Alain Resnais (b. 1922), the French New Wave director whose distinctive films explore themes of time, memory, history, and desire, will be the subject of a major retrospective at Museum of the Moving Image from February 25 through March 20, 2011. The series-the most complete retrospective of Resnais's films ever shown in New York-will include all eighteen of his feature films, from the landmark works Hiroshima, Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad to his most recent, Wild Grass; rarely seen documentary shorts (Night and Fog, Guernica, Statues Also Die (with Chris Marker), The Song of Styrene); and Memories of Last Year at Marienbad, the 2010 behind-the-scenes documentary about Marienbad, narrated by Volker Schlondorff who served as assistant director on Resnais's film.
Most films will be shown in imported 35mm prints that are not in distribution in the United States, and on Saturday, March 5, satirist/cartoonist Jules Feiffer will introduce the screening of I Want to Go Home, for which he won a best screenplay prize at the Venice Film Festival.
Alain Resnais is made possible with generous support by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, New York.
Alain Resnais's films often explore connections between historical and personal events, placing romantic dramas against the backdrop of war and political turmoil. His intellectual concerns are capacious, ranging from art history to literature to philosophy to science. Yet as intellectually rigorous as Resnais's films are, they are also both deeply human and deeply playful. Profoundly interested in theatricality, and keenly attuned to psychological nuance, Resnais is one of cinema's great directors of actors. And as evidenced by the joyful whimsicality of his latest film, Wild Grass, the seriousness of Resnais's films goes hand in hand with a wondrous sense of enchantment, of the idea of cinema-and life-as a kind of game.
Schedule for Alain Resnais (February 25-March 20, 2011)
All films directed by Alain Resnais unless otherwise noted. All films will be shown in either the Main Theater or the Bartos Screening Room at Museum of the Moving Image, 35 Avenue at 37 Street, Astoria, and are included with paid Museum admission.
Hiroshima, Mon Amour (Hiroshima mon amour)
Friday, February 25, 7:30 p.m.
1959, 90 mins. Imported 35mm print. Written by Marguerite Duras. With Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada. A French actress and Japanese architect meet in Hiroshima; their passionate affair is haunted by personal and historical memories. Jean-Luc Godard wrote of this modernist masterpiece, which is at once sensuous and rigorously cerebral, that "seeing Hiroshima gives you the impression of watching a film that would have been absolutely inconceivable in terms of what you already know of cinema."
Night and Fog and other Short Documentaries
Saturday, February 26, 2:00 p.m.
Imported 35mm prints from the French Foreign Ministry.
Night and Fog (Nuit et brouillard)
1955, 32 mins. Photographed by Ghislain Cloquet. Resnais contrasts haunting tracking shots through present-day Auschwitz with devastating archival footage filmed just after liberation, to create one of the most powerful documentaries ever made.
1950, 12 mins. Fragmented images of paintings and sculptures by Picasso from 1906 to the creation of his famous anti-war painting Guernica are set against an ode by surrealist poet Paul Eluard, in a cubist study that comments on Spain's ongoing struggles against fascism.
Statues Also Die (Les Statues meurent aussi)
1953, 27 mins. Dir. Alain Resnais and Chris Marker. Written by Marker. Photographed by Ghislain Cloquet. Rarely screened, this rich essay film about art, mortality, and history that looks at the place of African culture within European civilization, is a remarkable collaboration between Resnais and Chris Marker, filled with themes of their work to come. "If you come across it in any venue that's showing a Resnais retrospective, you should drop everything to go and see it," writes Jonathan Rosenbaum.
All the Memory of the World (Toute la mémoire du monde)
1956, 22 mins. Music by Maurice Jarre. Foretelling the visual style of Last Year at Marienbad, this meditation on knowledge is comprised of a series of haunting tracking shots through endless shelves of newspapers and books at the French National Library. "Confronted with these bulging repositories," intones the narrator, "man is assailed by fear of being engulfed by this mass of words."
Memories of Last Year at Marienbad (Souvenirs d'une année à Marienbad)
Saturday, February 26, 4:00 p.m. and
Sunday, February 27, 2:00 p.m.
2010, 46 Mins. Directed by Françoise Spira. Narrated by Volker Schlöndorff. A revelatory and entertaining behind-the-scenes documentary made with 8mm footage photographed by actress François Spira on the set of Resnais's enigmatic and dreamlike 1961 masterpiece. Volker Schlöndorff, assistant director on Resnais's film, edited Spira's footage, and added a voice-over commentary, and clips from the film to put the rehearsal footage into context.
Last Year at Marienbad (L'année dernière à Marienbad)
Saturday, February 26, 5:30p.m. and Sunday, February 27, 3:30 p.m.
1961, 94 mins. 35mm print from Rialto Pictures. Written by Alain Robbe-Grillet. With Delphine Seyrig. In a sumptuous, baroque grand hotel, an elegant man tries to convince a beautiful woman that they have met a year before, setting off an enigmatic and dreamlike series of events in Resnais's luscious, mysterious film. In many ways the quintessential arthouse movie, Last Year at Marienbad, with Delphine Seyrig's Coco Chanel gowns and Sacha Vierney's exquisite widescreen black-and-white photography, is both sensually and cerebrally engaging. "Hopelessly retro, eternally avant-garde, and one of the most influential films ever made," wrote Village Voice critic J. Hoberman.
Muriel (Muriel ou Le temps d'un retour)
Saturday, February 26, 7:30 p.m.
1963, 115 mins. Imported 35mm print from the French Foreign Ministry. With Delphine Seyrig. A widow who lives in her antique shop awaits the arrival of a former lover; her stepson is haunted by the memory of a young girl he tortured and killed during the Algerian war. At once more subtle and emotionally direct than his better known Last Year at Marienbad and Hiroshima, Mon Amour, Resnais's first color film is one of his best, described by Dave Kehr as "a subtle, precise, and wrenching film."
La Guerre est finie
Sunday, February 27, 6:00 p.m.
1966, 121 mins. 35mm print from Academy Film Archive. With Yves Montand, Ingrid Thulin, Geneviève Bujold. Montand is Diego, a world-weary revolutionary without a cause, a 40-year-old shuttling back and forth between France and his native Spain and trying to come to terms with his restless political beliefs. Resnais uses flash-forwards, flashbacks, and fantasy sequences to capture Diego's endless unease, and his status as a man without a country, or even a solid sense of identity.
Je t'aime, je t'aime
Friday, March 4, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 6, 5:30 p.m.
1968, 91 mins. Imported 35mm print from Les Grands Films Classiques. With Claude Riche, Anouk Ferjac, Olga Georges-Picot. Described by Raymond Durgnat as "science fiction tragedy in comic strip images," Je t'aime, je t'aime is about a failed suicide who agrees to become a guinea pig for a time travel experiment. He finds himself trapped in an infinite series of moments revolving around a girlfriend whose death he may-or may not-have caused. Ahead of its time-and a clear influence on Cronenberg-this is one of Resnais's most underrated films.
Preceded by The Song of Styrene (La chant du styrene) 1958, 22 mins. 35mm print from the French Foreign Ministry. Written by Raymond Queneau. Commissioned as a documentary to explain, and celebrate, the production of plastic, this widescreen color short is a playful, rigorous essay film that moves between abstract visual pleasure and philosophical exploration of the effects of industrialization.
Saturday, March 5, 2:00 p.m.
1974, 120 mins. 35mm print from French Foreign Ministry. With Jean-Paul Belmondo and Charles Boyer. Based on the true story of a con artist who nearly brought France to financial and political ruin in the 1930s, Stavisky is Resnais's lushest and most opulent production, featuring Art Deco sets, a lush musical score by Stephen Sondheim, and a magnetic central performance by Jean-Paul Belmondo. A meditation of the fragility of time and beauty, Stavisky was a triumphant return to filmmaking by Resnais after a hiatus following the commercial failure of Je t'aime, je t'aime.
Far From Vietnam (Loin du Vietnam)
Saturday, March 5, 4:30 p.m.
1967, 115 mins. 35mm print from Archives français du film-CNC. Dirs. Chris Marker, Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, Agnès Varda, Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais. To protest American aggression in Vietnam, Chris Marker organized a group of filmmakers to put together an impassioned, eclectic experiment in agitprop cinema, a blend of war footage, interviews, fictional sketches, and documentary footage. In Resnais's section, a confounded young man walks around an apartment reciting passages from Herman Kahn's On Escalation to an impassive young woman.