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Last Year at Marienbad

Is it possible to gain any satisfaction from playing a game you know you’re going to lose? That question is the brainteasing idea behind Alain Resnais’s 1961 baroque exercise in formal, temporal and spatial deception, based on an experimental nouveau roman by Alain Robbe-Grillet and restored to head a BFI retrospective of the leftbank maestro’s work in film. Statuesque figures in tuxedos and ball gowns loiter in the corridors of an opulently-decorated hotel in Marienbad. A man (Giorgio Albertazzi, pictured) spots a woman (Delphine Seyrig, pictured) with whom he’s convinced he shared a romantic clinch the year before, but she claims to have no recollection. Is it a bluff? Or is he telling a yarn? The film never reveals its hand. On a technical level, it still stands on its own, as Sacha Vierny’s camera glides past the ghostly figures with locked eyelines and jarring edits flip us back and forth in time. Kubrick was a fan, and you can see the influence in ‘The Shining’ and ‘2001’. It’s one of a kind, but there is something airless and academic about it, like there’s extra brain where the soul should be.

Release details

Rated: U
Release date: Friday July 8 2011
Duration: 90 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Alain Resnais
Screenwriter: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Cast: Delphine Seyrig
Giorgio Albertazzi
Sacha Pitoeff
Françoise Bertin
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