Author Topic: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad  (Read 755 times)

CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« on: April 07, 2019, 12:12:33 PM »
CaB film club discussion #1 - Last Year At Marienbad



A pretty clear winner in the end, Alain Resnais classic mystery film from 1961, maybe not the easiest viewing(although it looks great throughout) but hopefully a good starting point as there seems to be plenty of discussion to be had as to its meaning as well as its merits.

For those who can't get hold of it otherwise this is the best quality online version I could find....

https://vimeo.com/channels/868273/118457883

Dex Sawash

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Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2019, 01:09:56 PM »
Link says private video, password required

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2019, 01:16:30 PM »
Link says private video, password required

I'm getting directly to it without any kind of signup, maybe based on location?

Looking on UK amazon you can stream it or pick it up on DVD for £3-4

Dex Sawash

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Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2019, 01:21:10 PM »
America, plenty of others to watch I reckon

Sin Agog

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Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2019, 02:42:55 PM »
Cool, will get on this tonight.  Seen Hiroshima, and seen the fuck out of Providence (which is a really playful little oddity, with an amazing script and performances by the usually kinda boring Gielgud, and the never better Dirk Bogarde), but was always perturbed by Marienbad's cold, cryptic reputation.  Let's see how I get on.

Puce Moment

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Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2019, 03:35:28 PM »
Going to watch Shoplifters finally tonight, but I will watch afterwards! :-)

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2019, 04:42:38 PM »
Cool, will get on this tonight.  Seen Hiroshima, and seen the fuck out of Providence (which is a really playful little oddity, with an amazing script and performances by the usually kinda boring Gielgud, and the never better Dirk Bogarde), but was always perturbed by Marienbad's cold, cryptic reputation.  Let's see how I get on.

To be fair its not THAT cold, there is obviously a good deal of drama on display from the lead characters, its moreso that its nature is quite cryptic although personally I do think the most common explanation I'v heard is quite satisfactory.

Having watched it quite recently I'll probably wait until we've had a bit of discussion to do it again and try and pick out details.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2019, 04:58:57 PM by greenman »

Z

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Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2019, 09:01:49 AM »
Tried watching it a few years ago on the same night I had weed by myself for the first time, think I thought it'd help me pay attention...
Was probably about ten minutes in where I just started laughing at how stupid of an idea that was.


Will try and slot it in over the week, it's short enough, yeah?

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2019, 11:31:08 AM »
I enjoyed this, thought it was beautifully directed and I really liked the dreamlike atmosphere and intentionally-confusing editing that puts us in the same confused state as the characters... BUT, for me the whole experience was really marred by the score which I found really intrusive, distracting and irritating.  There's a scene later in the movie that I noticed only had dialogue and was otherwise dead-silent, and I thought if the whole film was like that I'd have been enjoying it a lot more.  As it stands, I can appreciate why this is thought of as one of the greats but if I watch it again sometime I might try having the sound muted throughout.

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2019, 11:58:39 AM »
I can see why the score might not be to everyones taste, it does perhaps feel a little "Hans Zimmerish" at points but equally I think the film as a whole depends quite strongly on it to build its atmosphere.

Will try and slot it in over the week, it's short enough, yeah?

An hour and a half.

The best theory I'v heard about whats actually going on is....

The film is a representation of Robbe-Grillet's meta novels. The situation represents a novel made flesh with most of the characters as mere automatons who start and stop as needed. The male lead is an outsider trying to break the female lead out of this nature and turn her into a fleshed out character by suggesting a history between them to her were as she just wants to reset.

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2019, 12:10:30 PM »
The organ soundtrack is very atypical even for the time period, and it was composed by Francis Seyrig who is the brother of the lead actress, Delphine Seyrig

Needless to say, one of the problems with an organ soundtrack is that it usually loses a lot of effect when played through TV speakers
« Last Edit: April 08, 2019, 12:24:23 PM by Monsieur Verdoux »

Sin Agog

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Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2019, 01:36:46 PM »
The organ soundtrack is very atypical even for the time period, and it was composed by Francis Seyrig who is the brother of the lead actress, Delphine Seyrig

Needless to say, one of the problems with an organ soundtrack is that it usually loses a lot of effect when played through TV speakers

I'd like this comment stricken from the record.  Monsieur Verdoux is not an official member of this club.

(Not seen it yet.  Got waylaid by Sunday family business.  Will have another crack at it tonight.)

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2019, 03:25:56 PM »
The best theory I'v heard about whats actually going on is....

The film is a representation of Robbe-Grillet's meta novels. The situation represents a novel made flesh with most of the characters as mere automatons who start and stop as needed. The male lead is an outsider trying to break the female lead out of this nature and turn her into a fleshed out character by suggesting a history between them to her were as she just wants to reset.

Interesting idea.  My general vibe of what was going on was that both of the leads are ghosts but only he's aware of it and he's trying to convince her to pass over to the afterlife with him, while she's still unable to let go and is doomed to haunt the place as the memory of her real life fades and distorts.

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2019, 04:04:24 PM »
Interesting idea.  My general vibe of what was going on was that both of the leads are ghosts but only he's aware of it and he's trying to convince her to pass over to the afterlife with him, while she's still unable to let go and is doomed to haunt the place as the memory of her real life fades and distorts.

The film does certainly have a ghostly vibe to it, I mean I think the influence on The Shining is pretty obvious if only visually although I think also in is "metaness". Her husband does seem to be some kind of guardian figure for the world that the protagonist is trying to break her out of.

I'v not read any of  Robbe-Grillet's work but going from descriptions he does seem very focused on deconstructing fictional narratives, I have seen his film Trans Europ Express that's probably about as meta as cinema got in the mid 60's. The way the surrounding characters start and stop like automatons does seem to follow that reading to me, acting as needed by the story but without personal depth. She's going around in circles in the same fashion and her's trying to break her out of it repeatedly(the draws full of the same photo), the scene with her looking at various objects in her room to me seems like her gaining sentience that he's looking to create in her.

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2019, 04:28:05 PM »
The question of 'authorship' is absolutely key, one of the most persistent questions in Robbe-Grillet's literary work is "Who is the narrator, and where and when are they telling the story?"

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2019, 05:59:38 PM »
The film does certainly have a ghostly vibe to it, I mean I think the influence on The Shining is pretty obvious if only visually although I think also in is "metaness". Her husband does seem to be some kind of guardian figure for the world that the protagonist is trying to break her out of.

I'v not read any of  Robbe-Grillet's work but going from descriptions he does seem very focused on deconstructing fictional narratives, I have seen his film Trans Europ Express that's probably about as meta as cinema got in the mid 60's. The way the surrounding characters start and stop like automatons does seem to follow that reading to me, acting as needed by the story but without personal depth. She's going around in circles in the same fashion and her's trying to break her out of it repeatedly(the draws full of the same photo), the scene with her looking at various objects in her room to me seems like her gaining sentience that he's looking to create in her.

Yes I thought of The Shining almost immediately with all the long hallway shots and focus on interior architecture.  The theory you posted does make a lot of sense, the photos were a particularly mysterious piece of the puzzle that I didn't know quite how to fit into my reading.  I get the feeling the introductory play dialogue may be the key to the whole thing.  Trans-Europ Express sounds very interesting, if we don't watch it as part of the Film Club I'll definitely check it out sometime. 

Sin Agog

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Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2019, 12:20:43 AM »
Wrote a few notes as I was watching it.

The French decadent movement petered out two or three decades before Resnais was born, but this seems to be heavily influenced by it.  Decadent literature's main connective tissue (besides misogyny) was a fetishizing of the flesh and the material, with stories about lusting over statues, androids, dead bodies.  This is definitely wrestling with some similar Descartesian issues.  It feels like watching a fallen society of wraiths in dinnerwear, thousands of years after emotionally combustive barbarians walked the earth. They are statues, taking upper class politesse to such an extreme that they stop being human anymore.  Well-dressed statues offend no one.  They recite existentialism to trick themselves into thinking that they still live.  The camera interrupts their small talk halfway through because there's hardly any meaning in it to lose.

A woman amongst them is slowly teased into showing a real emotion, and when she does, about eighty minutes in, the assembled crowd silently gawp at her.  From that moment she is reborn, and a different animal to those around her, with whom there'll always be a disconnect.

The playing of games.  The fetishistic lining up of matchsticks on the table reminded me of when I went on an accountant acquaintance of mine's computer and saw that he'd played over fifty thousand games of Freecell solitaire!  We fritter so much time on these idle games- Candy Crush, Tetris, Hearts etc.- but barely ever talk about it.  It's like playing those games are an expression of our inner will to retreat back into inanima.

I liked the organ score.  It reminded me a bit of Carnival of Souls, and gave the movie a bit of a funereal feel, which is fitting as it seemed to be a wake for a race (or class) whose spirits died but whose bodies kept on walking.

I'm an emotionally driven dude, so I could never love Marienbad, but I truly admire Resnais for going to such lengths in making the form match the ideas.

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2019, 02:17:35 AM »
Yes I thought of The Shining almost immediately with all the long hallway shots and focus on interior architecture.  The theory you posted does make a lot of sense, the photos were a particularly mysterious piece of the puzzle that I didn't know quite how to fit into my reading.  I get the feeling the introductory play dialogue may be the key to the whole thing.  Trans-Europ Express sounds very interesting, if we don't watch it as part of the Film Club I'll definitely check it out sometime.

The tracking shots down the hotel corridors are the most obvious Shining references I'd say along with the ghostly hotel generally, I'v read suggestions that really it was Marienbad Kubrick was interested in moreso than Kings book.

Trans Europ is Robbe-Grillet and some producers talking about making a crime thriller on the train whilst that story unfolds with Trintignant, he even comes into the train carriage with them at some point. Not sure I'd call it a classic and as with his self directed stuff its rather BDSM heavy(the character is not exactly sympathetic) but its well enough made and pretty original for the time.

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2019, 02:43:35 AM »
Wrote a few notes as I was watching it.

The French decadent movement petered out two or three decades before Resnais was born, but this seems to be heavily influenced by it.  Decadent literature's main connective tissue (besides misogyny) was a fetishizing of the flesh and the material, with stories about lusting over statues, androids, dead bodies.  This is definitely wrestling with some similar Descartesian issues.  It feels like watching a fallen society of wraiths in dinnerwear, thousands of years after emotionally combustive barbarians walked the earth. They are statues, taking upper class politesse to such an extreme that they stop being human anymore.  Well-dressed statues offend no one.  They recite existentialism to trick themselves into thinking that they still live.  The camera interrupts their small talk halfway through because there's hardly any meaning in it to lose.

A woman amongst them is slowly teased into showing a real emotion, and when she does, about eighty minutes in, the assembled crowd silently gawp at her.  From that moment she is reborn, and a different animal to those around her, with whom there'll always be a disconnect.

The playing of games.  The fetishistic lining up of matchsticks on the table reminded me of when I went on an accountant acquaintance of mine's computer and saw that he'd played over fifty thousand games of Freecell solitaire!  We fritter so much time on these idle games- Candy Crush, Tetris, Hearts etc.- but barely ever talk about it.  It's like playing those games are an expression of our inner will to retreat back into inanima.

I liked the organ score.  It reminded me a bit of Carnival of Souls, and gave the movie a bit of a funereal feel, which is fitting as it seemed to be a wake for a race (or class) whose spirits died but whose bodies kept on walking.

I'm an emotionally driven dude, so I could never love Marienbad, but I truly admire Resnais for going to such lengths in making the form match the ideas.

I think you could perhaps argue that the film is commenting on its own cinematic(andto some degree culture overall) era as well. I mean generally it seems to be viewed as a bit of the odd man out in new wave cinema in style but maybe looking to play up the transition? the setting and characters harking back to some much earlier era of decadence being a comment on more standard mainstream film making and its viewed lack of depth. Instead you have the objective of the lead character to break the woman out of this cycle and towards something of real depth, maybe a representation of its view of the new wave.

The game and her husband generally plus indeed the repeated indoor target practice with pistols as maybe some wider social point? maybe a representation of the mainstream of society? the husband always beats the protagonist at his game as a representation of a more capitalist/imperialist idea of success but he gets the best of him with a more humanistic appeal to his wife.

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #19 on: April 10, 2019, 01:28:58 PM »
It's Delphine Seyrig's birthday today


Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #20 on: April 10, 2019, 05:12:20 PM »
Meanwhile Giorgio Albertazzi hasn't aged a day, just changed his name and started directing batman films.

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Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #21 on: April 12, 2019, 06:23:25 AM »
I liked the organ score.  It reminded me a bit of Carnival of Souls, and gave the movie a bit of a funereal feel, which is fitting as it seemed to be a wake for a race (or class) whose spirits died but whose bodies kept on walking.

I've long noted the similarities between the two films, and not just in terms of the organ score. It's also got that narrative ambiguity and a moody B&W cinematography. Herk Harvey who made CoS is on record as a lover of European arthouse cinema so I have a theory that it's more than coincidentally linked.

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #22 on: April 12, 2019, 12:43:39 PM »
That shot of the courtyard with the lovely topiary, the figures have long shadows but nothing else does - are they painted in?

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #23 on: April 12, 2019, 03:19:17 PM »
Not noticed that before but yes the shadows don't look real...



Looks like everyone has the same shadow as well so probably either some black material or a stencil used to paint the gravel. You could I spose making some kind of comment on the emptiness of the figures or the unreality of the situation but more likely Resnais wanted both strong midday lighting for the garden as a whole but shadows for the figures.

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #24 on: April 13, 2019, 09:35:18 PM »
I haven't read any other comments about this, so I'm going to post and then see if what I think matches up to what anyone else thinks.

OK, first, I have to say this was not an easy watch. It really unsettled me and tired me out. I think it's because everything is so repetitive. Several times I had to fight the urge to turn it off and watch Gremlins 2:The New Batch instead. The tinkling, biddly organ soundtrack got on my nerves at first, but I think it worked well in some places.

This film is creepy. The whole thing sounds like a murderer's confession. Trying to convince himself he didn't kill anyone and that this woman loved him ("last year in Marienbad, you wanted it, you filthy cow!"). But I couldn't decide what was real, what was memory, or what was dream/denial.

It felt like being in a dream where no one can hear you, or you see someone you're close to and they don't recognise you. Paintings, and being trapped inside someone else's fantasy idea, traipsing through hallways as someone leans on a church organ and a gaunt, extremely French, maribou stork like man is angry with you, always.

The central narrator, a pretty creepy guy, who will not shut up about this girl he got it on with last year in marienbad, at first I was thinking he was just mooching around this big hotel remembering, or trying to remember that chick who was here, the married one, that he totally banged. Then I thought maybe he's dead, he's in limbo, they all are, looming and maundering, dead frenchmen collecting matchsticks. The other ghosts don't want to stay with him (e.g. they don't invite him to the big ghost fuck-pile in the library) because he won't shut up about that girl.

Then I was thinking maybe it's not his perspective.
see I do think it's a kind of purgatory, but for the woman. I think her ghost is stuck here and the smooth dud waxing lyrical about how her shoe came off near a fountain, he is Death, trying to convince her to move on to the next bit, next existence or something. Time is stopping and starting (which by the way at first I thought was my dad's malware-addled computer clogging up, addled as it is with pop ups of John MacCaffee waving a machete and saying "your systems compromised mate!"), the people are actors, it's all sludge, it's gravy. Go towards the light, carol ann.
The woman's husband turns up, scowling, french, tuxedo'd, maybe he's this angry spirit who wants to keep her spirit trapped in this punishment promenade where he is forced to remain.

Yeah, that's what I think it's about.

mothman

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Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #25 on: April 13, 2019, 09:47:39 PM »
The shadows were painted in on the ground and the actors stood there on their marks. It's a deliberate effect.

Interesting idea.  My general vibe of what was going on was that both of the leads are ghosts but only he's aware of it and he's trying to convince her to pass over to the afterlife with him, while she's still unable to let go and is doomed to haunt the place as the memory of her real life fades and distorts.

Which just made me think of 1990 Europudding Wings Of Fame starring Peter O'Toole and Colin Firth, where they're in a sort of afterlife for the famous which appears to be a sort of hotel. The standard of board is dependent on your earthly fame, so as your renown fades, so do your lodgings get worse. I can't remember if it's ever established what happens when you're forgotten forever, but it's implied to not be good. While there, Firth's character falls in love with a girl who was a one-hit wonder before dying; however she refuses to accept that she's dead...

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #26 on: April 13, 2019, 10:30:15 PM »
The shadows were painted in on the ground and the actors stood there on their marks. It's a deliberate effect.

Which just made me think of 1990 Europudding Wings Of Fame starring Peter O'Toole and Colin Firth, where they're in a sort of afterlife for the famous which appears to be a sort of hotel. The standard of board is dependent on your earthly fame, so as your renown fades, so do your lodgings get worse. I can't remember if it's ever established what happens when you're forgotten forever, but it's implied to not be good. While there, Firth's character falls in love with a girl who was a one-hit wonder before dying; however she refuses to accept that she's dead...

Whoah, this sounds fantastic. I hope it lived up to the premise when you watched it. It sounds like something I should immediately add to my watchlist. Great post from Gregory Torso by the way, I wish I had more to add but it's such a vague film that all these readings so far seem equally valid and just make me want to watch it again.

mothman

  • I don't know why
Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #27 on: April 14, 2019, 02:09:06 AM »
I don’t know if I’d call it “fantastic,” it’s a bit meh really... I think there are clips of it on YouTube, but I’ve never gotten round to seeing if it’s available anywhere else, as a first step prior to adding it to the “hard to find” thread.

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #28 on: April 14, 2019, 04:11:15 AM »
Whoah, this sounds fantastic. I hope it lived up to the premise when you watched it. It sounds like something I should immediately add to my watchlist. Great post from Gregory Torso by the way, I wish I had more to add but it's such a vague film that all these readings so far seem equally valid and just make me want to watch it again.

I vaguely remember watching it on UK Tv sometime back in the 90's and thinking the plot itself and O'Toole were pretty good but generally it was a little unremarkable.

The main comment on Marienbad from the aurthor I can find is...

"The whole film, as a matter of fact, is the story of a persuading ["une persuasion"]: it deals with a reality which the hero creates out of his own vision, out of his own words"

That does seem to highlight for me that the protagonists narration is less commenting on events and more actually driving them

Re: CaB Film Club #1 - Last Year At Marienbad
« Reply #29 on: April 14, 2019, 04:01:23 PM »
The main comment on Marienbad from the aurthor I can find is...

"The whole film, as a matter of fact, is the story of a persuading ["une persuasion"]: it deals with a reality which the hero creates out of his own vision, out of his own words"

That does seem to highlight for me that the protagonists narration is less commenting on events and more actually driving them

I read another comment from the director last week which I can't find at the moment but was along the lines of "the events of the film could entirely have taken place in one minute" which for me only makes things more confusing.  I can't really work out what he was driving at with that, but it's interesting.