Last Year at Marienbad
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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This version of the film is unique in that it offers the viewer both the original and remastered soundtrack. Alain Resnais believed that the remastered versions of soundtracks often sacrificed the range of tonalities found in the originals, and so he stipulated that the viewer have the choice to hear either version when viewing the film.
This disc also offers other extras not found on my VHS tape, such as a new audio interview with the director, and a couple of short documentaries by Resnais, "Le chant du styrene"(1958), and "Toute la memoire du monde"(1956), as well as a documentary about the making of the film, and a new interview with film scholar Ginette Vincendeau.
All in all it's a real treat to finally see this defining avant garde work in Blu-ray.
In this myriad of dialogue and images - it may help for the viewer to know that several times throughout this film Nim is played. Nim is a strategical game based on a mathematical theory where players takes turns removing objects from a pile. Each move affects the decision to be made by the next player - reaction to action. Within this game there are a finite number of possible moves, and each successive move helps define the outcome. The film applies this game's principle of intellectual finesse to the two male leads - with the woman being the metaphorical prize. The challenger in this game must perfect his strategy to overtake the more experienced player.
Last Year at Marienbad is puzzling film open to widespread speculation. Any claims of complete definement are purely conjecture - for this was Alain Resnais' intention. The film has exquisite cinematography and its accompanying music, while eerie, is somehow befitting of the narrative. Last Year at Marienbad is probably the most unique film to come from the French New Wave. Its abstract nature challenges the audience in ways few other films can. While some may dismiss the film as nothing more than slow paced nonsense, many others including myself consider Resnais' film a masterpiece. Criterion's Blu-ray edition will not disappoint - incredible transfer and well packaged.
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A must see!!