Last Year at Marienbad ★★½

Sort of operates as the inverse of Hiroshima Mon Amour, with the characters and their inner lives operating in service of the form rather than vice versa. As a work of surrealism I think it misses the mark in this regard. Renais’ dream world is an invention so isolated and so impersonal that it neither disrupts nor illuminates anything in the realm of identifiable reality. This is probably my main gripe, as I feel a meditation on subjects as desire-driven as memory, dreams and desire itself should feel personal, while much of Last Year at Marienbad felt meek and beautifying in its exploration of emotional territory. Formally I found it alienating as well. I think Resnais’ constant reliance on connective gestures and stylized transitions to connect memories and dreams brought too much attention to the filmmaking itself (which I suspect, from his own words about making the film, is what’s really being meditated on here) and removed an element of mystery behind the connective tissue of these things. Likewise, the unceasing voiceover, while key in its intrusiveness to the central relationship, felt intrusive upon the immersion as well—as sometimes the narration describes what the image is already capable of showcasing (poetry included). For all this (and that score) I couldn’t really start working out my relationship with, or even just submit to, the film. I felt kept at the arms length, and constantly aware of the magic.

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