Sunday, August 10, 2008

Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

On the heels of watching Luis Buñuel's "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" for the first time, I took in a Thursday night screening of Alain Resnais' "Last Year at Marienbad" at the Paramount. Though both films are considered to be relatively plotless, sureal, and dreamlike, "The Discreet Charm" was far more entertaining in the traditional sense, sacrificing emotional residence for whimsy and quirkiness. "Marienbad" on the hand was a slow-moving-train that was at times tedious and boring, but did also possess certain merits; a carefully nuanced tone, stark cinematography, & a haunting musical score, just to name a few.

The plot, if you can call it that, revolves around a giant luxury hotel and the several guests who return there year after year. Two of these guests spend almost the entire film walking around the hotel debating their relationship to one another. The man is passionate about the woman and claims to have had an affair with her the previous year, but the woman denies any such affair ever occurred. Who is telling the truth? As the trailer puts it, "It's up to you, the audience, to decide." That's right, in true art-house form, the film ends with a completely open-ended non-resolution.

The film manages to have a genuine circular and dreamlike quality to it that is interesting, but at the same time irritating. The tone is due partly to the eerie coldness of the other guests, especially the card-playing husband character, but it is also due to the dialog of the film, which is not only repeated in narration, but is also respoken by characters throughout the film in different contexts. I can't say that I really liked "Last Year at Marienbad," but I can't say that I regret seeing it either. Perhaps I'll take in another viewing at some point down the line just to see what more I can take away from it.

"Last Year at Marienbad" screened on 8/7/08 at the Paramount.


Anonymous said...

i better it was extra freezing in those paramount seats for this piece.

heather cain

Tanisha and Rhonda said...

this is one of my favorites. i saw it on cable many moons ago...