Last Year At Marienbad (1961) * Favorite Review *
Genre: Drama Mystery Romance (France, Italy)
Starring: Delphine Seyrig (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie; Stolen Kisses), Giorgio Albertazzi (White Nights)
Directed By: Alain Resnais (Hiroshima Mon Amour; Night And Fog)
Overview: In a palacial hotel, a stranger approaches a woman and tries to convince her that they've met before, last year.
Acting: I must say I found the accent of Giorgio a little distracting. Had I been a European in a palacial resort like this one, I guess I wouldn't find anything odd about a foreigner speaking my language, so I'll leave that one alone. As for Delphine, she didn't do it for me either. She didn't move right, look right, speak right. Clearly the fantastical world that Resnais sets up necessitates the fact that these characters be all so perfect, move and speak so lithely. No amount of acting can do that, that's a casting issue. And her lanky fish-faced husband? Ick, come on, ugly.
Cinematography: The story opens in one of the most luxurious hotels you've ever seen in your life. So luxurious, in fact, that I thought it was a museum for the first half hour. The beginning of this is all mood-setting panoramic montages of visual grace. I thought, "My, does this ever remind me of Hiroshima Mon Amour". Turns out, same director, good eye on me, I guess. It's gorgeous! No doubt this is a trendsetter in cinematographic excellence, but I had other issues...
Script: This was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar. I know why, but I also know why it didn't win. Eurotrashy poetry that served no purpose but to set mood, and barely explains the plot. Even when it ended, I was confused as to what was going on. If you love the depth and vagaries that come with visual art combined with poetry, then this is actually quite a perfect and grand example, but nope, not for me.
Plot: Death, personified, approaches a strange woman, who refuses to recognize him for fear that she must now leave. Last year, she passed away in a hotel she refuses to recall, and begged that Death allow her to roam these halls as a ghost for one more year. This time, again, she begs the psychopomp that he give her just one more year.
This would have been a spoiler if it had happened that way. Sadly, it didn't. That was merely my prediction of how I thought this story should end. I thought that the tale of a ghost asking for more time in a timeless place like this hotel would be a rich and deep conclusion for an equally rich and meticulous film. My expectations were shattered when the conclusion happened to be far less important. Turns out the plot is just plain thin.
Mood: This is what you will love: Slow, methodical, perfectly-paced. This is not the kind of film that you watch to get to the end. This is all about haunting organs, vast panoramas, gorgeous and crisp visuals, a setting that is, in itself, its own character.
This is what you will hate: Slow, still, black and white images right out of a pretentious Calvin Klein perfume commercial from the 80s, high art that does nothing to pretend it's nothing more than directorial masturbation, this is not a story, it is a montage. At least you didn't pay 20 bucks at the door to get let into this foppy art show. At least some stumbling drunk Austrian art critic didn't slap you with a glove.
As for me, I can't decide.
Overall Rating: 72% (This Is What You Get When Awesome is Marryin' Bad)
Aftertaste: I find it odd that Alain Renais casts women who aren't all that beautiful in his films. Maybe it's the too-different style of the day or the particular woman's fashion or their... TEETH. This is a small issue compared to everything else. I can completely understand why people would love this man's films, there's no doubt, but I, myself, cannot shake the ever-constant pang of 'Eurotrash'. This is a prime example of the modernist aesthetic study, yes, and important in the history of film, but...
'White Trash' means the poor-ass idiot educationless broke, whereas Eurotrash means Old Money highborn pretentious rich. Isn't that interesting? I just realized that.