Interesting, very good movie but I didn’t love it as much as everyone else seems to. Swept the Cesar awards in non-acting categories (a war film called Le Crabe-Tambour picked up the rest). I’ll bet Dennis Potter enjoyed it, too.

Come to think of it, looking over my screenshots a few weeks after writing the above paragraph, this was a damned complicated movie, and showed more imagination than Je t’aime, je t’aime. Definitely have to see again (and maybe again).

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A writer (John Gielgud who, at 73, still had 60-some movies left in him over the next two decades) lives alone (with servants) in his big old house (“Providence”), spends the first two thirds of the movie dreaming up sordid lives for his family members, including his late wife (Elaine Stritch, lately in Romance & Cigarettes), his astro-scientist son (David Warner of Time Bandits), his lawyer son (Dirk Bogarde of The Servant and a bunch of Visconti films) and the lawyer’s wife (Ellen Burstyn of The Exorcist). He re-casts them, giving the lawyer and wife a bitter, joyless marriage, having them hold affairs with the other two. Stritch becomes an older woman with a terminal illness and Warner becomes a free man unsuccessfully prosecuted for murder. Scenes are re-written halfway through – Gielgud’s voice will narrate the action, then rethink things and suddenly characters will leave the scene or change their mind or the whole thing will start over with a different ending. So very Resnais-like, eh? Meanwhile, the writer himself is stumbling around the house at night, drinking, shitting, falling down, breaking things and griping about his ill health.

In the morning, he’s outside, it’s his 78th birthday, and his two sons and the lawyer’s lovely wife have a happy family visit, with dinner and gifts and happy memories. There’s a little bitterness, mentioning the writer’s wife who killed herself after diagnosed with a fatal disease, but overall it’s happy and serene, leaving us to wonder how much of the family problems and awful behavior from the first half of the movie were completely invented by the writer, and how much is actually there under the surface.

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I’d thought I would enjoy six-time oscar-nominee Ellen Burstyn’s performance more, but maybe it suffered a bit from having just watched Rivette’s ladies in Love on the Ground – she seemed like the weakest link here, speaking as if she’d just received a script. Watching with headphones, the sound mix wasn’t so good either, but then neither was the quality of my downloaded movie very good, so this wasn’t optimal viewing experience. Liked the movie, fun to watch a bitter old man provide amused commentary on his own nightmares and imaginations, just didn’t blow me away.

Denis Lawson, who played the imaginary footballer (David Warner’s brother), appeared later the same year as Wedge Antilles in Star Wars, the film that helped decimate the world market for fancypants French films such as this one. In 1977 subtitles hadn’t been invented yet, so those watching in France heard the dubbed-in voices of actors Claude Dauphin (Le Plaisir), Francois Perier (Stavisky), Nelly Borgeaud (Mon oncle d’Amérique) and Gerard Depardieu.

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Gielgud speaks the director’s thoughts: “It’s been said about my work that the search for style has often resulted in a want of feeling. However I’d put it another way, I’d say that style is feeling, in its most elegant and economic expression.”

Some woman wrote an article arguing that the ending is a dream also, but I’d have to pay $12 to read the full thing online.

There are weird flashes to military police and concentration camps, maybe explained by this American Cinematheque quote: “A fascinating visual tour de force exploring the creative process, offset by references to the nightmarish political crackdown in Chile in the late 1970’s.”

Ellen Burstyn:
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V. Canby for NY Times did not like it: “The old man, it’s soon obvious, has imposed on these perfectly decent folk all of his own fears and guilts about a lifetime spent in philandering, selfishness, disinterest in his family, while he enjoyed a reputation as a writer he never really deserved. The structure is complicated but sadly un-complex.”

J. Travers on the ending: “Yet there is something about this Resnais-esque view of Paradise that is even more unsettling than the Hell we have just experienced. Which of these two interpretations paints the more accurate picture of the world in which we live? Can we take seriously the saccharine-doused scene of marital fidelity, brotherly friendship and sweet father-son love? Isn’t it more believable that the two sons would be rivals, that the elder son would have a mistress and would bitterly resent his father’s slow and demeaning death? Surely the world shown to us in the first part of the film, the world apparently belonging in the mind of a solitary writer, is the world that is nearer to our own, a far more accurate portrayal of human nature? The second world, of calm, family harmony and stability, is surely an illusion, a distorted memory of a past that never was, could never have been. Which reality do we believe?”

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Watched this the same month as Trouble In Paradise, not having guessed how connected the two would be – the book/script of Stavisky even mentions that they stole shot ideas from Paradise. This one seems like a correction to the other, set during the same year with some of the same reference points (such as Trotsky) but here the upper-class gentleman thief is revealed to be a sham, and rather than escaping at the end to start over with his true love, the thief ends up dead, his widow in prison. The final shot is the chauffeur (of the period Rolls they drive everywhere) placing a bouquet of white flowers for her outside the prison.

Bright and lively music by Stephen Sondheim (who had already won three Tony awards in the 70’s) kept the doomed inevitability away until it was too late. Sondheim had already won three Tony awards in the 1970’s by the time Stavisky came out. It’s one of the very few times he’s written music (more than one song, anyway) for films – the other cases were Warren Beatty’s Reds (another movie featuring Trotsky!) and Dick Tracy.

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Another story by Jorge Semprún, who wrote the exile-themed The War Is Over. One of Stavisky’s associates (Juan Montalvo, a slimy guy who hits on Arlette but can provide Serge with lots of money) was funding the attempted coup in Spain which led to the Spanish Civil War. In researching the film Semprun found that the same police inspector (named Gardet in the movie) assigned to watch over Leon Trotsky in France was also assigned to report on Stavisky, so Trotsky’s exile was written into the movie, as witnessed by a kid named Michel Grandville. The movie is bookended with Trotsky – first arriving in France, beginning his exile from Russia, and at the end after the Stavisky scandal, being moved further into exile, far from Paris, his political influence feared by the conservatives. Stavisky himself is a Russian Jew in exile – so there are a few connections to the previous film.

The paperback book says it “represents the final scenario” for the shooting of the film, and the intro by Richard Seaver addresses something I had wondered about after reading The War Is Over and believing that Semprun’s script was shot word-for-word with very little added by Resnais: “Once the subject is established, the writer does an initial draft, or treatment, after which writer and director discuss it scene by scene, often line by line, in excruciating detail, until the distinction between writer and director blurs or disappears.” So in fact the books by Semprun represent the collaborative vision of he and Resnais – my beloved auteur is no longer in peril.

The real Serge Alexandre Stavisky was involved in ever-larger finance fraud and was connected with people high up in French government, and when this was made public in January 1934 it led to riots, deaths (incl. the semi-suicide of Stavisky himself), trials for his friends and widow (all acquitted the following year) and political upheaval. Not knowing much about French politics, the Wikipedia articles are hard to follow, but it seems the ultra-conservatives tried to overthrow the leftists in power – eventually one leftist resigned, a conservative replaced him, and somehow socialists ended up in power.

Belmondo, a decade after Pierrot le fou and still looking the same:
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Jean-Paul Belmondo as Stavisky/Alexandre is dazzling, a con-man with absolute confidence in himself. Arlette is his glamorous wife, and he’s surrounded by associates, some complicit in his underhanded dealings like assistant Borelli and Serge’s in-pocket doctor (Michael “Thomas” Lonsdale) who keeps declaring Stavisky unfit to stand trial for a six-year-old fraud offense… and some are just content to spend time with Stavisky, enjoying his company and not asking questions, like friend Baron Raoul (an outstanding Charles Boyer).

Arlette: Anny Duperey’s debut was seven years earlier in Godard’s Two or Three Things I Know About Her.
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The book says “Barol Raoul’s looks, gestures, diction and bearing are those one would expect a baron to possess in those films where barons play a part.” That’s hilarious… I hope those are the character notes they gave to Charles Boyer.

This was French superstar Boyer’s second-to-last film. I saw him as the star of Fritz Lang’s not-so-good Liliom. He is the second actor I’ve seen lately (after Maurice Chevalier) claimed to be the inspiration for Pepe le Pew.
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As Stavisky’s right-hand man, beloved character actor Francois Périer of Nights of Cabiria, Orpheus, Le Samourai, also narrated some Chris Marker films. From the book: “Albert Borelli’s face is impassive, but he has a sharp eye. He is a man of few words but not of few thoughts.”
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No wonder I had trouble with inspectors Bonny and Boussard – it’s complicated. Boussard arrested Stavisky years ago, and a couple years afterwards Serge became Boussard’s “informant” – actually Serge pays Boussard to keep an eye on things inside the police department, and the informant thing is just a front so they can meet. Bonny has it out for Serge, hires the blackmailer who comes to the theater during auditions to extort money from Stavisky by threatening to expose his past, and later engineers the police raid during which Stavisky shoots himself. Plus I always have to look hard to tell which Inspector is which, since they look and dress the same.

Inspectors Boussard (left, Marcel Cuvelier, also played an inspector in The War Is Over) and Bonny (right, Claude Rich, star of Je t’aime, je t’aime):
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Bad Boy Bonny:
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Michel Grandville (Jacques Spiesser of The Man Who Sleeps and Black and White in Color) and Erna Wolfgang (Silvia Badescu), who auditions for a part at Stavisky’s theater (he reads with her, playing a ghost – see quote below):
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Lonsdale, after “Serge Alexandre” tells him to get rid of Stavisky and his problems: “The person he once was has become someone else: a ghost he despises. But a ghost who worries him.” And later: “To understand Stavisky sometimes you have to forget files. You have to dream of him and to imagine his dreams.”

Dream doctor Michel Lonsdale:
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Gérard Depardieu got his break as a star just two months earlier. Here he has one scene as an excited young inventor trying to get Stavisky to invest in his product:
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And back to Erna Wolfgang. I just liked this shot.
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One more look at Thomas:
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I wasn’t in love with the movie after I watched it, seemed like a really well-done portrayal of a controversial man with great acting and an over-complicated plot, but reading the book afterwards cleared up all the characters and the structure of the whole thing, and thinking back on the story, acting and photography, I’m now liking this better than The War Is Over. Nobody here is a good guy – not even Bonny, who goes against police corruption but for personal & political reasons – but the movie doesn’t judge them, or go into the details of the scandal. It just gets inside their characters and shows where the scandal came from, how one guy’s belief that he could fake his way into the upper echelon ended up shaking the country.

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Resnais’s fourth feature, coming out the same year as Rivette’s The Nun. Watched this once before and have practically no memory of it, so this time I read the screenplay then watched again. By doing so, and by watching it alongside the other Resnais films I’ve seen this year, I’m sure I’ll remember and appreciate it more than I did before, but it also makes me wonder about the nature of Resnais’s art, because he has filmed Spanish writer Jorge Semprún’s screenplay word for word and shot for shot. Semprún describes flashback cuts and actors’ facial expressions, and there it is on the screen. The film isn’t as poetic and dreamy as Resnais’ other films of this period, but it definitely fits in with them, has a similar feel, plays like the work of the same artist. The book felt more tense, and the movie felt more melancholy, like a somewhat lighter Army of Shadows.

Story takes place across just a couple of days (not counting flashes-backs-and-forward) in Paris suburbs, two weeks before a planned protest and strike in Spain. Diego aka Carlos aka Domingo aka The Passenger (Yves Montand, halfway between his starring roles in Let’s Make Love and Tout va bien) returns from Spain to warn his underground anti-Franco activist organization (led by chief Jean Dasté) about the recent police crackdown in Madrid which led to the arrest of some operatives including one good friend. Diego wants to warn his other friend Juan away from returning to Spain, but Juan is already on his way to Barcelona. Diego was himself detained at the border, his false passport inspected by Customs official Michel Piccoli, which leads to complications later. Diego lives (on the rare occasions when he is back in France) with lover Ingrid Thulin (a Bergman regular who is wonderful in this movie) but he also half-heartedly messes around with a young Geneviève Bujold, daughter of the man whose passport he borrowed and herself a revolutionary, but with a younger group that practices impatient and violent means of returning Spain to her mythical (never existent) past Marxist glory. Diego and his group (incl. pro smuggler Jean Bouise, who later played Warok in Out 1) resent that Spain has become a symbol of the radical left but without any definite progress, that they’ve lost more and more comrades promoting these strikes and protests which are never as widespread or effective as intended. They continue their struggle, workmanlike but without much hope… a tone more fitting (in France) for the mid 70’s than the mid 60’s. Interesting that this came out right when Resnais’s contemporaries were about to turn to politics, then he followed it up with the much less political Je t’aime, je t’aime.

Writer Semprún later adapted screenplays for Costa-Gavras and wrote Stavisky for Resnais. He must be the only non-English speaker to receive TWO oscar nominations for writing. Shot by his regular guy Sacha Vierny with music by Giovanni Fusco, an Antonioni regular who died of a heart attack in May ’68.

The movie is called “stylistically orthodox” and “one of his most accessible films.” It’s not reportage-style realism, just straight drama, which never feels heightened by technique even though there are some signature smooth tracking shots and the love scene with Bujold is downright expressionist. I found the look and the camerawork to be more Muriel than Je t’aime, but of course the editing is completely unlike either of those.

Time Out: “Perhaps it is the film’s directness and obviously dated aspects (middle-age male angst faced with effervescent feminine adoration having become such a staple ‘art movie’ subject) that have made it seem a minor item in an often challenging director’s career.”

Harvard: “A series of premonitions told in flash-forward near the film’s conclusion make powerful statements about memory and aspiration, commitment and faith.”

A. Agarwal: “The film ends in inevitability. Thulin, the mistress whose devotion sometimes makes Montand uncomfortable yet at peace with himself, learns Montand is going to be sucked into a trap, and she starts out to let him know and save him from crossing into Spain. The film ends here, yet there’s a shadow of death over it. Either Thulin will not be able to save Montand, or she will be able to save him and Montand will quit this life and spend the remaining part of it trying to make peace with himself and his country.”

Michel Piccoli
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Jean Daste
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Warok
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Genevieve Bujold
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Thulin & Montand
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Resnais films a 1925 libretto by André Barde (which was also filmed in 1931, but nobody seems to know much about that version) with much of the same crew and cast as his 1997 Same Old Song. Movie is shot like a straight period piece in hazy color (or was it my DVD which was hazy?), almost like a play, with longish wide shots and not many close-ups. Comedy/musical style, characters look into camera and talk to the audience. Songs are decent, nothing memorable or amazing, with subtitles annoyingly translated to rhyme in English. No big setpiece numbers, in fact it abruptly changes scenes just as one was about to begin. A few interesting cinematic bits – when characters leave the room they are seen fading away accompanied by a sound of fluttering birds.

I like the movie a lot, enough to see it a second time and show it off to Katy (assuming correctly that she’d like it a bit more than Private Fears). But is it simply a cute, charming light-hearted musical? Is Resnais Trying To Say Something Here? Does this fit in with the grand cinematic master’s important themes of life & death, memory & time, his intricate puzzle-box editing schemes? Of course, I’ve watched the 50’s and 60’s movies and then jumped 35 years through time to watch Not On The Lips, so I’m missing a significant amount of development. Before jumping all over the internet for theories on what’s going on with this film, the only clues I have are the fading-out/fluttering-birds bits. The story is set around the time Resnais was born, and all these characters would be long dead… ghosts still inhabiting their stage-play world performing to a nonexistent audience? Is that stretching it? Anyway, most of the other author of online reviews are suffering from the same lapse as I am, comparing this one to Hiroshima and Marienbad instead of, say, Smoking or Stavisky. I’ll get to ’em all soon though. For a start I’m picking up that most of his works since 1980 have been about artifice and theatricality rather than time and memory.

What am I missing? “Alex” says “Resnais has often made extensive play between beautiful surface spectacle and underlying reality a central feature of his work.” He points out that rich steelmen Eric and George both have weird sexual hang-ups, and says that George is seen reading a far-right-wing newspaper and sings a racist song (must not have been translated that way on our DVD). Then Alex tries to make a point about how the less-rich Charley and Faradel are more thoughtful but less successful with women, but he’s lost me there.

Alex: “Both Valandray and Thompson are portrayed as quite unattractive figures. Many critics have painted Thompson’s portrayal as anti-American, but Resnais’ Georges Valandray is, if anything, much more darkly presented. Georges sings a strange song (“I was pushed aside”) that is openly racist and anti-immigrant (cutting heavily against the thesis that the movie is purely light-hearted). Georges is specifically shown reading the far-right-wing newspaper of the 1920s and 1930s, Action Francaise. In addition, Georges’ eros is shown up as highly flawed – he gives several bizarre speeches comparing love-making to steel-making, speeches which attempt to explain why he values virginity so highly, yet the speeches come off perverse and even disturbing, while the all of Georges’ other speeches are very elegant and pleasing.”

Michael Sicinski on the late films:
“Instead of using complex editing schemes to delve into Proustian time, late Resnais uses distancing techniques to explore both artifice and the false temporality of cinema. Like a more populist Manoel de Oliveira, Resnais has concerned himself with the relationship between theatre and cinema, particularly the theatre’s immediacy and the way his stagy films embalm this immediacy into irrevocable distance. Some, like Smoking / No Smoking, highlight this with theatrical gimmicks (multiple characters played by only two actors) whose awkward transition into cinema turns a light middlebrow entertainment into something eerily impenetrable. Others such as Mélo and Same Old Song, use artifacts from the past to undercut the cinematic present with the past’s obdurate alterity. Not on the Lips is another experiment in this vein, and my befuddled reaction to it has to do with my inability to access it on any level other than the intellectual.”

Greg Muskewitz:
“The operetta is a genuine reflection on the deceptiveness — albeit playful deceptiveness — of the human condition that Resnais has so creatively carved out in his long-spanning oeuvre.”

Rosenbaum:
“The characters’ exits are marked by lap dissolves that make the actors appear to evaporate, accompanied by the sound of fluttering wings — something Resnais says he did for musical and rhythmic reasons.”

“Like Melo, which adapted a serious boulevard play of 1929, Not on the Lips offers a profound history lesson — one that becomes tricky once one realizes that despite the close attention to 1925 details, it has no visible relation to any French film made during that period. It’s like an artifact from a parallel universe where film history took a different turn. In this respect, it’s unlike Resnais’ previous flirtations with musicals: Stavisky (1974), with its lovely Stephen Sondheim score; Life Is a Bed of Roses (1983), with its operatic segments; and Same Old Song (1997), which appropriates Dennis Potter’s use of lip-synched pop songs. Despite its playful allusions to theater — shadow-play silhouettes to introduce actors, an unrealistic lighting change in the midst of a monologue, a finale that musically thanks the audience for not leaving early — Not on the Lips is closer to a dream than a pastiche, a fantasy grounded in memory and imagination.”

Story via IMDB:
“Gilberte, in middle-age, flirts with men but loves her husband Georges, wishing he were more demonstrative. He’s negotiating a deal with an American, Eric Thomson, who turns out to be Gilberte’s first husband from an annulled and secret stateside marriage. Along with her sister Arlette, Gilberte begs Eric not to tell Georges about the marriage. Meanwhile, a young artist, Charly, pursues Gilberte while Arlette tries to match him with the young Huguette, who loves him.”

The Eric Thomson sham is carried off, and when their hand is forced, the sisters claim that Arlette is the ex/wife… she kisses Eric, sparks fly. Charly goes to hanger-on Faradel’s bachelor pad to meet Gilberte but finds himself happily with Huguette. Gilberte makes up with husband Georges. Faradel doesn’t necessarily end up with meddling landlady Madame Foin, but wouldn’t that make for a quadruply happy romantic ending?

Two sisters: Isabelle Nanty is the girl who gets set up with Dominique Pinon in Amelie… Sabine Azéma is the pious/sexy caretaker in Private Fears and has been in everything else since the early 80’s:
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Jalil Lespert, of Le Petit lieutenant, whom Katy says looks like Crispin Glover:
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Lambert Wilson: dan the barfly in Private Fears, also in The Belly of an Architect, plays evil frenchman parts in recent hollywood movies:
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A hopping party:
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Love behind the hedges – there’s Audrey Tautou at lower-right. Georges, on the left, played Lionel in Private Fears and like Sabine Azema he has been in all of Resnais’ movies since ’80 except for I Want To Go Home.
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L: best supporting actor winner Darry Cowl, R: Daniel Prévost from The Dinner Game
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A happy ending:
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I liked this little trick where Georges and Gilberte are talking in the hall, then they get edited into the kitchen mid-conversation:

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A suicidal man haunted by memory is picked by a massive computer system as the ideal candidate to send to the past in a time-travel experiment. But enough about La Jetee, here’s a full-length full-motion movie from six years later.

I don’t know if the computer was aware that the man had killed his woman on vacation in Glasgow by turning up the gas while she slept, or if the scientists were aware that the man would be able to re-experience his past having no free will to change it. The results are, of course, a fragmented Resnais film jumping back and forth willy-nilly through the last 2-5 years of this guy’s life.

Star Claude Rich, who looks somewhat like Michael Showalter from The State, was in Jean Renoir’s final film The Elusive Corporal and would later play the offscreen cranky father in Coeurs.

Rich is with this girl Wiana (Anouk Ferjac from The War Is Over) sometimes, but mostly he’s with young Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot, who wasn’t in many memorable films before she killed herself in ’97). He is occasionally happy with Catrine, but he cheats on her and she knows it. They’re both depressive, and she has no life outside of their relationship, doesn’t enjoy vacation, is becoming more of a burden.

Now I’m told that some of the “past events” that Claude experiences are actually dreams he had. Wonder if the hot girl in the mirrored bathroom asking him to wash her back was one of those.

Just a dream? Carla Marlier (Zazie‘s aunt):
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After being trapped for who knows how long bouncing through time and memory (90 minutes as the movie’s running time, or infinitely longer?), Claude finds himself reliving his attempted suicide by gun. Does he manage to affect his past this time by succeeding where before he had failed? His body appears on the hospital grounds, and the technicians run out to collect him, with a final shot of Claude’s mouse companion still caught inside his glass dome in the machine.

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The mouse appears earlier, running across the beach right around the moment that Claude was supposed to be sent back (it was to be one year ago, for a duration of one minute).

The time machine:
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This idea of time travel doesn’t seem like it’d be very useful to the scientists, rather more like traveling through your own memory than actually moving in time… though it does show that Claude’s body disappears when he travels. And the scientists, besides having invented/created the thing, don’t seem very capable of handling the machine or Claude.

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Holm says “it was a weird film that was openly laughed at in the States.”

Andy says “If we become stuck in our own time loop of visiting the past the memories can become too overwhelming. Suicide in context of the movie becomes a means to end or break the flow of time and memory.”

The time machine premise seems like a useful tool for Resnais to explore the obsessive cross-cutting of memory that he’d already played with in Muriel and Marienbad.

Resnais: “There are absolutely no flashbacks or anything of the sort.”

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Watched again June 2008 with a group. Very plain look to the sets, clothes… not a visually stylish movie except in the editing. I like it more the second time around. Would like to watch a higher quality copy next time.

September 2014: wish come true, a restored 35mm print at Filmstreams.

The faces of the leads are not shown until the fifteen minute mark. For the first sixth of the movie there’s only the poetic narration faded with shots of their bodies and hands.

I don’t know what to say when confronted with Resnais or Marker movies, keep throwing out “poetic narration”.

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Rest of the movie is conventional by comparison with the intro and with 90% of “Last Year at Marienbad”, but then “Marienbad” came afterwards and I’ve watched it a bunch of times, so I would have to say that.

IMDB plot: “While shooting an international movie about peace in Hiroshima, a married French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) has a torrid one night stand with a married Japanese architect (Eiji Okada). They feel a deep passion for each other and she discloses her first love in times of war in the French town of Nevers to him. He falls in love with her and asks her to stay with him in Hiroshima.”

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The film is such a dream that when I finish watching it I seem to wake up and forget most of the details. This is the second time I’ve seen it and it never quite sticks. Ahh, dvd commentary will help.

Writer Marguerite Duras is a novelist whose book is sitting on my bedside waiting for me to read (update: oooh, it was good). Lead actor Okada was in Naruse’s “Mother”, “Rififi In Tokyo”, “X From Outer Space” and “Lady Snowblood”. He played the lead in “Woman in the Dunes”, the main character’s boss in “The Face of Another” and the man in white in “Stairway to the Distant Past” (released the same year Okada died). Riva (still alive) was in “Kapo” the same year, then starred in “I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse” and played Binoche’s mother (?) in “Blue”. Shot by super master Sacha Vierny (“Marienbad”, “Muriel”, Bunuel, Ruiz, Greenaway) and Michio Takahashi (“Gamera vs. Barugon”). Editor Henri Colpi won the palme d’or at cannes two years later (tying with Viridiana) with his directorial debut.

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Below is from the commentary track.

The intro reminds of Pompeii and “evokes the very beginnings of life”.

On the woman’s visit to Hiroshima’s hospitals and landmarks: “it will never be more than a theme-park experience”

Scenes from “Children of Hiroshima” are used precisely for their lack of authenticity, and the images remind of Nazi death camps.

Resnais was commissioned to make a film about the atomic bomb with Marker scripting, but it fell through, leading instead to this film.

Resnais and Varda both love cats (surely not as much as Marker does!)

Duras “would become the high priestess of French literature in the 1960’s and 70’s”

Despite not writing his own screenplays, “Resnais can fairly be described as an auteur because a majority of his feature films and many of his shorts deal with the nature of memory and its relationship to the present. Memories have a vivid present-tense quality in Resnais’s cinema and in Marienbad… they are almost indistinguishable from current incidents.”

Hey wow, he mentions “The Koumiko Mystery”.

The star of “Children of Paradise” had a similar thing happen – an affair with a german officer, then publically shamed with hair cut off after the war.

Resnais is an expert on comic books.

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“Innocence will overcome destruction.”

More poetry (written and filmed) on death and war. Narration is about the town of Guernica destroyed by German (film says Nazi?) bombings in ’37 during the Spanish Civil War, while the visuals are of Picasso paintings, then a sculpture at the end. Mournful in tone, dark, with crossfades between paintings and segments, a few lighting and editing tricks to tell the story. Most of the screen time is not the Guernica painting – that’s just one of the ones they use. The writing by Paul Éluard is good but didn’t strike me as great as the Night and Fog narration. I enjoyed the score by Guy Bernard (Statues Also Die). The visuals are more of a Picasso showcase than a filmmaker showoff, though it’s all cut together very effectively.

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Co-directed by Robert Hessens, Resnais’s Oscar-winning accomplice on the Van Gogh short.

Paul Éluard was a poet who associated with Dali, appeared in L’Age d’or, was quoted in Alphaville, and died shortly after this film was released. Same photographer as on Gauguin and Van Gogh. Resnais credited as editing himself. Narration by the princess from Cocteau’s Orpheus.

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All those people smiling on the cover of the DVD tricked us into expecting a romantic comedy, not these wintry intertwined tales of sad, lonely Parisians.

Relationships: Thierry and Charlotte are real-estate agents. Thierry lives with his younger sister Gaelle. Gaelle is dating men from the internet and meets Dan. Dan is breaking up with his girlfriend Nicole. Nicole is looking for a new apartment with the help of Thierry. Dan hangs out a a hotel bar tended by Lionel. And Lionel’s elderly father (offscreen Arthur) is looked after part-time by Charlotte.

Difficulties: Charlotte, very religious, secretly likes to tape herself dancing in naughty lingerie. Thierry sees one of the tapes and becomes attracted to Charlotte. Gaelle catches her brother watching the tape and gets angry. Nicole is frustrated with Thierry and can’t find an apartment. Charlotte and Lionel don’t know what to do with Lionel’s horrible father. Aaaand Gaelle sees Dan talking with Nicole and runs off.

Written by the same playwright who did Smoking/No Smoking, Private Fears etc was the original title and Resnais changed the film’s title to Coeurs. Easy enough to see why. He shoots one careful scene at a time (no cross-cutting), softly falling snow behind every window and over every scene transition, every once in a while a sudden zoom (signifying what?). Soft and incomplete boundaries between people, beginning with a bedroom split in half by a wall (so the two “rooms” share a window), then Lionel’s bar, his father in the other room with the door always open, a curtain of beads, a glass wall between the real-estate agents’ desks. Gaelle’s failure to connect with Dan helps her reconcile with her brother. Charlotte’s aching hidden desire to express herself frustrates Thierry but helps free Lionel. The actors are all super, and their characters are affecting, building up to a snowing-indoors finale.

Music by Mark Snow (X-Files!) and shot by Assayas fave Eric Gautier, who also did Gabrielle and Into the Wild.

Nicole – Laura Morante of The Son’s Room
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Dan (left) – Lambert Wilson, the english guy from Not On The Lips
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Charlotte – Sabine Azéma, star of Melo, Not On The Lips, Same Old Song and Smoking
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Gaëlle – Isabelle Carré of various films I’ve never heard of
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Lionel – Pierre Arditi of Melo, Smoking, Same Old Song
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Thierry – André Dussollier, Audrey’s lawyer? uncle? in A Very Long Engagement and in Same Old Song, Melo and Rohmer’s Perceval le Gallois
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Arthur (offscreen) – Claude Rich of Stavisky

Dave Kehr:
“At first, Resnais’s mise-en-scene seems stiff and broadly theatrical, emphasizing the divisions within the decor and between the characters; then, the camera becomes more mobile, rising above walls and partitions, as the characters seem to break out of their established orbits and begin colliding with each other. The playing becomes more naturalistic, the lighting more gentle, and the geometry of the compositions less harsh as seemingly appropriate couples begin to form.” … “At 84, the eternally elegant, emotionally reserved Resnais seems to be allowing the mask to slip a bit: this is the quietly devastating testament of a deeply lonely man.”

Keith Ulrich in Slant:
“There’s more than a whiff of contempt in the way Ayckbourn conceives his seven upper-class characters, all of whom circle in and out of each others’ lives with contrived dramaturgical abandon, but Resnais’s inquiry into their tragicomic malaise is genuine, at best enraptured.”

Jonathan Rosenbaum:
“It’s an archetypal and at points almost insufferably clever piece of boulevard theater — the sort of thing Resnais has been producing periodically ever since he adapted the French play Melo in 1986 and began mining his childhood playgoing experiences. At the same time, it’s a lyrical lament that doubles as a comprehensive retrospective of his career. The characters, invested with an almost tragic tenderness, are by and large played by actors Resnais has been using for two decades. When Dan and Gaëlle trade confidences in the hotel bar, we could almost be back in Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), just as a camera movement exploring part of a flat summons up Last Year at Marienbad (1961) and a montage of domestic objects returns us to Muriel (1963). All three of these films, to some degree, are about private fears in public places, a theme that’s come up again and again in his work.”

and
“The film’s constant snowfall, not at all indicative of typical Paris weather, is a personal invention with no counterpart in the play. (Another is the 19th-century portraits and landscape paintings, by Turner and others, that crop up in some of the flats, pointing toward the characters’ unacknowledged Victorianism.) This magical heavy snow, viewed through windows and used in transitions bridging the film’s 54 short scenes, is as laden with metaphorical nuance as the snow in Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons. It’s so central to the overall mood and visual texture that when we suddenly see it falling inside a kitchen during a climactic scene, shortly before the camera starts to encircle two characters, the moment’s emotional logic is perfectly pitched. Fundamentally, Resnais has always been an expressionist, using his settings and compositions to evoke the inner states of his characters. Here, tying expressionism to social critique, he becomes an improbable but unmistakable blood brother of Carl Dreyer, turning material written by others into a highly personal testament that burns its way into our souls.”

Resnais at the Venice Film Festival described the movie as “recording the anger of a so-called happy civilization. A new world is shaping. My characters are scared of it and can’t deal with it. We witness a real impregnation of the world. Muriel invites us. The movie grows like a plant. The characters start to live away from us. Imagine a letter on a piece of blotting paper. The movie is this blotting paper. The audience is that mirror that allows the image to be seen. Muriel appeared in the middle of the ink stains.”

Helene to Alphonse: “Well, did we love each other or not?”

Bernard is the nephew, Marie-do is his girlfriend, Robert is his war buddy.

Italian movie Hands Over The City beat this one at Venice, along with Marker’s Le Joli Mai, Kurosawa’s High & Low, a Louis Malle, Billy Liar and Hud.

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