May 6 - 24th, 2000
A Story of Time:
The Films of ALAIN RESNAIS
Presented in association with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs & the French Film & TV Office in Los Angeles
Series compiled by Gwen Deglise with the assistance of Dennis Bartok.
Special Thanks To: Martine Boutrolle, Janine Deunf and Anne Catherine Louvet / French Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Francois Truffart and Lise de Sablet / French Consulate; Dominique Brunet / Canal +; Rebeca Conget / New Yorker Films; Gisèle Breteau Skira and Geraldine Gomez/ Collection Films sur L'art du Centre Georges Pompidou; Yves Grosset / Gemaci; Nicole Jouve / Interama; Jan Roeloffs / Jupiter Communication; Michael Silberman / USA Films; Yann Marchet / MK2; Delphine L'homme, Cecile Piot, Michelle Thomas / Laboratoires Éclair , Florence Dauman / Argos; Holly Stone.
"The most profound influences are perhaps the ones that have left no visible trace."
-- Alain Resnais
With the recent death of Robert Bresson, Alain Resnais has become arguably the greatest living French director. His films flow on endlessly, sensually towards a far-distant destination, a place that is both Beginning and End, like the haunted gardens in LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD or the 13 parallel time-zones in JE TAIME, JE TAIME. Its no wonder that Resnais counts both Feuillade and Fred Astaire as early influences, for his film are both fantastical and elegant, purely poetic and highly formal.
Born in Brittany in 1922, Resnais grew up surrounded by comic books, shooting home movies with an 8 mm. camera given to him at age 13. Working first as an editor (he cut films by close friends Agnes Varda and Chris Marker), Resnais began directing his own shorts in the late 1940s, intensely poetic sketches on the lives of artists that began stretching and bending the concept of film time, climaxing in the brilliant industrial film "Le Chant du Styrene" and the devastating Holocaust memory-piece "Night and Fog." With his first two features, HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR and LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, Resnais almost single-handedly revolutionized film narrative, replacing linear story-telling with a world of seemingly-infinite layers of memory and emotion.
This series is the first major U.S. retrospective of Resnais films organized in over a decade, and includes all of his feature films (except for the currently-unavailable LA GUERRE EST FINIE) along with 13 shorts. Following its screenings in Los Angeles, the Resnais retrospective will tour to 5 other venues across North America. Our enormous thanks to Alain Bessaudou at Cine Mag Bodard and Edith Kramer at the Pacific Film Archive for their essential help in striking a new 35 mm. print of JE T'AIME, JE T'AIME for this tour, and to James Quandt at the Cinematheque Ontario and Steffen Pierce at the Harvard Film Archive for their invaluable assistance.
[All prints are in French with English subtitles except as indicated.]
Saturday, May 6 5:30 PM
LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD (LANNEE DERNIERE A MARIENBAD), 1961, Canal +, 94 min. LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD traces the elliptical affair between a Husband, a Wife and Her Lover, set in a baroque castle and futurist garden where there is no clear distinction between reality and phantasm, past and present. A haunted world of silhouettes, shadows and murmurs where Delphine Seyrig moves like a silent diva. Shot in Dyaliscope by the great cinematographer Sacha Vierny, based on a script by Alain Robbe-Grillet.
Plus, the short "Night And Fog" (Nuit Et Brouillard), 1955, 31 min., Resnais unforgettable documentary film-poem on the concentration camps and the souls lost to the Holocaust.
Saturday, May 6 8:30 PM
HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR, 1959, New Yorker Films, 91 min. A one-night stand between a young French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) and a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada) brings back the memory of Riva's first impossible love in wartime France, her intense pain at the death of her German lover, and her punishment for sexual collaboration with the enemy. Brilliantly written by Marguerite Duras, Resnais first feature remains a high point in French cinema of the 1950s, and one of the most devastating love stories ever put on film. "Once you've seen HIROSHIMA it becomes impossible to make movies the way you used to" -- Francois Truffaut.
Brand-New 35 mm. Print! JE T'AIME, JE T'AIME, 1968, Cine Mag Bodard, 91 min
The most underrated and rarely-screened Resnais film, a sci-fi comic book film loop that travels through no less than 13 different time zones. After his unsuccessful suicide attempt, Ridder (Claude Rich) agrees to become the human guinea pig in a scientific experiment to travel in time, accompanied by a white laboratory mouse. Ridder relives fragmented moments of his life and his love affair with Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot) but the time machine goes wrong, creating a "chilling, trapped sense of limbo." (John Kreidl, Alain Resnais). [Repeats Sat. 5/13 on a double-bill with MURIEL.]
Sunday May 7 -5:00 PM
U.S. Premiere Never Before Seen!! Early Resnais Sketches!
At 25 years old, Resnais began directing his first short documentaries -- his fascination with painters led him to make a series of visits to contemporary abstract and surrealist painters: " I thought why don't I talk painting with painters? I would learn things about painting, at least it would be a nice conversation !" - Resnais. These are Resnais' very first sketches - not fully completed films in his opinion - some silent, some with music: "Visite a Lucien Coutaud", 1947, 10 min. "Visite a Felix Labisse", 1947, 15 min. "Visite a Hans Hartung", 1947, 15 min. "Visite a Cesar Domela", 1947, 15 min. "Portrait dHenri Goetz", 1947, 24 min. "Visite a Christine Boumeester", 1947, 10 min. [From the Collection Films sur L'art du Centre Georges Pompidou.]
Sunday, May 7 -7:30 PM
MURIEL (MURIEL OU LE TEMPS DUN RETOUR), 1963, Gemaci, 116 min
Arguably his greatest masterpiece (and one of the most unjustly neglected films of the past 40 years), Resnais third feature could be described as an expressionist cityscape of Boulogne in 1962, within the context of the Algerian war. It's also the story of Hélène (Delphine Seyrig) attempting to seduce her old lover Alphonse, while her stepson is driven to murder in memory of "Muriel" whom we never see. For his first color film, "Resnais uses a color scheme reminiscent of Flash Gordon, with lush greens and reds thoughout." (John Kreidl). [Repeats Sat. 5/13 on a double-bill with JE TAIME, JE TAIME.]
Tuesday, May 9 -8:00 PM
STAVISKY, 1974, Interama, 117 min. After an absence of 8 years, Resnais returned with this gorgeous, intoxicating bio of con-man Stavisky (Jean Paul Belmondo), who through fraud and scandal caused the French government to collapse in the 1930s. Death haunts the film, from Stavisky's wife Arlettes (Annie Duperey) recurrent dreams, to composer Stephen Sondheim's majestic Death Waltz. Stunningly photographed by MARIENBAD d.p. Sacha Vierney, featuring great performances by the aging Charles Boyer and the young Gerard Depardieu. " Resnais tried to make it look as if it had been made in the 1930's. He refused to use zooms or any camera movement that was not practiced in the French films of that period." -- Richard Roud.
Plus, the short "Les Statues Meurent Aussi" (Statues Also Die), 1953, Édition Présence Africaine, 30 min. Co-directed with Chris Marker, STATUES casts an ultra-critical eye on European culture's misuse of African sacred art; it also serves as a stunning testament to the art itself.
Wednesday, May 10 - 8:00 PM
PROVIDENCE, 1977, Jupiter Communication, 110 min. Resnais first English language picture (scripted by British playwright David Mercer) recaptured the genius of his earlier films: John Gielgud stars as a brilliant, Machiavellian writer who hallucinates his last novel using his family members Dirk Bogarde, Ellen Burstyn and David Warner as characters. A fascinating visual tour de force exploring the creative process, offset by references to the nightmarish political crackdown in Chile in the late 1970s. "While the surface structure is like MARIENBAD, the deeper structure is like MURIEL" -- John Kreidl.
Plus, the short "Toute La Memoire Du Monde" (All The Memory of the World), 1956, 22 min. This short documentary on the National Library in Paris captures the essence of Resnais themes, exploring with long fluid tracking shots the "concentration camp of memory."
Friday, May 12 -7:00 PM
Los Angeles Premiere!
SMOKING, 1992, USA Films, 135 min. One of the most highly-anticipated film events of the past decade, unseen in Los Angeles until now, the two-part SMOKING/NO SMOKING is Resnais most ambitious and kaleidoscopic experiment in film narrative. Based on a 1982 play cycle by English writer Alan Ayckbourn, SMOKING/NO SMOKING looks at the radically-different life-paths pursued by Celia Teasdale (Sabine Azema) and her husband Toby (Pierre Arditi) all based on whether Celia decides to smoke a cigarette or not! "SMOKING / NO SMOKING begins with the choice of alternative actions, then forks out into a series of possibilities it's like an illustration of chaos theory enacted with a flip of a coin. " -- Jonathan Romney, Sight & Sound. "I wanted people to get lost in a sort of labyrinth, and enjoy it" -- Alain Resnais.
Friday, May 12 -9:45 PM
Los Angeles Premiere!
NO SMOKING, 1993, USA Films, 142 min. [See above for description.]
Saturday, May 13 5:30 PM
Brand-New 35 mm. Print!
MON ONCLE D'AMERIQUE, 1980, New Yorker Films, 125 min. One of Resnais biggest critical and commerical successes, MON ONCLE illustrates the radical theories of human behavioral scientist Henri Laborit by comically studying the interwoven stories of a factory manager (Gerard Depardieu), an aspiring actress (Nicole Garcia), and a politician (Roger-Pierre). The thoughts and emotions of the fictional characters are magically "mirrored" by clips of three of Frances most famous movie stars Jean Gabin, Jean Marais and Danielle Darrieux. Wonderfully written by Jean Gruault.
Plus, the short "Van Gogh", 1948, 20 min., Resnais first international success and an Oscar-winner for Best Short Subject. " Van Gogh was not simply a movement of the camera, but an exploration of the secret of this movement" Jean-Luc Godard.
Saturday, May 13 - 8:30 PM
JE T'AIME, JE T'AIME - [See May 6th for description.]
MURIEL (MURIEL OU LE TEMPS DUN RETOUR) - [See May 7th for description.]
Plus, Resnais astonishing industrial short on the virtues of polystyrene (!!), "Le Chant du Styrene", 1958, 19 min. "Mass in Cinemascope and color a single Jupiterian tracking shot whose wonderful phrasing is not without its echoes of the great cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach" -- Jean-Luc Godard.
Sunday, May 14 - 5:00 PM
LIFE IS A BED OF ROSES (LA VIE EST UN ROMAN), 1983, New Yorker Films, 113 min
The 2nd part of the trilogy that started with MON ONCLE D'AMERIQUE, LIFE IS A BED OF ROSES focuses on the Search for Happiness, illustrated by three stories set in Count Michel Forbeks (Rueggero Raimondi) utopian castle, "the Palace of Happiness." Years later, the Palace becomes a progressive school, and the children transform the castle into a fantasy world. "A legend imagined by children and played by adults. Three stories, or rather one story with three themes" -- Resnais. Plus, the short "Guernica", 1950, 12 min. An evocation of the Spanish village bombed in 1937, seen through Picasso's famous painting and a wonderful text by French poet Paul Eluard.
Sunday, May 14 7:30 PM
LOVE UNTO DEATH (L'AMOUR A MORT), MK2, 1984, 93 min. The last part of the trilogy composed of MON ONCLE D'AMERIQUE and LIFE IS A BED OF ROSES. Here, Resnais and screenwriter Jean Gruault offer a dazzling meditation on Resurrection and the power of Love. Simon (Pierre Arditi) returns from the dead to re-experience life and love with his devoted wife Elisabeth (Sabine Azema). Described by the modern French philosopher Gilles Deleuze as "one of the most ambitious films in cinema history." Only seen in LA in 1988 at AFI Fest. Co-starring André Dussolier and Fanny Ardent. Plus, "Gauguin", 1950, 11 min. Resnais early portrait of the painter Paul Gauguin.
Tuesday, May 16 - 8:00 PM
I WANT TO GO HOME (JE VEUX RENTRER A LA MAISON), 1989, MK2, 110 min. Based on a script by satirical cartoonist Jules Feiffer, I WANT TO GO HOME explores Resnais life-long love for the art of comic books. An American cartoonist (played by legendary SINGIN IN THE RAIN composer Adolph Green - !) travels to Paris for an exhibition of his work and a reunion with his estranged daughter Lena (Linda Lavin). Gerard Depardieu (in his first English-speaking part) co-stars as Lavins professor at the Sorbonne. [In English and French, with subtitles.]
Wednesday, May 24 - 7:00 PM
MELO, 1986, MK2, 110 min. Resnais biggest box-office success since MON ONCLE DAMERIQUE traces the murderous love triangle between two close friends, classical musicians Pierre Arditi and André Dussollier, and the wife -- Louise Brooks lookalike Sabine Azema -- who betrays one for the other, with tragic results.
THE SAME OLD SONG (ON CONNAIT LA CHANSON), 1997, New Yorker Films, 120 min. Inspired by the work of the late, great Dennis Potter (THE SINGING DETECTIVE), Resnais most recent feature follows the tangled love lives of five modern Parisians -- Sabine Azema, Pierre Arditi, André Dussolier, Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri who burst into song to express their emotions. Featuring a wonderful soundtrack of classic French chansons by Charles Aznavour, Edith Piaf, Gilbert Bécaud and Josephine Baker, THE SAME OLD SONG is Resnais at his most colorful and inspired. Based on a script by co-stars Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri.