"Last Year at Marienbad" @ 50

"So much critical ink has been shed over Last Year at Marienbad that one might wonder if the flood of commentary, once receded, would take the film along with it," writes Mark Polizzotti in an essay for Criterion. "Alain Resnais's second feature has been lavishly praised and royally slammed; awarded the Golden Lion at the 1961 Venice Film Festival and nominated for an Oscar, but also branded an 'aimless disaster' by Pauline Kael; lauded by some as a great leap forward in the battle against linear storytelling and a worthy successor to Hoffmann, Proust, and Borges, dismissed by others as hopelessly old-fashioned…. Like its nameless hero, the film relentlessly pursues us with a barrage of assertions while giving us little to hold on to as convincingly true, until in the end, we, like Delphine Seyrig's equally nameless heroine, have only two choices: remain steadfast in our resistance to the seduction or just plain submit."

"Hopelessly retro, eternally avant-garde, and one of the most influential movies ever made (as well as one of the most reviled), Marienbad is both utterly lucid and provocatively opaque — an elaborate joke on the world's corniest pickup line and a drama of erotic fixation that takes Vertigo to the next level of abstraction." The Voice's J Hoberman in 2008: "Marienbad eludes tense. The movie is what it is — a sustained mood, an empty allegory, a choreographed moment outside of time, and a shocking intimation of perfection."

Further reading and browsing, 50 years to the day since the film's official release: Thomas Belzer's "Intertextual Meditation" in Senses of Cinema, Peter Cowie's recollection of meeting Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet on the occasion of the London premiere, Mark Rappaport in Rouge on "Marcel in Marienbad" and, here in The Notebook, Miriam Bale on "The Game" and Adrian Curry's selection of posters for films by Resnais.

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  • Ryland Walker Knight

    It is also really, really funny.

  • localdjango

    “an elaborate joke on the world’s corniest pickup line” like “In the City of Sylvia” another film Hoberman liked a lot

  • Pierre

    There’s quite a bit of physics in here, too. I’m sure we could map out a few equations based on the all the variables.

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