Cannes Month continues. This played there in 2011 – in 3D! The 3D would’ve added some novelty to a remake which seems to have none at all, unless we’re counting that it’s filmed in color. Scene-for-scene redo of the original, well-acted and shot (but the original was well-acted and shot), kinda languid in the flashback-heavy middle, and with a less biting ending.

Motome (Eita of Memories of Matsuko) had a desperately sick wife (Hikari Mitsushima of Love Exposure) and baby and needed doctor money, so he did a dishonorable thing, telling the local samurai house that he wanted to commit seppuku at their house so they’d pay him to go away. But they’d decided to make an example out of the next sap who tried this, and since Motome had done another dishonorable thing – selling his sword for food and secretly substituting a wooden one – he’s forced to die an agonizing, splintery death while his family succumbs to illness at home.

So the dead wife’s dad Hanshiro (Ebizo Ichikawa, later in Miike’s Over Your Dead Body) visits the house a couple months later with the same seppuku story in order to get an audience and shame them for what they’ve done. Per an IMDB comment (I know!) the film argues “that honour is ultimately irrelevant in the face of social suffering.” It’s a compelling story, but during hard times, the house (led by Doppelganger & 13 Assassins star Koji Yakusho) has built its fortune on the traditional ideas of honor and can’t afford to let Hanshiro’s humanist ideas take hold.

C. Huber in Cinema Scope:

Hara-Kiri [demonstrates] a classical craftsmanship few contemporary directors could ever hope to match, but at the cost of personal expression. Miike’s single-minded take on a straightforward samurai tragedy follows the original’s outlines, yet replaces its smart, suspenseful time-shifts with big blocks of flashback melodrama … the marvellous, mostly brownish palette of the interiors tended to sink in the murky fog of light reduction, making Cannes’ first 3-D competition entry a good argument against the process.

Fully bizarre and exceptional movie, which I think I need to watch again before attempting to say anything about it. Immortal couple with their undead “maid” hosts orgy which never quite gets off the ground, as participants exchange (hi)stories, then one host sneaks off and kills himself. Great lighting and imagery, action taking place in a stylish, dream-logic void.

Kate Moran (Goltzius and the Pelican Company) and Neils Schneider (Heartbeats, I Killed My Mother) are the hosts, Nicolas Maury (Regular Lovers) the “maid”. Guests include The Stallion (former soccer star Eric Cantona), The Star (Fabienne Babe of Rivette’s Hurlevent), The Teenager (Alain-Fabein Delon) and The Bitch (Julie Bremond).

Special appearance by whip enthusiast Beatrice Dalle (The Intruder, Inside):

Surprising restraint on use of music considering the director is a member of M83.

Better than expected (because I expected Into The Wild with a happier ending). Reese Witherspoon goes on a life-cleansing solo voyage, encounters friends, admirers and dangers, a benevolent shoe company, potential-rapist hunters. Flashbacks to her mom Laura Dern dying of cancer and Reese’s ensuing descent were very well integrated into the present-day story. I am a fan of this movie’s editing. Vallée made last year’s Dallas Buyers Club, Nick Hornby adapted the memoir, and Reese might’ve won more awards if Julianne Moore hadn’t made an alzheimer’s drama the same year.

A brilliant flashback drama full of slow-boil tension leading to an explosive action scene and devastating business-as-usual finale. Tatsuya Nakadai (star of Kill! and of the snow-lady second segment of Kwaidan) asks a local clan for permission to commit ritual suicide in their courtyard, and the stooge in charge (Rentaro Mikuni, star of the first Kwaidan segment and the chained son in Profound Desire of the Gods, seeming older here, perhaps because of his baldy-samurai hair) tells of the last guy who tried that, how he was forced to go through with the suicide rather than being given some money to go away. But Nadakai knows this already, since the last guy was his son-in-law (Akira Ishihama of some Kinoshita films) whose death led his young wife Shima Iwashita (the daughter in An Autumn Afternoon) to her own. Nadakai’s plan is to demand an apology, and when the clan attacks he takes down as many men as he can (having killed some key guys earlier, as the flashback structure very gradually reveals). Rather than admit any blame, the clan leader orders a total cover-up, saying the others died of illness. A cynical movie, but thrilling in execution (with tastefully-deployed pre-’70s shock-zooms), the movie Kobayashi made before Kwaidan.

J. Mellen for Criterion:

In the film’s condemnation of the Iyi clan, Kobayashi rejects the notion of individual submission to the group. He condemns, simultaneously, the hierarchical structures that pervaded Japanese political and social life in the 1950s and 1960s, especially the zaibatsus, the giant corporations that recapitulated feudalism.

Didn’t seem very noirish, nor very good, for at least the first half. Barbara Stanwyck (between Double Indemnity and The Furies) is at her least appealing as a spoiled invalid shouting into the telephone all day and night, and her husband Burt Lancaster (in his noir period, between The Killers and Criss Cross) barely appears. Eventually it all falls into place. She is even more spoiled than it first seemed, having stolen Burt away from his girlfriend, given him a meaningless job at her father’s chemical corporation, then fallen into a psychosomatic paralysis to keep him at home taking care of her. Burt is no jewel himself, attempting to break free of his father-in-law’s grasp by stealing chemical supplies and selling them to gangsters. The “wrong number” of the title is a call Stanwyck accidentally overhears at the start, two men plotting a murder – hers, on order of her husband, who tries to stop it at the last minute. Too late, and though I love Ms. Stanwyck, this was one movie in which I didn’t mind her getting killed.

Since the plot comes together in fragments from Stanwyck’s perspective, gathering backstory over phone calls as time ticks away, I was hoping for a flashback-within-a-flashback, and got one! Burt’s cutie ex (Ann Richards) is nice enough to try helping out, though her husband (Leif Erickson, the grinning would-be cop-killer in The Tall Target) is investigating Lancaster. I also liked meek scientist Evans (Harold Vermilyea of The Big Clock and Edge of Doom), Burt’s reluctant partner in crime, who manages to escape (but perhaps not for long, since the cops are closing in on Burt). The Franz Waxman score can best be characterized as loud.

Between this and The Snake Pit with Olivia de Havilland the same year, Litvak was on fire making popular pictures about mental women – unfortunately, his two stars’ oscar nominations cancelled each other out so the award went to Jane Wyman.

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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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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Huge Ackman is a simian surgeon/scientist in a secluded snowy setting. Rachel Weisz (the superbitch from “the shape of things”) is his cancerous fantasy-author wife. Ellen Diet-Pills Burstyn runs the lab that Huge works at, and Ethan “you dumb bastard- it’s not a schooner, it’s a sailboat” Suplee is some guy who works there too. Huge needs to cure the monkeys of their cancer in order that he may cure his wife of hers.

BUT, Huge is also a Spanish conquistador looking for the tree of life in the New World in order that he may save Spain’s Queen Weisz from the invading forces. AND, Huge is a bald futureman in a futuresphere floating towards an enchanted nebula in order that he may save The Weisz Tree Of Life from its impending death. These two things aren’t actually happening, but are being imagined by our present-day Huge & Weisz in their books and dreams and imaginations.

In all three realities, Huge is obsessed with saving Weisz, needs her, but as Paul said, thrives on her illness(es) so that he’ll be able to keep saving her. He literally feeds off her in futureworld and fetishizes the ring she gives him in Spain, which he loses down a drain in the present and tattooes onto himself in futureworld.

Movie is beautiful almost all of the time, with good music swelling up at the end, some fab fantasy segments (plants sprouting out of Huge’s body after he first tastes the tree’s sap), some wacky effects (apparently stuff was composited onto microscopic cells to create futureworld instead of the whole thing being a CG creation), lots of closeups on our heroes, some total distractions by the schooner guy, and neat connections between the three planes.

Those connections are what keep the movie interesting. It’s such a complete story, circular and self-referencing, going back over itself and leaping way ahead of itself. A well-built movie, obviously so clearly thought out, more than just a straightforward story (though it is that too: Huge tries to save wife, she dies anyway, game over). Imaginatively detailed, every scene a necessary part of the whole. Deserves a better shake than it’s getting.

Katy may have liked this (she liked Pi). Paul at least didn’t hate it and everyone else is incredulous that I bothered to see it.

“L’Annee derniere a Marienbad.” “Rarely has a film been more talked about since its release in 1961. Whether considered a pretentious chore or an aesthetic revolution, this is one of the few truly mythic films in the history of cinema” – Luc Lagier

I rewatched the movie, checked out the documentary by Luc Lagier and the introduction by Ginette Vincendeau on the DVD, and read author Alain Robbe-Grillet’s introduction to the book. Two of the three say that there are two ways of appreciating the film… analyzing the hell out of it, or simply letting the images flow over you and getting lost in it. Never being too big on analysis, of course I prefer the latter.

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Mr. X approaches Mrs. A and tells her they had an affair last year, which she doesn’t remember. He gradually convinces her, while her husband Mr. M lurks behind, playing games with other guests. The whole movie’s a game or a maze, with unannounced flashbacks, false memories, repetition, and breaks in time and space.

Lots of different interpretations mentioned in the DVD features. X is doomed to repeat this day a hundred times and this is the first time he’s convinced A of his scheme and broken out of the loop (kinda star trek / groundhog day). X and A are aping the play they see at the start of the movie. X is aware that he’s an actor in a film, and is using A to break out of the film. The Shining is a virtual remake of the movie. The movie is a virtual remake of North By Northwest.

Could that be Alfred Hitchcock on the right?!
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Katy jumped ship before half the movie was over. Can’t blame her – she didn’t know what she was in for, and it’s rough if you’re trying to follow the plot.

Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum) was an assistant. No Chris Marker involvement, but maybe I can use his proxy appearance in “Tout la memoire du monde” to kick off my oft-delayed Marker fest.

As for Last Year At Marienbad, I appreciate all the theories and discussion, but most importantly it’s a beautiful movie and should be seen again and again and again and…

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