Last Year at Marienbad [L'Annee Derniere a Marienbad] (1961)


If nothing else, you can test your tolerance for the old-style European "art film" by watching this. Visually, itís stunning, with geometrical checkerboard landscapes, painted shadows, and beguiling tracking shots that seem to last for minutes on end (thanks to cinematographer Sacha Vierny). Conceptually, itís a mind-bender that represents important breakthroughs in cinematic representations of psychology. A woman and a man, named 'A' and 'M,' are vacationing when they're approached by 'X.' X claims to A that he first met her last year at a spa called Marienbad, where the two of them fell in love and she promised to run away with him if he could wait a year. A claims to remember nothing of the kind. Writer Alain Robbe-Grillet said he figures X was lying. Director Alain Resnais, on the other hand, said he worked under the assumption that X tells the truth, and A has forgotten him. The movie itself is puzzling and contradictory, a self-conscious work that seems only half-remembered even as it wills itself into being on the screen.
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Reviews by Bryant Frazer