Last Year at Marienbad (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Special Edition, The Criterion Collection
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Not just a defining work of the French New Wave but one of the great, lasting mysteries of modern art, Alain Resnais’ epochal visual poem has been puzzling appreciative viewers for decades. A surreal fever dream, or perhaps a nightmare, Last Year at Marienbad (L’année dernière à Marienbad), written by the radical master of the New Novel, Alain Robbe-Grillet, gorgeously fuses the past with the present in telling its ambiguous tale of a man and a woman (Giorgio Albertazzi and Delphine Seyrig) who may or may not have met a year ago, perhaps at the very same cathedral-like, mirror-bedecked château they now find themselves wandering. Unforgettable in both its confounding details (gilded ceilings, diabolical parlor games, a loaded gun) and haunting scope, Resnais’ investigation into the nature of memory is disturbing, romantic, and maybe even a ghost story.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES: • New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Alain Resnais, with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack • New audio interview with Resnais • New documentary on the making of Last Year at Marienbad, featuring interviews with many of Resnais’ collaborators • New video interview with film scholar Ginette Vincendeau on the history of the film and its many mysteries • Two short documentaries by Resnais: Toute la mémoire du monde (1956) and Le chant du styrène (1958) • Theatrical trailer • Optional original, unrestored French soundtrack • New and improved subtitle translation • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by critic Mark Polizzotti and film scholar François Thomas, and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s introduction to the published screenplay and comments on the film
Stills from Last Year at Marienbad (Click for larger image)
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Top customer reviews
The film itself, deliberately mannered and enigmatic in the extreme, isn't for everyone - but who here doesn't know that already? Even I, having a higher tolerance than many for Art with a Capital A, avoided the film for years fearing it might be TOO pointy-headed and emptily pretentious on the basis of the snobby 'tude of many of its fans (plus I wasn't overly impressed with 'Hiroshima Mon Amour'), so I was happy to discover that the spell it casts is the product of a great deal more than simply being confounding for its own sake. Even having seen it once, I wasn't sure if it would hold up, but this presentation is a marvel, and I found the film to be even more interesting the second time around. It's a surprisingly easy film for the right audience to lose themselves in, but, even for art cinema lovers, I wouldn't recommend a blind-buy. Absolutely, GET THIS, but make sure it's your cup of tea first. As far as I'm concerned, it holds a place as one of the crowning jewels of my collection.
The story is presented in fragments, conversations, voice-over repetitions of description of time and place, frozen idylls of elegantly dressed men and women, and the interplay between nameless characters who either did or did not have an affair a year ago. The film allows us to enter that realm of imagination or terror of disturbed memory, searching for reasons to believe what we are hearing and seeing as truth or as fiction. Shot in gorgeous black and white (and for once the shades in the spectrum from white to black play a major role in this film), the film wanders through the baroque quiet corridors of a grand hotel (is it Marienbad or another spa?) accompanied by the eerie organ music and a narrator who repeats lines over and over, varying each repetition until the mind state narration becomes the spoken words of a handsome man with an Italian accent simply called X (Giorgio Albertazzi) who is convinced that a year ago he had an affair with a beautiful woman called A (Delphine Seyrig): the woman remembers little things but in general denies the memory pieces of X, frequently saying 'leave me alone' while X continues to attempt to prove to A that they did indeed have an affair and planned a life together but the plan ended with A saying she needed more time - A is apparently married to M (Sacha Pitoëff). There are many moments of clues such as the strange game X plays with M, the constant returning to a statue of a man and woman in the sculpted gardens, the looks across salons, the stairs, the corridors, the mirrors, the shooting gallery. All of this refuses to tell a linear story but instead challenges us to create our own version of what happened last year - at Marienbad or somewhere or not at all.
The criterion edition comes with an additional CD explaining the history of the film, the making of the film, and other additive moments that are meant to make the film more accessible. But the beauty of LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD is, in the end, the fact that like so many works of art, the truth is in the mind of the observer. It is intoxicating and unique and inimitable. It is sad to note that Delphine Seyrig died of lung cancer in 1990 and likewise Sacha Pitoëff died the same year. Giorgio Albertazzi's career was basically limited to this one film. That leaves the viewer with the feeling that this little perfect jewel of a film is irreplaceable and will remain timelessly successful for lovers of fine cinematic art - and for those who are similarly obsessed with memory and the loss of memory. Grady Harp, July 10
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A must see!!