Beautiful Keira K. (domino) lives in a fancy house with her writer kid-sister Briony (globe-nom Saoirse Ronan, appearing in the next Peter Jackson movie) and mom Harriet Walter (from Katy’s Pride & Prejudice, not Wright’s) and older brother (?) Patrick Kennedy from Bleak House. College hottie James McAvoy lives in a little house on their property with mom Brenda Blethyn (Wright’s P&P, Little Voice). The two are in love but (gasp) from different social classes. Will they defy society and marry anyway? Of course.

Wait, no. They’ve long been infatuated with each other, and during the summer when they are completely exploding for each other, a visitor to the estate rapes another visitor, and young peeping Briony tells the cops it was McAvoy, leading to his arrest and getting sent to war to die instead of going back to college and marrying his true love, who also went to war and died, but as a nurse. Briony also becomes a nurse (now played by spooky Romola Garai, Wilbur’s love interest in “Amazing Grace”) then an author. Fifty years later (now Vanessa Redgrave of “Cradle Will Rock” and “The Devils”) she’s on a TV interview show explaining that her new book is an attempt at atonement, the story of the long life the two lovers could have had together if not for her young meddling.

I loved the movie, beautiful and sad. I might just think it’s pretty good if I see it a second time, since my expectations were pretty low before the first time (period literary adaptation starring McAvoy, who was not good at all in Last King of Scotland), but this time I was enthralled. Sound design / music used typewriter key effects as percussion, my favorite part.

Guy from Slate says the epic single-shot at the beach is unnecessary and showoffy. Robbie on Reverse Shot calls it “tonally awkward” and says: “Wright’s grandstanding in this sequence bespeaks of a decidedly disjointed approach, as well as disappoints after his gloriously measured 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, which smartly employed the long take as a coherent, unifying device.” Elsewhere I’d read that the shot is there to show off (even Wright admits he was showing off) the enormity of war, to take it beyond our doomed male protagonist, open up the world of the film beyond the intensely personal closed-off world of the first half. Some part of that latter explanation clicked for me, because towards the end of the shot I’d decided that McAvoy wouldn’t make it out alive. Tonally consistent or not, the shot is terrific on its own.

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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Same old gorgeous La Jetee. No longer makes me think of 12 Monkeys while watching it (a good thing). I spotted cats and a bird (below), but no owls. Watched out on the porch – Katy enjoyed it, but never mentioned the motion part. Thanks again for my poster.

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One of my favorite movie stills ever:
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More straightforward and less poetic than it usually gets credit for, pretty much a straight half-hour documentary about the holocaust.

More educational, more heartbreaking, more shocking, more horrible and a far better movie than any of the 60-minute PBS documentaries I’ve seen on the subject, any two-hour fictionalized concentration-camp movie, any three-plus-hour Steven Spielberg feature.

The poetic parts are mostly at the start and end, and in the juxtaposition between the 50’s color film and the 30’s-40’s b/w stock footage. Must be hard to craft an artistic film against this sort of imagery. Jean Cayrol (Muriel ou Le temps d’un retour) wrote the commentary and Chris Marker was assistant director.

Katy, if I seemed a little depressed on Sunday night, this is why.

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“All the memory of the world”. Twenty minute short on the French National Library. The long middle section is a class-filmstrip-type movie in that it tours the facility and shows how everything works, but with the gliding hallway cameras and poetic narration of a Resnais or Marker film. Posits the library as man’s collective memory, sort of like the library in that guy’s head in Dreamcatcher. Credits say “with the collaboration of… Chris and Magic Marker” and Agnes Varda, among many others. At the end, after comparing people to insects, over a shot of a hundred library visitors reading the books they’ve selected, it closes: “Astrophysics, physiology, theology, taxonomy, philology, cosmology, mechanics, logic, poetics, technology. Here we catch a glimpse of a future in which all mysteries are resolved. A time when we are handed the keys to this and other universes. And this will come about because these readers, each working on his slice of universal memory, will lay the fragments of a single secret end to end, a secret with a beautiful name, a secret called happiness.” Nice little movie.

Chris Marker’s book:
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Hiding in the stacks, a guard attacks:
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“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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