More than half a century after Hiroshima, Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad helped define the style and stakes of international art cinema, 91-year-old nouvelle vague legend Alain Resnais is still reinventing film’s form. This nimble metatextual affair transports a group of actors—Resnais regulars Pierre Arditi, Lambert Wilson, Sabine Azéma and Mathieu Amalric, all playing themselves—to a remote mansion. They’re paying respects to a recently deceased playwright; things turn surreal when they’re treated to a video presentation of a troupe performing “Eurydice,” a version of the Orpheus myth. Soon the spectators become spontaneous participants in two additional, concurrent interpretations of the story, which has new meaning now that the older cast have outgrown their youthful parts.
As with 2009’s Wild Grass, Resnais’s latest is a stylized exercise in theatricality, with performers emoting to the imaginary cheap seats and classically crude lighting tricks shuttling action around a studio set. Yet though we’re invited to see the artifice and craft of all three readings of “Eurydice” (as adapted by Resnais and screenwriter Laurent Herbiet from the works of Jean Anouilh), what elevates the film is a pervasive, palpable sense of loss—between lover and beloved, young and old, stage and screen. For Resnais, pretending isn’t escaping; it’s mining for the sadness and weirdness that pulsates beneath the surface of things.
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