Last Year At Marienbad
This flummoxing 1961 diamond from director Alain Resnais and screenwriter Alain Robbe-Grillet takes one of the lamest pickup lines ever--Haven't I seen you somewhere before?--and turns it into the most absurdly elegant and decadently formalist exercise in high modernism ever frozen in time on celluloid. Freeze is the key word here, since Marienbad encases its erotic drive in a zero-Kelvin sang-froid. Woman A (Delphine Seyrig, stunningly outfitted in Coco Chanel) is holidaying with her husband M (a skeletal Sacha Pitoëff) at an outlandishly opulent old European castle--which cinematographer Sacha Vierny's camera adores, both inside and out, in devilishly long, highly orchestrated tracking shots--when she's approached by handsome man X (Giorgio Albertazzi), who insists they had an affair the previous year at Marienbad and that she was going to leave her husband for him. Resnais pieces this story together like an infuriatingly sophisticated puzzle, though, as scenes transpire in tableaux-like stillness and its movie time never settles into any sort of temporal--or spatial--familiarity. Throughout, the gorgeously vacant activities of this idly wealthy class look both irresistibly effete and repulsively lifeless. The black-and-white European art film--for better and worse--par excellence.
At the Charles Theatre at noon Dec. 27, at 9 p.m. Dec. 29, and at 9 p.m. Jan. 1.