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A riddle from Resnais

Among the leading filmmakers of the French New Wave, Alain Resnais was probably the most theatrical. He used the camera as if looking through a proscenium.

movie reviews Updated: May 22, 2010 00:12 IST

Last Year at Marienbad
Shemaroo/Studio Canal, Rs 349
Rating: ****

Among the leading filmmakers of the French New Wave, Alain Resnais was probably the most theatrical. He used the camera as if looking through a proscenium. His actors’ movements were often melodramatic, whether in animation or in stasis. And his music heightened all of this. Nowhere is this unique Resnais treatment better defined than in Last year in Marienbad, a surreal 1961 film in which we are never sure what the unnamed characters know.

Delphine Seyrig as woman A and Giorgio Albertazzi as man X meet at an ornate baroque palace. The man insists they met before and had made a pact to meet in a year’s time at the place. But the woman doesn’t remember, or pretends not to. This principal uncertainty is eerily underlined by an ever-present organ music, tuned up often to drown out conversation.

Is it all a fantasy? Whose? Who’s speaking the truth? None of these questions are conclusively answered. What we have is an elegant film wrapped in costumes wrapped in enigma.