The cinematic equivalent of the nouveau roman ("new novel") and a true landmark in film history. One of the most formally inventive of all feature films, LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD stretches the limits of film language to the extreme. Scripted by Robbe-Grillet, the movie introduces us to four
main characters--A (Seyrig), a lovely, well-dressed woman; X (Albertazzi), a handsome stranger; M (Pitoeff), a man who might be A's husband; and a luxurious estate (important enough to be considered a character) with long, sterile hallways and perfectly manicured grounds. The "plot", if you can
call it one, focuses on X's attempt to convince A that they met, possibly last year, at a resort hotel, perhaps in Marienbad, where she may have promised to run away with him this year. A, however, has no recollection of the meeting...or else is being coy...or dares not recognize X...or whatever
you care to make of it. The viewer is kept in perpetual doubt as to whether the meeting ever took place, whether it has not yet taken place, or whether it's a hopeful fantasy X has made up. Frustrated? You should be.
LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD was hailed as a masterpiece at the time of its release, largely thanks to Robbe-Grillet and director Resnais's manipulation of time--past, present, and future--in relation to the subjective realities of the film's characters. Easy to read as a parody of Hollywood love
triangles, MARIENBAD also mocks classical cinema's tendency to be redundant by repeating lines, indeed entire scenes, over and over again. All the characters are flat, often nothing but statues in a well-kept mausoleum. This is precisely how they appear in the film's most famous shot, in which the
tiny figures amid the large sculpture garden cast shadows, but the starkly groomed bushes do not. A true cinematic puzzle, stunningly shot, MARIENBAD decenters the human subject from its place of primacy in most narrative cinema, and the result is a provocative study of alienation.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: The cinematic equivalent of the nouveau roman ("new novel") and a true landmark in film history. One of the most formally inventive of all feature films, LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD stretches the limits of film language to the extreme. Scripted by Robbe-Grillet… (more)