Customer Review

49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't think, Just Look., April 21, 2001
This review is from: Last Year at Marienbad (DVD)
LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD is virtually without peer in the cinema. It has caused a great deal of controversy over the years, with some claiming it as one of the greatest films ever made, others claiming that it must be some sort French joke on the audience. For those of you familiar with French films in general, you know that bad French movies tend to consist of a few characters discoursing about love in a stilted, soap-opera-like manner. Set against this context, LYAM is indeed a joke, a brilliant satire. The banality of the love triangle also pokes very Gallic fun at the annoying cliches of Hollywood melodrama. Part of the confusion caused by this film comes from the standard nature of the plot - our expectations about how this type of film should work are constantly set up, then thouroughly compromised from the opening sequence of the movie. Viewers are rarely cognizant of just how much we have internalized standard Hollywood techniques as the ONLY way of using cinematic forms to tell a story, which should have a beginning, middle and end, but MARIENBAD cannot be understood this way, although there is indeed a progression to this bizarre narrative, which takes the form of Man Y's increasingly elaborate explanations of what might have happened between him and the Woman in her room, which might have been either rape or seduction. It is a profoundly VISUAL film that can only be understood if you use your eyes carefully. The action is split completely from the dialogue, which goes over the same issues again and again in settings that indicate different times of day and of the year. Some of these scenes are flashbacks, some may only be the narrator's fantasy. In MARIENBAD, past, present and future coexist simultaneously. What MARIENBAD dramatizes is the relative quality of human memory. We tend to organize our perceptions of the world in linear fashion, but memory is non-linear, collapsing past and present into a single entity. Subjectivity is crucial to understanding MARIENBAD, which examines the way in which each participant in a given event experiences the same event differently. Lawyers know that if you have six different eywitnesses to an event, you will get six different stories about what happened, and this relativity of memory is basically what MARIENBAD is about. Once you know this, MARIENBAD is actually quite easy to understand and to follow, at least in terms of the "plot." Now just sit back and admire the unbelievably rich technique the film uses to explore this idea. The moving camera tracks by frozen humans, assimilating them within the overall decor, are combined with astonishing editing techniques which alternately slow down or extend time itself through fragmentation or repetition. The performances (and the actors REALLY ARE BRILLIANT - I can hardly imagine how difficult this film must have been to act) accomplish the same thing through similar means. This film should be watched at least 3 times, once just to accustom yourself to its unique rhythms, a second to appreciate the complex structure, and a third for the humour of it. MARIENBAD is a truly mind-boggling experience.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 24, 2010 8:22:59 PM PST
larrybmovie says:
I found it very interesting that you subtitled your review "Don't think--just look", since LYAM is the only foreign film I wish I could see a dubbed version of. I've never been able to see the whole thing through, because I always feel the visuals are really important but I'm so busy reading the subtitles, I can never appreciate them. As for acting in a Resnais film (he's got a new one coming out soon, by the way), I doubt it was a problem for Delphine Seyrig. One of her first movies was an American indie called "Pull My Daisy" and she sort of made it a point to alternate big- and low-budget pictures throughout her career (e.g., "The Day of the Jackel" (the original) and "Jeanne Dellman" (a Chantal Ackerman slice-of-(I fear, boring)-life). Personally, I think the best thing she ever did was "Daughters of Darkness." But then, I think "Daughters of Darkness" is the best lesbian vampire movie ever made....

Posted on Aug 28, 2012 6:13:33 PM PDT
Archegos says:
It is not enough to watch it three times. After forty, fifty, a hundred and fifty times, then you begin to get it. So keep watching, and maybe someday, maybe when you are older, then, at last, it will become clear. This movie is not for just anyone.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2012 7:07:20 PM PDT
larrybmovie says:
Hey, I'm 64....
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