Last Year at Marienbad

"Excellent"

Last Year at Marienbad Review


Upon its release in France, Alain Resnais' Last Year in Marienbad caused the streets surrounding local cinemas to be crowded by intellectuals, college students, and nouvelle vague die-hards. In the US, it posited itself in theaters alongside the release of another visual haiku on questionable existence -- Roger Corman's Premature Burial. It would later be spoofed by Woody Allen, get outright cribbed by Stanley Kubrick and Almodóvar, be recognized as a seminal work by giddy surrealists, and denounced as one of the worst films ever made by right-wing talking heads. It would also serve as the basis for Brit-rock pioneers Blur's video for "To the End."

It remains, however, a work of compressed and canny nothingness -- liquefied time dribbled over the remains of a love affair that may or may not have happened. A testament to leading lady Delphine Seyrig's virile gaze, Resnais has famously stated that the film is about nothing but this wouldn't stop the critical forge to make it into everything. Jonas Mekas claimed it nothing but a "pretentious ornament" while a pre-Kael New Yorker likened it to Finnegan's Wake; the New York Times' claim that it was "the 'furtherest out' movie we've ever had" would be laughable even if the publication wasn't printed on Jack Smith's home planet. Marriages ended; friends became blood enemies; sons and daughters were disowned for the length of its 33-week run at The Carnegie.

Coming back to Marienbad something like six years after I first encountered it in college, I found myself more at ease with it and less thirsty for any ludicrous "meaning" it might have past its filmmaking prowess. Filled with mirrors, close-ups, and that black cloud of organs and strings, it remains a rapturous thing to gaze upon, thanks in no small part to the genius touch of Resnais' regular cinematographer Sacha Vierny. Depicting a party of ghosts and a garden in the guise of oblivion, Resnais' formidable illusion doesn't seem to have a point and, more importantly, doesn't pretend that it does.

A substantial moment in Resnais' salad days, Marienbad followed the director's breakthrough, Hiroshima mon amour, and preceded perhaps his most challenging work, Muriel. Unlike those films, however, the director's amorphous haunted mansion demands the viewer's return, littering one's brain with its hypnotic, puzzling refrains, abnormal, sweeping movement and choreographed stillness. Constantly disintegrating and reappearing in one figure's head, Marienbad is nonetheless allergic to psychology and seemingly unaware of its potent mood.

Similarly unreadable, the film has been noted as a large influence on David Lynch's bulky Inland Empire and, like Resnais' film, I have found myself less-and-less frustrated with Lynch's monster on subsequent viewings. They are both of that rare breed of filmmaking based almost solely on the act of experiencing film without anchoring -- both works offer characters and settings but no personas nor structure. Whereas Empire overplays its hand and begins to grate in its last hour, however, Marienbad hits your bloodstream immediately and leaves you while you are still ensnared in its ethereal tentacles. It's inexplicable and lovely; a fever dream without symptoms, an asylum run by the inmates.

Aka L'année dernière à Marienbad.



Last Year at Marienbad

Facts and Figures

Run time: 94 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 7th March 1962

Production compaines: Société Nouvelle des Films, Terra Film Produktion, Como Film, Les Films Tamara, Precitel

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 41 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Pierre Courau, Raymond Froment

Starring: as A, Giorgio Albertazzi as X, Sacha Pitoëff as M

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links


Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.