Love Unto Death (1984, Alain Resnais)

Each scene (and the definition of a scene ranged from a single spoken sentence to a 6-8 minute stretch) is followed by complex music over a dark screen with falling snow, the snow sometimes thick and heavy, sometimes falling at different angles or drifting sparsely or entirely absent. Katy liked the movie but disapproved of the unhappy ending and the snow scenes. I loved the whole thing, am thinking of extracting the snow music and burning a CD.

The final Resnais film with Jean Gruault, writer of Mon Oncle d’Amerique and La Vie est un roman. Scientist Elizabeth (Sabine Azéma – I was recently loving her in Wild Grass and she’s just as great here) is the new girlfriend (2 months) of archaeologist Simon (Pierre Arditi of Not on the Lips, Coeurs). He gets checkups and is found to be in perfect health, yet he experiences fainting spells, possibly heart attacks, and at the beginning of the movie he’s declared dead by family doctor Jean Dasté (L’Atalante star, also of The War Is Over), who is embarrassed that Simon awakens a few minutes later.

Their good love/hate friends (André Dussollier – in Love on the Ground the same year, hard to recognize at first without his white hair – and Fanny Ardant – I recognized her from La Vie est un roman and Katy from 8 Women) both work in the church, and Simon is a fervent nonbeliever. Now that they have reason to be talking about life and death, suicide and resurrection, there’s much heated disagreement, then the two try again to comfort Elizabeth after Simon dies (again) from his mysterious ailment. Has a harsh but beautiful ending.

Grunes, always succinct:

Resnais tweaks Time in L’amour à mort. A genetic botanist, Elisabeth works toward the future; an archaeologist, Simon digs into the past. … Sometimes the inserts are only blackness, and sometimes the inserts are so frequent that the human drama seems what’s inserted. … As Simon dies again Elisabeth promises to join him. They already seem a fully meshed couple; the Martignacs, an unmeshed one. Resnais’s final shots suggest that the film has always really been about the Martignacs.

Except for Sabine’s horrid black coat, there’s no infernal fashion or general early-80′s ugliness, but then again, this is set in the countryside. I suppose all the garish proto-punks were confined to Paris at the time.

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