Alain Resnais


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7.3 Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)
7.8 Last Year at Marienbad (1968)
6.9 Muriel(1963)
6.0 La Guerre est Finie (1967)
7.0 Je T'Aime Je T'Aime (1968)
5.0 Stavisky (1974)
6.9 Providence (1977)
6.5 Mon Oncle d'Amerique (1980)
6.0 Love Unto Death (1984)
6.8 Melo (1986)
5.0 I Want To Go Home (1989)
6.5 Smoking/No Smoking (1993)
5.0 On Connait la Chanson (1997)
7.0 Private Fears in Public Places (2006)
6.8 Wild Grass (2009)
7.1 You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet (2012)
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Resnais' apprenticeship lasted twelve years, from 1947 to 1958, with documentaries that investigate atrocious episodes of the past (the Fascist massacre of Guernica, the destruction of the cultural traditions of the colonies, Nazi deathcamps). From the thematic point of view these films reveal a painful poetics of memory, as shaped by both the flow of individual time and historical events. Consequently, the plot is often enhanced with long tracking shots that penetrate inside things and people, a process that fosters the transition from the particular to the universal, finding meaning in every trifle event.

After all those years of apprenticeship shooting experimental documentary shorts, Resnais directed Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), a revolutionary film which, in retrospective, was a natural evolution of his documentaries.

A man and a woman are making tender love while we see footage of nuclear victims and a documentary of the atomic bomb. The woman is a French actress who is shooting an anti-war film in Hiroshima. She has met a Japanese architect and had become his lover. But the following day she is supposed to be flying back to France. He looks for her on the set of the film. They watch a pacifist parade, people carrying signs with anti-war slogans. Then they make love at his place. The woman hints at her past in France during the German occupation. Flashbacks of the country town and the German soldiers. He insists they keep seeing each other, she hesitates. She tells him her nightmare, how she re-lives her misadventure and humiliation in her dreams: her lover's death, her punishment, her grief.
They meet at a cafe` and she begins a long soliloquy/reminescence. She talks to him as if he were her dead lover (she talks to a "you"). She tells how she was thrown in a cellar, of the agony, the loneliness. She tells how the citizens dragged the body of her lover, a German soldier, through the town. She feels terrible that she's forgetting him ("you"). Someone had shot him moments before they were supposed to elope together. She stayed near her dying body all day. The town was being liberated. Then the citizens locked her in the cellar. They shaved her head as punishment for dating a Nazist. She remembers the day that the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He was born in Hiroshima but was away during the war, a soldier.
They were both young in 1945. They are both married. She reveals to him that she never confided the story to her husband.
She walks back to the hotel, late night. She talks to herself in the mirror. Then walks out again, sits by the road. He finds her. They walk together in the windy, deserted streets. He begs her to stay. She dreams of the old lover coming to her. She realizes that that first lover of her has devoured her and still owns her. She is still traumatized. She fears she is forgetting, but it sounds like she wishes she would forget. He follows her while she is wandering around Hiroshima. Hiroshima and her French country town are superimposed.
He joins her at the station. They hardly talk. An old Japanese lady asks something about her. The man replies in Japanese. She leaves and summons a taxi. He follows her with another taxi to a restaurant. The club's name is "Casablanca". She walks back to her hotel.
Finally the man comes into her hotel room. She bursts out in tears. She calls him "Hiroshima" and he replies that her name is "Nevers", the name of her hometown. Each is a product of history.
The woman's folly is a desperate attempt at reconciling the historical past with the private past. They are both products of a historical aberration, they both sided with evil but the punishment feels as cruel as the evil. She is torn between the desire to forget and the fear of forgetting. He wants to be Hiroshima, his history, and exorts her to be her hometown, her history, no matter what.

Resnais employs countless cinematographic tricks to alter the narrative. Like Proust in fiction, Resnais aims at evoking the past. A strong sense of time, a strong presence of memory. His use of memory is psychiatric: the woman has visions of her old lover and her new lover that cross-reference each other. Traumatic events live in the subconscious and affect new events.

Alain Resnais girò il suo primo film a quattordici anni con una cinepresa 8 mm.

A 17 anni si trasferì dalla Provincia a Parigi per inseguire le sue ambizioni teatrali. A 21 anni si iscrisse a corsi regolari di cinematografia, dove si applicò soprattutto alle tecniche di montaggio.

Il suo apprendistato dura altri dodici anni; in questo periodo, dal 1947 al 1958, gira diversi cortometraggi, un documentario su Van Gogh e uno su Gauguin, tre documentari-inchieste su atroci episodi del passato(il massacro fascista di Guernica, la distruzione delle tradizioni culturali delle colonie, i campi di sterminio nazisti). Dal punto di vista tecnico, Resnais dimostra dati peculiari nel calibrare il montaggio. Dal punto di vista tematico questi film mettono in luce una dolorosa poetica della memoria, prodotto sia dallo scorrere del tempo individuale, sia dei mutamenti della storia. Così la trama vive sempre di lunghe carrellate che penetrano dentro le cose e gli uomini, un processo che tende a compiere il passaggio dal particolare all'universale, cavando senso da ogni inezia.

Resnais uscì dall'anonimato dei documentaristi con il suo primo lungometraggio a soggetto, scritto da Marguerite Duras: Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959). La struttura del film è quella del monologo interiore: il montaggio da un lato mescola materiale di repertorio e scene recitate, dall'altro disordina suoni e immagini nel tempo e nello spazio. La storia ne risulta continuamente disfatta e ricomposta, tanto più che gran parte degli accadimenti (suoni o immagini)avvengono nella memoria e nel sogno. Un tono grave impregna l'atmosfera, i rapporti tra i protagonisti si intricano a dismisura. Sia il sogno sia il ricordo non hanno comunque un ruolo romantico (nostalgia, fantasia) o surreale (psicanalisi, onirismo), sono soltanto elementi della realtà e come tali contribuiscono a spiegarla, fanno parte della complessità del reale.

La doppia dialettica passato-presente e realtà-apparenza costituisce la vera essenza del film, una sorta di dibattito essenziale sull'essere. La struttura drammatica aperta (irrispettosa della cronologia) è il supporto ideale per un tale cinema di sensazioni (piuttosto che di fatti).

Il film racconta la breve storia d'amore fra una attrice francese, che sta girando un film pacifista nei luoghi dove esplose la prima bomba atomica, e un architetto giapponese, entrambi felicemente sposati. Durante la loro unica notte i due amanti rievocano la tragedia di quel giorno di anni prima e lei rievoca anche il tragico amore che la legò a un soldato nazista durante l'occupazione, per il quale amore fu ucciso e lei rasata a zero e segregata in cantina. I ricordi si abbattono sulla donna, man mano che il vagabondaggio li porta in giro per quella città risorta. Bisogna dimenticare per poter risorgere e continuare ad amare: decisa a farlo, la donna abbandona l'architetto.

L'orrore della guerra e il senso dell'amore raggiungono livelli di espressività altissimi nel tourbillon di flashback e di contrappunti allusivi che poco alla volta ricostruiscono la coscienza della donna, le dimensioni della sua personale tragedia e quelle dell'immane tragedia di Hiroshima.

If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.

La stessa filosofia del tempo ritorna nel freddo mortuario allegorismo di L'Annee Derniere a Marienbad/ Last Year at Marienbad (1968), sceneggiato questa volta da Robbe-Grillet. Una geometria da incubo kafkiano irretisce le anime perse che si aggirano nel labirinto del palazzo; un pessimismo disincantato impregna i loro sconnessi dialoghi, agonie esistenziali che salgono e scendono le interminabili scalinate della memoria.

Anche qui passato e presente si confondono, e ogni certezza si dissolve nel dubbio cronico di cosa sia realtà e cosa apparenza. Tante spiegazioni della trama sono plausibili: una seduzione intelligente, una crisi di follia, uno scambio di persona, un'amnesia, un sogno ad occhi aperti... L'ambiguità del dialogo accresce l'incertezza.

The visuals are reminiscent of Antonioni, of film noir as well as of DeChirico's paintings. This is where surrealism meets existentialism. The story mixes Proust and Borges, dealing with both the labyrinth of memory and a metaphysical labyrinth (the palace). The film exudes the feeling of a church mass: austere, profound, immanent. There are multiple interpretations, and maybe they are all true at the same time. Perhaps the woman is dead and he is telling the truth when he tells us that there is nobody in that palace: he is reimagining old events, including her. Perhaps the woman was killed by the husband because she was trying to elope with him. The woman is just a memory, a ghost of his imagination. We repeatedly see the husband either shooting or in threatening attitudes. If he didn't kill the male protagonist, whom did he kill? Or perhaps the woman was mentally sick, as the husband implies a few times, and she cannot remember anything and the man can make her believe anything. Or perhaps her mental illness is a trauma caused by a rape and that's why she refuses to remember.
It could be that there are several layers of flashbacks, not just one. Maybe in the present he's alone in the palace; in the first level of flashback he is with her, her husband, and the other guests dancing, attending the play and the concert; and in the second level of flashback he is in the gardens with her, planning an escape, and in her room. And maybe there is a third level in which he rapes her. And in between there may be a level in which she is murdered by her husband.
The film is in a sense, anti-Proustian and anti-Beckettian: the "rememberer" is trying to force the other to remember against her will; the waiting has been going on for ages but there has always been a meeting.
It also seems to imply a circular destiny, a repetition of one's fate, a sort of Buddhist endless loop: an endess waiting for her to flee, an endless denial.

The camera wanders through the vast rooms of a palace, first focusing on the ceilings and then on the corridors. The narrating voice describes them like a museum guide, then fades away. The camera slowly introduces a group of aristocratic couples, all of them staring straight at a theatrical stage improvised in a ballroom, static silent people like statues. The camera stops on a woman's face. The narrating voice is talking about static silent characters who are like statues, dead, in a hotel that is empty... precisely what we just saw of the spectators. The narrating voice is a man who says that he has come to her. She begs to wait a few more minutes. The narrating voice now echoes like the voice of an actor in a theater. We finally see the man who is speaking, the actor, and we see the stage. A bell rings, the play ends, curtain, applause. It's not really a theater: it is a vast ballroom inside a chateau. The camera moves slowly among petrified couples that chatter with little or no expression, like statues. We catch the first glimpse of the melancholy gentleman Giorgio Albertazzi staring at someone while a couple approaches in the mirror. The couple argues, the man complaining that they are like coffins in a frozen garden. We catch the first glimpse of the gorgeous frigid woman, Delphine Seyrig, dressed in black, standing alone in a corner, while two men pass by gossiping about a handsome woman, perhaps her. A man is staring at a poster of the gardens and we only see his back. The narrating voice resumes the tour of the palace. We return to the reception after the play, we pick up snippets of chatter here and there. A tall man and Seyrig, now dressed in white, listen to a man telling the story that everybody talked about a year earlier, when a man named Frank entered the room of a woman and caused a scandal (this could be a one sentence summary of the rest of the film). Everybody laughs at the story, including Seyrig herself, except the tall man. The tall man plays card with Albertazzi and tells him that he always wins. People walk up and down the stairs. The camera shows the lonely Seyrig, first dressed in black and then a second later in white. Two men play checkers. We catch the first glimpse of the garden. Albertazzi, whose voice is the narrating voice, is sorry that she hardly seems to remember him. It feels like Abertazzi just gave her a tour of the palace. Now he is dancing with her while the tall man stares coldly. Suddenly we see five standing men with a gun. Each one turns and shoots at a target. One of them is Albertazzi. He is still chatting with her and helping her remember when they met at another chateau. He is not sure which one. She says it wasn't her but he provides a detailed description of the event. He stares at a game of matches, another version of the game of cards, and the tall man wins again. Albertazzi sits and reorders the matches, and this time makes the tall man play first, but the result is the same: the tall man wins. Albertazzi's narrating voice continues the tour of empty corridors and rooms... except that the rooms are not empty but populated with all these silent static people. His stream of consciousness informs us that it's been one year since he saw the woman last time. He is speaking but she is sitting alone in a grey dress He remembers her standing alone in the balustrade of the gardens, staring at the gardens. We see it in a flashback. He joined her and she jokingly started naming the statues. They tried to guess what the statues are doing Back at the party, she, now dressed in white, insists that she's never been in those gardens. The flashback shows them at the balustrade when the tall man approached them and told them that the statues are of a king and his queen and the event depicted. Albertazzi walks alone in the palace. There is nobody in the corridors She walks, wearing black, among the people of the party, all silent and still. Then, wearing grey, she is followed by Albertazzi up the stairs, and she looks tired of his insistence that they met before. He insists that they met again that afternoon a year earlier in the gardens but the flashback shows her alone, as if lost, dressed in white, in those gardens. Then the flashback changes to a scene in which her, wearing black, is standing among other men by the balustrade and Albertazzi is talking to her. Everybody stops and stares at him. The flashback ends and we see that Albertazzi and the woman are still dancing. He remembers that she broke one of her high heels. His stream of consciousness narrates the story while playing cards with the tall man. His stream of consciousness confesses that he saw her again and again at every turn. We hear this even if he is not moving his lips while they are at the bar counter, while everybody else is still dancing. We catch a glimpse in a flashback of Seyrig, wearing white, in her room trying shoes, first laughing when he enters the room and then terrified of something. The tall man is still playing the card game with other men. Albertazzi tells us that silence rules in that hotel: all conversations are silent. The camera wanders through the corridors where people chat and gossip. Albertazzi meets her again in front of a mirror, and now she's dressed in black. Another flashback shows us the two together in her room, she (dressed in black) begging him to leave her alone. The conversation continues in the present in front of the same mirror but she is now dressed in grey. They walk together to the concert in the ballroom. A flashback shows them, on a cloudy day, walking among the statues of the garden. He tries to kiss her in the garden. She is wearing white. He complains that she is strying to avoid him. She asks "who are you?" and asks him to leave her. Another flashback shows him asking her to leave that night (she is wearing black). He seems to psychoanalyze her, both in the present and in the flashbacks, about a traumatizing event that involves her husband. Albertazzi talks about her husband and the tall man is standing behind them, implying that the tall man, the invincible card player, is the husband. Albertazzi reminds her of that day when he went to her room, separated from her husband's room, and the flashback shows her in the room, reflected by the big mirror, and then she screamed: something terrible happened. Now she (dressed in black seems) to admit that this is true, but seconds later they are walking together and she, dressed in white, denies ever being with him in a room. He shows her the photo that he took of her. They walk into a room and he remembers her waiting for him there and he mentions she was wearing white. She says she never owned a white dress but she's wearing a white one right now. A flashback shows them again in the gardens: they were chatting when she (dressed in white) almost fell because she broke a high heel (the fact mentioned previously). Her husband is still playing cards with some men while Albertazzi and Seyrig are still dancing: it looks like everything else is just him dreaming or remembering. Now they are chatting on a bench in the garden and she's wearing black. He reminds her that he took her photo and she asked for one year to think it over. She says it's impossible; and cries. He wanted her to leave with him. Another flashback shows her her in her room, wearing a feathery pajama. Albertazzi tells us and reminds her that her husband had just left her room after an argument. Albertazzi describes her movements that only she can know. She was frightened by the big mirror. In the flashback Albertazzi says that, one year earlier, he had taken a photo of her on the last day before she left (which means that there was an even earlier encounter). Another flashback shows them in the garden: she is laughing, wearing white, and this time she seems to agree about leaving with him. The flashback shows us in her room: her husband walks in, finds the photograph, becomes suspicious, and she tells him it was taken a year earlier by their friend Frank... but he coldly remarks that but Frank wasn't there. The husband also mentions that they are there so that she can rest, implying that she is suffering of some kind of stress. The husband leaves, she gets anxious. Albertazzi walks in. The husband shoots her in her feathery pajama and we see her dead on the bed. Now Albertazzi is walking alone in the deserted corridors and thinks that he needs her alive. We see him play cards again with the husband as a crowd watches silently, and he loses again. The flashback returns us to her room: she (wearing the feathery pajama) opens a drawer full of hundreds of copies of that photo. Either she made duplicates (unlikely) or he gave her a photo each time they met, and this game may have been going on for years. She (in her feathery pajama) lays the photos on her bed to play the same game. Albertazzi walks in and she's scared. Now it looks like he's there to rape her. (Maybe that's why she doesn't want to remember their past encounter: because it is a traumatic memory). Back to the party, he remembers that they met at night in the garden, she dressed in a long black cape. She begged him to wait one year, same place, same time. Both in the flashback and in the present she confesses that she is afraid. They are back in the gardens at night. She sees that her husband is coming and tells him to flee. He jumps away and then we hear a scream. Back to the party, the husband interrupts the conversation between Albertazzi and Seyrig. Albertazzi's stream of consciousness repeats that he has walked for days, months and years towards her, and begs her to leave that very night with him. We see her with her husband in her room. She is feeling better. Her husband knows that tomorrow that room will be empty and he will be alone. He seems to know that she is leaving him. She has packed and is ready to leave that night. There is nobody around because they are all watching the play in the ballroom... the play of the beginning of the film. What we saw at the beginning was the ending. She is ready, dressed in black. She has a midnight appointment with Albertazzi. He shows up on time. The clock strikes midnight. The play is over. Albertazzi and Seyrig walk out together while her husband watches them from the stairs, silently. The narrating voice closes the film by informing us that, at first sight, it's impossible to get lost in the symmetric corridors of the chateau, but it is actually easy to lose one's way forever "alone with me". Is this Albertazzi talking to her? The last person we see on the screen is actually her husband.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.

Un altro scrittore, Jean Cayrol, fornisce la sceneggiatura per Muriel(1963), che passa dall'allegorismo radicale del film precedente, a un realismo concreto con le basi nella storia nazionale contemporanea. In una cittadina di provincia vivono una appassionata di antiquariato (che trasforma di quando in quando la casa) e il suo figliastro, reduce d'Algeria. Questi ha combattuto contro i partigiani e fra l'altro ha anche torturato una giovane di nome Muriel. Il ricordo di quella atroce esperienza non gli dà pace. La matrigna invita la sua vecchia fiamma; lei si sente sola e si sta rovinando al gioco, lui è un vanesio fallito che si porta appresso un'amante ragazzina sotto le finte spoglie di nipotina. Le due crisi esplodono dal ripetersi quotidiano delle loro ossessioni: lei si rende conto di non poter recuperare il passato e si libera di quell'uomo meschino e vile; il ragazzo uccide il commilitone che lo spinse a torturare Muriel e che nella sua fantasia è diventato un rivale d'amore, e se ne va.

L'intrico delle scene, su e giù per il tempo e a raffica tutt'intorno su questi e altri personaggi, lascia aperte diverse interpretazioni. Il sentimento di fondo è in ogni caso il pessimismo della memoria, un misto di nostalgia/rimorso per il passato, di impotenza di fronte al presente, di paura del futuro; soprattutto l'impossibilità di tornare indietro, sia per rivivere le stesse emozioni o per agire diversamente. Al di sopra di tutto però la vanità stessa del rimpianto, stante la deprimente ambiguità della realtà, così difficile da decifrare e da valutare. La banalità del quotidiano trionfa su ogni tragedia individuale. Quella è l'unica certezza, per di più ineluttabile.

Le costanti operative di Resnais(sceneggiatura letteraria e montaggio) originano una drammaturgia chiusa e frammentata, che non conosce le regole della causalità e che indugia compiaciuta sul senso di "assenza". Il vuoto emerge progressivamente, sia dal ripetersi quotidiano di un rituale di banalità, sia dal disperato tentativo di risuscitare il passato.

Una drammaturgia negativa della frustrazione che fotografa in modo neutro la disgregazione dell'esistenza, fino ai suoi eccessi di tragedia.

Le fonti letterarie di Resnais sono: il romanzo psicologico dell'Ottocento (turbe schizofreniche e paranoiche, conflitti di personalità), l'esistenzialismo (le crisi morali, l'incomunicabilità, la solitudine, le crisi di identità), il nouveau roman (il trattamento dell'ambiente e dei personaggi).

Le fonti cinematografiche partono da Griffith (montaggio parallelo) per arrivare a Hitchcock (clima teso di incertezza), al surrealismo di ?euillade.

Per La Guerre est Finie (1967) è Jorge Semprun a scrivere la storia di un esule spagnolo (Montand) che gestisce con coraggio e abnegazione l'opposizione clandestina da Parigi, ma che è capace di osservare criticamente la situazione, passato e presente della sua militanza. Rientrato precipitosamente da Madrid per mettere in guardia un amico dal recarsi in Spagna, viene investito da una serie di contrarietà: noie alla frontiera, l'amico già partito, il partito che lo accusa di debolezza ideologica per aver abbandonato Madrid e per essere contrario ad uno sciopero generale, la compagna che si lamenta perché lui è sempre lontano e che vuole un figlio, la ragazzina di sinistra di cui si innamora, gli amici terroristi di questa. La fiducia nel metodo di lotte finora seguito vacilla, ma non la fede: decide di continuare da solo e prende il primo aereo; ma la polizia franchista lo aspetta e invano i compagni tentano di avvertirlo.

Crisi ideologica e crisi privata connotano un personaggio autentico la cui ansia di agire deve lottare con i dubbi e la stanchezza della mezza età. Abbandonato l'o...anismo intellettuale per una narrazione lineare e rimpiazzata l'astratta poetica dell'assenza con l'affresco di un ambiente reale, Resnais compie un altro passo verso la realtà contemporanea. La riscoperta della realtà ha come conseguenza anche il recupero del futuro; la crisi è soprattutto incertezza di cosa fare in futuro, La determinazione poetica di Resnais risente indubbiamente dei tempi, ma d'altro canto è un buon supporto per i discorso sul destino soggettivo fagocitato dalla storia, cioè dal tempo. Lucidissima comunque la disamina del disadattamento degli intellettuali negli anni sessanta: forse in questo film Resnais mostra cosa lo spinse a parlare del vuoto nei film precedenti, cioè la sua condizione di intellettuale disorientato. In questo film si saldano causa (la condizione esistenziale dell'intelligentia) ed effetto (la poetica dell'assenza, la geometria del vuoto).

Je T'Aime Je T'Aime (1968), scritto da Jacques Sternberg, è invece il ritorno allo sperimentalismo più complesso a al pessimismo più funereo (dal ricordo non può venire che dolore, e magari morte).

Un gruppo di scienziati ha inventato la macchina della memoria in grado di far rivivere il passato; per il primo esperimento scelgono un uomo che ha tentato il suicidio e che non sembra avere più alcuna voglia di vivere. Lo chiudono in una sfera e mettono al mondo la macchina; l'esperimento riesce, ma la macchina si inceppa e l'uomo precipita nel proprio passato senza che gli scienziati riescano a liberarlo. Durante la caduta del nel tempo gli passano davanti velocemente volti, luoghi, fatti; e questa biografia vertiginosa e discontinua (sostanzialmente un collage di frammenti temporali) costituisce il film, che narra la storia del suo amore per una donna, conclusosi con il suicidio della donna e con il suo tentato suicidio. E il suo viaggio termina infatti di nuovo su un letto di ospedale, ma questa volta senza che nessuno lo possa salvare. Resnais declama con un apologo fantascientifico l'inalterabilità del passato. Il passato è una voragine che non restituirà mai ciò che ha inghiottito. Nessuna azione può liberarci del passato, salvo la morte ( e in fondo anche l'antifranchista Godard trovava una soluzione che l'avrebbe però portato ala morte).

Il caos temporale della caduta libera nel passato somiglia sempre più a una seduta psicanalitica; ma il soggetto non ne viene liberato, anzi patisce un'atroce tortura che acuisce il suo male e alla fine lo uccide.

L'impianto narrativo audacissimo e la limpida morale sul rapporto presente- passato invece che futuro-presente (che rovescia ma conferma il pessimismo sul destino degli esistenzialisti) fanno di questo film il più caratteristico manifesto dell'arte di Resnais.

Stavisky (1974) giunge dopo sei anni di silenzio, durante i quali si è spenta la ventata creativa del 68. Lo sceneggiatore è di nuovo Semprun e ciò influisce nel riportare Resnais ad un approccio narrativo più lineare e a temi più realisti (un fatto di cronaca sui gangster degli anni trenta).

Stavisky, finanziere ebreo di grande influenza economica e politica, fu al centro di uno scandalo colossale che rivelò come il suo patrimonio fosse stato edificato sulla truffa e sulla mancanza di scrupoli. Distrutto dall'inchiesta si suicidò. La condanna a morte del criminale, senza possibilità di scampare al destino, prende piede dal film noir.

Un elegante omaggio funebre alla morte di una civiltà.

Providence (1977), sceneggiato da David Mercer, riprende le elucubrazioni sulla memoria, in particolare sul nesso esistente fra memoria e morte, attraverso il drammatico bilancio esistenziale di un uomo prossimo alla fine della sua movimentata vita. Questi è uno scrittore ottuagenario, imbottito di alcol e di ricordi di una notte. Il film mescola abilmente le sue fantasie, la realtà e il romanzo che sta progettando. Il figlio è un avvocato ed è sposato; la madre è morta suicida e il figlio considera colpevole il vecchio che ha avuto molte donne e pochi riguardi; peraltro l'avvocato stesso ha una amante, che rassomiglia stranamente alla defunta e che soffre di un male misterioso; e la moglie ha una relazione con un giovane scienziato che ha persino la capacità di trasformarsi in lupo mannaro; come se non bastasse i due uomini scoprono di essere fratelli, e l'avocato, prima cerca di far condannare l'altro che ha ucciso per pietà un uomo afflitto da crisi licantrope e poi, scambiandolo con il padre lo uccide. Le allucinazioni edipiche del vecchio finiscono a giorno fatto, quando i protagonisti dell'incubo festeggiano il suo compleanno.

Titano febbricitante e ubriaco, il romanziere cerca di combattere il tempo imbastendo un romanzo della sua vita basato sulle pulsioni psicanalitiche del figlio, suo giudice.

Resnais fonde i due procedimenti fantastici: quello dello scrittore che dà ai suoi personaggi i volti delle persone reali a lui vicine, e quello del pazzo paranoico che vede nel prossimo la reincarnazione dei propri fantasmi. Pur sperimentando, il film si inserisce pienamente sulla realtà contemporanea. Descrive grottescamente l'ipocrisia e lo sfaldamento dei rapporti famigliari. Descrive angosciosamente la paura della morte in un uomo che è sempre stato cinico ed egoista. Descrive pietosamente la solitudine nella società moderna. Descrive trucemente la violenza nella civiltà moderna (le squadracce che uccidono per le strade, lo stadio-lager, i bombardamenti).

In un certo senso anche questo moribondo rivive, come il suicida di Je t'aime, la propria fine, compie una accurata autopsia del proprio cadavere. Ci sono molte somiglianze fra i due film (il suicidio dell'amata, per esempio). Ma Providence è più drammaturgico, forse per la presenza di un attore shakespeariano, per le citazioni edipiche (o meglio Laio-ane)e per il tema mutuato da Bergman (Smultronstaellet). Il tema della vecchiaia dà in effetti la vera impronta: il vecchio inseguito dai soldati che lo vogliono finire, i vecchi caricati sul cellulare, il vecchio licantropo ucciso dallo scienziato, il vecchio cadavere sezionato da un medico, il vecchio che cade senza che nessuno lo aiuti, etc...

Come il precedente è un film sulla propria morte.

Mon Oncle d'Amerique (1980) è una commedia ricavata dalle teorie comportamentiste del biologo Laborit. Tre campioni di umanità, scelti come cavie per l'esperimento, sdipanano la loro biografia davanti alla cinepresa. Mezzo documentario scientifico e mezzo film saggio, applica un modello narrativo rovesciato: prima enuncia una tesi e poi la dimostra per induzione; la morale precede il racconto. Tecnicamente è un capolavoro di montaggio: una nebula rarefatta di immagini frammentate che si solidifica per un attimo in un mondo abitato da tre esseri umani e che poi evapora di nuovo in un mare di scene indipendenti. L'ironia con cui Resnais conduce il gioco va applicata ai tre umani, così presi dal loro quotidiano arrabattarsi da dimenticare di essere soltanto delle minuscole macchinette biologiche.

Un vano arrancare dell'umanità all'inseguimento della felicità è il tema di La vie est un roman (1983), sorta di commedia filosofica, o meglio, musical filosofico, ambientata in un castello del 1914. Qui un nobile idealista sogna di edificare un'utopia, per sé e per gli amici. Ne scaturisce invece un caos ironico che ricorda i balletti di Clair, ma dove il patetico affannarsi degli umani è seguito con commossa partecipazione. Il suo fallimento viene confrontato con quello dei posteri intellettuali che verranno nello stesso castello per discutere sull'educazione e con quello dell'antenato che detronizzò il tiranno. Dal punto di vista della sperimentazione la novità consiste nel sostituire la canzone al dialogo.

  • il viaggio nella memoria
  • filmare l'immaginario (Cocteau, Bunuel)
  • l'ambiguità, l'incertezza, l'indeterminatezza della trama
  • la sconfitta esistenziale, spesso la morte
  • narrazione puzzle
  • cinema spaziale e simmetrico in cui si muove il disordine angusto dell'esperienza
  • sotto-trame labirintiche

L'Amour A Mort/ Love Unto Death (1984) è ambientato fra gli scavi archeologici di un'antica città, dove vivono due coppie di amici, i primi innamorati alla follia, i secondi religiosi fino allo sfinimento esistenziale, dopo una morte apparente che gli ha lasciato traumi postumi, il maschio sentimentale è ossessionato dall'attrazione dell'aldilà. Quando muore davvero, la sua innamorata decide di suicidarsi per ricongiungersi a lui, invano dissuasa dagli amici che cercano di dimostrarle come il morto fosse squilibrato.

La memoria ha oramai raggiunto lo stadio massimo di ossessione, addirittura sconfinando nella morte. La sceneggiatura è Bergmaniana. Dio è il soggetto della metafora: i due religiosi si consumano in un'arida adorazione di Dio, mentre gli altri si adorano l'un l'altro. Nonostante la simpatia vada a loro, sono gli altri a salvarsi.

Melo (1986), based on a play by Henri Bernstein, è un film di serie B girato con lo stesso cast del precedente, un melodramma stereotipo ambientato negli anni trenta: una donna scialba e immatura che ha tradito il marito ed ha tentato di avvelenarlo, disperata e oppressa dalla passione, si suicida; il marito si risposa con l'amica che la defunta stessa aveva scelto come sostituta; l'amante invece resta fedele alla sua memoria. Soap opera mediocre e prevedibile.

I Want To Go Home (1989) is a goofy film.

Smoking/No Smoking (1993)

On Connait la Chanson (1997)

Coeurs/ Private Fears in Public Places (2006) is an adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's play "Private Fears in Public Places", which Resnais turns into a somber merry-go-round rotating around six urban characters during an endless snow storm, weaving six stories of tactful loneliness that intersect. Each has an unhappy past to bury, whether it is explained or hinted at. They all get disappointed, and their future looks, if possible, even worse than their present. There is nothing mysterious about them except for the pious virgin: we are not told whether she does it on purpose to send tapes with erotic footage or not, and whether she is aware of having that second personality. Resnais' adaptation of this play is visually lavish and elegant.

It is snowing in the streets. Nicole is an attractive woman who is checking an empty apartment in downtown Paris with an older realtor. She is disappointed and doesn't take it, and mentions that her fiance is jobless but needs a study. The man didn't show up: he is drinking in an empty bar. The realtor goes back to his office and chats with his charming and much younger secretary Charlotte, a lonely spinster who seems to be discreetly in love with him. Nicole goes home and confronts her fiance Dan who spends his time and money drinking instead of looking for a job. At home the realtor, Thierry, mentions Charlotte to his much younger sister Gaelle, and Gaelle asks whether he is in love with her. Charlotte is a reserved and religious woman, and he can't think of her sexually. Gaelle is going out and her brother makes fun that she's always partying, but later we see that she sits alone at a cafe. Charlotte is also a caregiver who takes care of elderly people, and is hired one night by Lionel, the bartender of Dan's favorite bar, to take care of his cantankerous bedridden father. She cooks a soup for her and the throws it on her face. It takes all her religious faith to continue serving him. Meanwhile, Lionel at the bar serves Dan as usual, who tells him about the nagging Nicole. Dan blabber endlessly about his old job (he was in the army) and Lionel has to listen to him until closing time. Gaelle's brother Thierry is watching a video that Charlotte gave him, a video of religious songs but in the middle of it the video switches to a sexy striptease and Thierry watches it speechless: it appears that Charlotte taped the religious program on a tape that previously contained an erotic footage (and the stripper looks like the very pious Charlotte). When Lionel returns home, Charlotte minimizes and even makes fun of the hell that she went through taking care of his father. Lionel is impressed by her stoic determination to help people; and she is impressed of how devout Lionel is to his father: Lionel refuses to send him to an asylum for the elderly. Before leaving, she gives him a lesson on religious matters. Gaelle returns home and her brother, still watching the porn tape, quickly switches off the tv set. Dan returns home completely drunk, and the following day he upsets Nicole by refusing yet another apartment found by Thierry for them because it is too small. At the bar Dan, frustrated with Nicole's insistence to get a life, looks for advice from Lionel, who tells him his own story (his wife died). Lionel's advice is to put an ad in the paper and meet other women. It keeps snowing outside. Each scene is separated from the next by snow. Charlotte goes back to Lionel's place and fights her tears to care for his horrible ungrateful father. Nicole tells Dan that she wants to separate, and Dan tells her he wants the same. When he sees her again at work, Charlotte offers Thierry another tape, which he eagerly accepts, hoping to find more erotic footage. As soon as Gaelle goes out as usual, Thierry watches the video and fast forwards it until he finds the erotic footage. Just then his sister Gaelle walks in and catches him in the act. Gaelle is shocked and ashamed that he reduced himself to watching porn videos, and he doesn't tell her the truth. Charlotte, meanwhile, just survived another night at Lionel's place, and Lionel is ever more impressed by this devout woman. He is tempted to start reading the Gospel again. She has guessed that the old man holds a grudge against Lionel, and Lionel tells her about losing his wife and his mother. It is still snowing outside. Thierry is still trying to find a suitable apartment for Nicole and Dan, and Nicole doesn't tell him that they split up. At work Thierry tries to kiss the prudish Charlotte, who rejects him and then kisses a crucifix. Nicole is sitting alone at the cafe as usual and now we see what she does: Dan arrives and sits next to her, after making an appointment via the newspaper ads. She pretends that she rarely does this, and he doesn't mention that he only drinks alcohol. He promptly convinces her to move to a quieter place, which is, of course, Lionel's bar, where, a bit drunk, he tells her of his own depressing family situation. That evening Charlotte can't stand Lionel's father anymore: she wears the leather porno outfit that Thierry has seen in the videos and turns into the sexy stripper, knowing that her performance will shut up the old man. Thierry is home alone and it is still snowing outside. Charlotte is done with her show and changes back to pious clothes. Before leaving the house she says a prayer kneeling in front of a crucifix. Lionel is surprised to find his father asleep with a big smile on his face. Nicole gets home drunk very late at night and tells her worried brother Thierry that she was out with a man. Nicole visits Thierry at his office to tell him that she isn't interested in an apartment anymore. Thierry apologizes with Charlotte for the kiss, and she coldly accepts his apology and offers him another tape. He rushes home with the excuse of not feeling well. Dan is waiting for Gaelle at the bar when a bitter Nicole suddenly shows up to say goodbye. Nicole ruins his date because Gaelle sees them together and runs away heartbroken, thinking that Dan is cheating on her, a scene witnessed by Lionel. Dan doesn't know where Gaelle lives, nor her phone number: he has no way to explain. Charlotte shows up as usual at Lionel's place but he tells her that his father has had a heart attack and is delirious, even claiming to have seen her dancing naked by his bed. Obviously she doesn't say anything about her striptease, only that she will pray for the old man. It is snowing in the background and now the camera makes it feel like it is snowing inside the house as Lionel tells Charlotte about his loneliness and quiet desperation. Before leaving she hands him one of her tapes of religious music... Meanwhile, Thierry watches the tape and looks in vain for the usual erotic scenes. His sister comes to sit next to him: both have been disappointed by their love dreams.

Wild Grass (2009)

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet (2012), adapted from from two plays by Jean Anouilh,

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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