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Alain Resnais in New York

Starting today and on through March 20, the newly refurbished Museum of the Moving Image will be screening a whole lot of Alain Resnais: "Although Resnais may be most famous for his landmark films Hiroshima, Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad, which redefined the possibilities of cinema, his career now spans sixty years, and he has continuously found new ways to explore his lifelong obsessions. This is the most complete retrospective of Resnais's films ever presented in New York, with all of his feature films, and a number of rarely shown shorts. Most films will be shown in imported 35mm prints that are not in distribution in the United States."

Kind of a big deal, right? And yet the local press has been strangely quiet about this event. I'm guessing the noise might pick up in the coming weeks, hence this entry for collecting future pointers. Meantime, the New Yorker's Richard Brody on Muriel: "The theatrical artifice of Alain Resnais's 1963 drama is part of the subject — France's public and private efforts to conceal the physical and moral damage of the Second World War and the Algerian War (which had just ended)… In effect, he cinematically attributes two French generations' worth of neurotic, self-destructive behavior to the collective repression of history."

Jonathan Rosenbaum has been posting Renais-related work from his archives recently. From a 1988 piece for the Chicago Reader: "The exquisite art of Mélo, like the art of Alain Resnais in general, bears a certain resemblance to sculpture: it needs to be seen from several different vantage points if one is to fully appreciate its shapeliness and the powerful multiplicity of its meanings." And he presents a "selection of vantage points [that] can’t pretend to be exhaustive; at best, it presents only a few starting points for sounding the bottomless depths of this deceptively simple movie." Also revived is his December 1980 interview with Resnais, primarily about Mon oncle d'Amérique, which "yielded three separate articles, written for Soho News, American Film, and Omni." I'll add a link to American Film piece when he posts it.

Resnais began shooting his current project, Vous n'avez encore rien vu, last month and, as ioncinema and the Playlist reported in November, it takes as its starting point Jean Anouilh's play Eurydice and features André Dussollier, Sabine Azéma, Mathieu Amalric, Anne Consigny, Pierre Arditi, Lambert Wilson, Claude Rich, Jean-Pierre Bacri and Isabelle Nanty.

Updates, 2/28:


For more work by Luc Lagier, turn to DC's.

"Muriel is a remarkable film, a surreal subversion of bourgeois narrative, in which the unstably shifting tectonic plates of place and time create a very uneasy footing for these characters," writes Ed Howard. "For Hélène and Alphonse, self-involved, wrapped up in their own dramas, World War II was a backdrop for their aborted love affair, but Resnais doesn't allow them to leave it at that, as complicated political contexts keep encroaching on their hermetic little melodramas."

Richard Brody on Je t'aime, je t'aime: "Resnais likens the workings of the mind to the film editor's matching of disparate sequences, and this cinematic metaphor invokes his key idea: the flux of memory, when influenced by moral purpose, goes from passive to active."

Update, 3/3: Lindsay Peters for Moving Image Source on Chris Marker's La Jetée (1962), Agnès Varda's Les Créatures (1966) and Resnais's Je t'aime, je t'aime (1968): "While the classic science fiction film shows the effect of futuristic science and otherworldly technology on society at large, the Left Bank filmmakers use the science fiction genre to experiment with narrative and explore the themes of time and memory, prioritizing interior over societal conflict."

Updates, 3/18: David Phelps for the L on Same Old Song, "Resnais's exploration of the musical comedy as a vehicle for emotions erupting mid-dialogue — as pop songs, lip-synced by characters — with frivolous objective triggers: beauty and silliness are their own objects. But Resnais's grounding of these narrative frills in a slight comedy of manners on-location in 90s Paris conceives naturalism as its own art and artifice. Like all Resnais's films, it's a portrait of consciousness mired in dull routine and extraordinary feeling, spinning facts and fiction as equal possibilities for each other."

And you have seen Adrian Curry's collection of posters for Resnais's films, right?

Image: Resnais and Azéma on the set of Mélo. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow The Daily Notebook on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.

Alain Resnais spent a lot of time in New York in the early 70’s. I used to run into him at the movies quite a lot, most memorably at the opening day first screening of Kazan’s “The Arrangement” which he insisted on sitting though twice. During this period he saw Sondheim’s “Company” and “Follies” many times. That’s why Elaine Sritch was cast in “Providence” and why he got Sondheim to score “Stavisky” — which used some tunes cut from “Follies” as part of its underscoring.

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