Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

The Cineaste: Poems

Last Year at Marienbad

Last Year at Marienbad

Last night I watched Last Year in Marienbad for the first time! It’s set in a beautifully ornate hotel, made all the more surreal for being in black and white. The film deals with the idea of truth and it’s pretty hard to follow, but I found it best to just let it wash over you and get lost in the ambience. If you haven’t seen it, be warned: this film is very slow and “arty”, certainly not appealing to all. I’d recommend it if you enjoy gazing at paintings or reading surreal books with little to no plot.

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Director: Alain Resnais

Cast: Alain Resnais, Delphine Seyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoeff

Rating: U/14+

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World Cinema continues their monthlong Alain Resnais tribute with the director’s enigmatic Last Year at Marienbad — a dreamlike fantasy about two people who may or may not have met “last year at Marienbad” meeting there again. It is by turns mesmerizing and maddening, but it is never less than fascinating. Mountain Xpress

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When Last Year At Marienbad was first released in 1961, it was wildly controversial — was this collaboration between director Alain Resnais and novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet a contemplation of the possibilities that lie outside traditional narrative form, a study of distance and alienation among the idle rich, a love story stripped of its traditional contexts, or some sort of cinematic snipe hunt in which viewers searched for a meaning or a story that wasn’t really there?Nearly fifty years after it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and became a sensation in art houses around the globe, Last Year at Marienbad still stubbornly refuses to reveal itself, but the Francophile film buffs at the Criterion Collection have allowed the picture to speak for itself in eloquent form in a beautiful two-disc DVD release. Criterion Collection

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Alain Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad opens with beautiful shots of the labyrinthine castle and the baroque design of which is as consciously geometric as it is overloaded with theatrical designs and elaborate architecture. You see gorgeous framed paintings on the walls and of the luscious garden outside with its exceedingly regular lay-out that is typical of the French garden architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries. While the camera flows slowly through the hallways, galleries, and salons of the hotel’s seemingly endless structure, we hear the disturbing music by Francis Seyrig, mostly performed on an organ; which sound similar to a gothic horror film. Last Year at Marienbad is an abstract surreal masterpiece; a baffling puzzle that in many ways is unsolvable and yet still seduces it’s viewer by its hypnotic and beautiful mysteries.Classic Art Films

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