French art in particular. And, to be fair to dear old Albert Steptoe, the film is a little over laden with cinematic conceits.

But, 40 years on, Last Year In Marienbad continues to beguile audiences with it's coolly detached geometric aesthetic and a beautifully enunciated logic (or anti-logic, if you prefer).

This is a movie that can be recommended to those who are happy to be challenged by cinema. The rewards from this film are, in my view, worth the effort.

So there you are, some will love it, others may take a wholly different view. For the naysayers, it may come as some comfort to know that Harold didn't get the girl!

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