Alain Resnais February 25 – March 20, 2011 Presented with support from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy (New York) and L’Institut Français Hiroshima, mon amour

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Alain Resnais

February 25 – March 20, 2011

Presented with support from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy (New York) and L’Institut Français
Hiroshima, mon amour

Friday, February 25, 7:30 p.m.

1959, 90 mins. Imported 35mm print.

Directed by Alain Resnais. Written by Marguerite Duras. Photographed by Michio Takahashi and Sacha Vierny. Edited by Jasmine Chasney, Henri Colpi and Anna Sarraute. Production design by Minoru Esaka, Mayo and Petri. Costume design by Gerard Collery. Music by Georges Delerue and Giovanni Fusco.

Cast: Emmanuelle Riva (Elle), Eiji Okada (Lui), Stella Dassas (Mother), Pierre Barbaud (Father), Bernard Fresson (German Lover).

Excerpt from “Rebel With a Camera: Alain Resnais and Hiroshima Mon Amour” by Louis Marcourelles, Sight and Sound, Winter 1959:
A young French actress has been making a film in Hiroshima. On the eve of her return to France she meets a Japanese architect. Hiroshima mon amour, Alain Resnais’s first feature, opens on their passionate embrace, she having discovered a love … which revives memories of her first love, in France, for a soldier of the German Occupation forces at Nevers. An almost uninterrupted monologue begins between the woman and her past, which the present has so abruptly re-created for her…
As with Citizen Kane, only time will tell just where the critic should place Hiroshima–a work which irritates some people as much as it excites others, by a man judged to be the most demanding (together with Robert Bresson) among French film-makers. I only know that I find it immensely difficult to sum up the complex creative personality of Alain Resnais, a man I have had the pleasure of knowing for a dozen years. Certainly he is one of the most remarkable of contemporary talents: a director who approaches the cinema with all the urgency of a novelist or a painter, and who has recourse to the whole intellectual arsenal which arms the contemporary French artist…
[W]hen chance brought together Resnais and Marguerite Duras, he found in the writer that essential which he had been looking for in the commentaries to all his films–a kind of unforced lyricism, to be put to the service of an almost musical construction.
Throughout Hiroshima, all Resnais’ technique is employed to translate the perpetual counterpoint of past and present into rigorously mathematical or musical terms. Five times, early in the film, we move directly from the lovers’ embrace into the tragic past of Hiroshima, the “forgotten city”. And in one of these episodes–the museum sequence, with its dazzling tracking shots orchestrated with the musical score–we are brought close to the concept of a completely lyrical cinema, an idea which has preoccupied Resnais throughout his career.
Hiroshima, though its director regards it as a “long short” rather than a true feature, is the climax of his experiments in this direction. There are three reasons for this: the absolute pre-eminence of the editing and, consequently, the shooting script (Resnais follows this very closely, with a minimum of improvisation); the parallel importance of the text; and the use of music as a catalyst agent. Resnais’ ambition is for a cinema as disciplined in its laws as are the other arts of music, poetry or painting. Undeniably he had made here the film which the more literally demanding cineastes dream of; and in the commentated story, where the principal role is taken by the text, he unquestioningly triumphs….

Review by Andrew Sarris from The Village Voice, November 24, 1960:

Many films have come and gone since Hiroshima mon amour opened here six months ago, but nothing in the screen is more worth seeing or revisiting today… It may be stretching a point to discuss this widely hailed achievement, a critic’s picture if there ever were one, in terms of any controversy over its artistic merit, but a certain type of socially conscious criticism has arisien from the catacombs of the 1930s to question the propriety of combining the catastrophe of Hiroshima with the contemplation of amour. Even some of the film’s admires have attempted to restrict its meanings to the dimensions of a propaganda tract against the H-bomb. Such limited interpretation cannot be adequately correlated with the mental odyssey of a perverse French actress who, while adrift in Hiroshima, is unable to extricate her emotions from the fatality of time.

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