478 Last Year at Marienbad

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jsteffe
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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#126 Post by jsteffe » Mon Jul 20, 2009 1:50 pm

Dr. Geek wrote:What a delightfully hypnotic film. Those interior shots, the movement of the cameras . . . I've heard the film described as being "nearly impenetrable," but I felt the cues dictating what was memory and what was presently occurring were obvious but well-crafted. Furthermore, I didn't feel the plot was cryptic at all. I interpreted the film as a story of a woman's rape and her blocking out all the memories that led up to it and possibly following it. It makes sense to me, anyway. All those people remaining still. They can't continue doing what they are doing if the memory of those events remains frozen, hidden away in the recesses of the mind.

I enjoyed it as a haunting horror story, but found that it was not as puzzling as it has been made out to be.
Your interpretation is justified--if you read the "cine-novel" by Alain Robbe-Grillet, the rape is more explicit. However, I think Robbe-Grillet and Resnais deliberately leave room for other interpretations as well. The BFI book on MARIENBAD by Jean-Louis Leutrat mentions a Breton legend in which Death returns for a woman after she has asked him to wait for a year--I think that's a compelling notion, as is the idea that the man is trying to persuade the woman by hypnosis.

But you're right, the film is not all that "difficult" in the usual sense if you watch it with an open mind.

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Tribe
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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#127 Post by Tribe » Mon Jul 20, 2009 2:23 pm

Dr. Geek wrote: I interpreted the film as a story of a woman's rape and her blocking out all the memories that led up to it and possibly following it.
I'm curious how you got around to the movie being the story of a rape. I'm not saying you're necessarily incorrect (it's never been important to me what the movie is about or whether it "means" anything...it's simply a beautiful and enthralling film to watch, as a result I've never tried to figure out for myself what is exactly happening), but I was wondering what you led you to believe that.

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#128 Post by Dr. Geek » Mon Jul 20, 2009 2:37 pm

Tribe wrote:
Dr. Geek wrote: I interpreted the film as a story of a woman's rape and her blocking out all the memories that led up to it and possibly following it.
I'm curious how you got around to the movie being the story of a rape. I'm not saying you're necessarily incorrect (it's never been important to me what the movie is about or whether it "means" anything...it's simply a beautiful and enthralling film to watch, as a result I've never tried to figure out for myself what is exactly happening), but I was wondering what you led you to believe that.
Her denial of ever meeting the man, along with her denial of ever being at Marienbad in the first place. Of course, that in itself means nothing if it is not taken with the dialogue pertaining to the use of force, particularly his denial. And as I mentioned in my previous post, it seemed to me that many of the scenes taking place were supposed to have been in the past, with the guests remaining still while both spoke of that encounter. Her memories of the encounter are static, like the guests, for how can they move if she has kept that memory locked away and still?

Perhaps the most obvious clues were the scenes revolving around the bedroom. Her pleading him to stay away, his speaking of locking the doors one by one, the broken glass. This is followed by the shots of her aghast, with the camera repeatedly cutting back as it approaches her multiple times, indicative of a violent event. The movement of the camera in that particular scene certainly suggested something has been done to her. I interpreted that as a rape.

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#129 Post by jbeall » Mon Jul 20, 2009 3:13 pm

Tribe wrote:
Dr. Geek wrote: I interpreted the film as a story of a woman's rape and her blocking out all the memories that led up to it and possibly following it.
I'm curious how you got around to the movie being the story of a rape. I'm not saying you're necessarily incorrect (it's never been important to me what the movie is about or whether it "means" anything...it's simply a beautiful and enthralling film to watch, as a result I've never tried to figure out for myself what is exactly happening), but I was wondering what you led you to believe that.
This is also suggested by Ginette Vincendeau in her comments on the film, based in part on prior feminist readings of the film (she doesn't cite specific examples, but she does refer to previous interpretations) and the use of the Strindberg play early in the film.

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#130 Post by jsteffe » Mon Jul 20, 2009 4:08 pm

jbeall wrote:This is also suggested by Ginette Vincendeau in her comments on the film, based in part on prior feminist readings of the film (she doesn't cite specific examples, but she does refer to previous interpretations) and the use of the Strindberg play early in the film.
Yes, Vincendeau empahsizes that aspect in the video interview accompanying the Criterion DVD. I find her statement somewhat misleading, because she makes it sound as if it's an interpretation that was originated by feminist film critics, when in fact Robbe-Grillet was always quite up front about the rape element. There's not much interpretation needed, really! If you're familiar with Robbe-Grillet's writings, especially from around the time of MARIENBAD onwards, sexual violence and sadomasochistic fantasy plays an increasingly large role in his work. I happen to find his later novels far less interesting for that reason--it's a legitimate subject, but there's only so much you can do with it before it wears thin.

Digression: I recently watched Robbe-Grillet's film L'EDEN ET APRES (1970) and found it laughably bad. Just because he's self-consciously drawing upon soft-core S&M magazine imagery and dressing it up with serial composition techniques doesn't make it any less of an artistic dead end.

Renais didn't want to film an explicit rape scene for MARIENBAD in the way that Robbe-Grillet wrote in the script, but other remaining visual and dialogue cues make it clear that he still embraced it as a possible interpretation. Dr. Geek is correctly picking up on what are clearly deliberate cues in the film. Personally, I think Resnais's more subtle approach is better because it leaves something open to the imagination.

BTW, the play "Rosmer" doesn't actually exist, but many critics have taken it as an allusion to Henrik Ibsen's "Rosmersholm."

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#131 Post by Florinaldo » Mon Jul 20, 2009 7:30 pm

I finally found the time to watch this new Blu-Ray and I must concur with every comment to the effect that this is a marvelous rendition of the film, doing full justice to Vierny's beautiful cinematography and Resnais' visual imagination. This is probably a prime example to show people who see no point in reissuing B&W films in HD and who believe that the format is only valid for color, as a colleague recently put to me. Although if they are already prejudiced againt B&W movies in general, as she appeared to be, the point will be lost.

I leafed through Robbe-Grillet's published screenplay, before and after watching the disc. Although Resnais' rendition is generally faithful to the general description and framework, one can only imagine what dreadful results Robbe-Grillet would have produced if he had directed it himself. Judging from his ventures into films, we would have none of the hypnotic power of the Resnais film, since R-G's always seemed to have a rather pedestrian visual and filmic approach ( I must confess to have given up after 2 and a half of his films). As for his vision of eroticism, it was usually trite and infantile, which may explain why he so resented Resnais for not showing the rape he had envisioned. I remember hearing him mention in an interview that this had simply destroyed the whole design of the film. François Thomas' essay in the booklet does a good job of putting to rest the myth of two creative minds working as a single one on this project.

I still have to watch all the extras, but I was glad to confirm that Vincendeau's filmed introduction is indeed different from the one she did for Optimum (although I suppose there unavoidably are some common points and info). I was not as disappointed as others with the lack of a commentary, since the film has been analysed over and over again, in sources that are generally easily accessible, not to mention in many post-screening discussions. By the way, I believe trying to find a "meaning" to this film is a sterile endeavour; I find structural (not structuralist) or technical analyses to be generally more relevant.

I did watch the trailer; not as breathless as I seemed to remember it, but still a bit of an oversell: "the first film for which you are a co-writer" indeed! Pitoëff tries to keep things noble in his voice-over work, but it appears to be sold as a strange kind of fast-paced thriller, more than a slow cryptic journey into mystery. Or am I too sensitive?

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#132 Post by knives » Thu Jul 23, 2009 12:24 am

Tribe wrote:
Dr. Geek wrote: I interpreted the film as a story of a woman's rape and her blocking out all the memories that led up to it and possibly following it.
I'm curious how you got around to the movie being the story of a rape. I'm not saying you're necessarily incorrect (it's never been important to me what the movie is about or whether it "means" anything...it's simply a beautiful and enthralling film to watch, as a result I've never tried to figure out for myself what is exactly happening), but I was wondering what you led you to believe that.
You're probably the smartest person on this thread. Wish I could say the same for me.
The thing I'm most shocked and curious about is just how emotionally draining the film was for me. I was expecting a formalist porcelain beauty and instead got this formalist beautiful mind rape.
While any attempt at interpretation is stupid, well I'm an idiot. I do think rape is the right path to go by, and really I'm not sure if it happened or not, but I do believe that they did not meet last year. The thing that got me so emotional was this anger, almost hatred, for the man (narrator) who I see as this delusional rapist. Of course that is wrong as the character is just a statue reading other statues, but that's what I get by stupidly trying to read him. The whole affair seems to be about dishonesty. Dishonesty to hurt,protect, dishonesty to ones self, to others. Dishonesty that builds myths or tries to figures things out. The man makes this world around him, and the creators dare us to make the same delusional insane mistake. Sadly I fell forward into a mistake, but I love it.

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R0lf
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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#133 Post by R0lf » Sat Jul 25, 2009 11:09 am

I'm curious with the rape story who the actual rapist is supposed to be? Surely it would have to be the husband as it would seem to contradict her going off with her rapist in the past/present/future at the end of the movie?

I interpret the scene of violence as the possible murder by the husband for infidelity. Which seems to me supported by the fact that the husband had gone shooting prior to that engagement and earlier in the movie when the husband is shown shooting they transpose this with her walking into the line of his bullet.

Its actually very interesting when you are watching the scene with the voiceover telling her she did not look around the room she went and sat on the bed, the voiceover repeats it about five times but she still keeps walking around the room, the very next scene she walks across the room and sits down on the bed five times.

Something I always do for fun is imagine that India Song is a direct sequel to Marienbad.

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#134 Post by jsteffe » Sun Jul 26, 2009 1:18 am

Just watched the stunning Blu-ray after seeing the DVD earlier. It really makes a different impression, much more seductive and vivid--it makes me appreciate the mind-boggling beauty of Vierny's cinematography all the more.

Also, for the first time I was able to read the lettering on the theater poster. (This probably won't be possible on the DVD.) The author of the play "Rosmer" is none other than "Niala Sianser." How... self-reflexive!

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#135 Post by aox » Wed Oct 07, 2009 11:23 am

I just happened to see this last week and I really didn't like it. But, it stuck with me and I watched it again. It suddenly clicked on second viewing. Truly mesmerizing, and if nothing else, a curious bit of film making. I just bought the Blu ray and can't wait to see it again. And I completely buy the rape explanation. What a unique film.

I have a technical question. How was this shot achieved and are there any special effects (I assume not)? What I mean is: how are there lengthy defined shadows from all of the people, but not from the shrubs and statues? How was this achieved?
Last edited by aox on Wed Oct 07, 2009 11:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#136 Post by swo17 » Wed Oct 07, 2009 11:36 am

aox wrote:I have a technical question. How was this shot achieved and are there any special effects (I assume not)? What I mean is: how are there lengthy defined shadows from all of the people, but not from the shrubs and statues? How was this achieved?
SpoilerShow
The shadows were painted on the ground.

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aox
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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#137 Post by aox » Wed Oct 07, 2009 11:42 am

damn... I didn't think about the possibility. Talk about a lapse in the critical thinking dept. #-o

Thanks, Swo17...

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#138 Post by Noiretirc » Wed Dec 02, 2009 2:49 am

I've been waiting to see this film for so long, and my first viewing tonight has left me breathless. Just....wow. Seyrig is just so perfect in this. Certain parts of this magnificent film made my skin crawl. ie She is frightened and the organ goes towards hyper strings.....I choked on my wine and my wife laughed at me. Genuine scares. I'm not sure if that aspect of the film has been touched on here. I mean, cerain parts of this film had me seriously shitting my pants. I might not sleep tonight. (The hotel makes the one in Shining seem like Fawlty Towers, innit?) As for interpretations...for a while I thought she is a ghost, then, he is a ghost, then, he is a s.o.b. and she is in denial. Did he rape her, last year at Marienbad?

Edit: Indeed, rape is a common interpretation on pages 5-6.

Anyway.....one of the most remarkable film experiences I've ever had, and I cannot wait to delve into this some more.

Edit 2: (Unexplained deletions of posts here make me want to go postal. But I digress.) I must be the only person here who thinks that the cover art for this release is entirely appropriate and excellent.
Last edited by Noiretirc on Thu Dec 03, 2009 2:45 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#139 Post by Feego » Wed Dec 02, 2009 11:06 am

It is indeed a chilling movie for me as well. Throughout the entire film, there is an overwhelming sense of dread, that something terrible has either happened, is about to happen, or is perhaps even happening right in front of us and we're just not seeing it. Even more terrifying is the notion that this terrible thing may be happening over and over again.

I have no doubt in my mind that Kubrick was influenced by Marienbad when he was directing The Shining. It is also interesting to compare this film with the low-budget Carnival of Souls. While I have no idea if that film's director, Herk Harvey, had seen this film, I wouldn't be surprised if he had given his familiarity with Bergman and Cocteau and his deliberate emulation of their styles.

Like Tribe above, I'm not interested in figuring out what is literally going on. I enjoy the film for what it is -- a stylish, haunting enigma.

(And as for the cover design, I like the concept a little better than the execution).

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#140 Post by manicsounds » Mon Feb 01, 2010 7:48 am

Last BLUR at Marienbad

After watching the film finally last night, put 2 and 2 together. Loved the music video before, but never understood the reference. Now I understand.... or don't understand... either way.

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#141 Post by aox » Mon May 24, 2010 4:20 pm


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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#142 Post by dad1153 » Thu Aug 26, 2010 10:41 pm

Saw this on Blu-ray last night for the first time. If ever there is a movie that I felt I had seen before from experiencing beforehand all the works it helped influence (from Kubrick's "The Shining" and Ramis' "Groundhog Day" to "Twilight Zone" TV episodes and perfume commercials) "Last Year at Marienbad" is it. The first 30 or so minutes nearly lost me as Resnais' mise-en-scène threatened to diminish the movie-watching experience to just hanging around stiff, well-dressed rich white people playing parlor games and making esoteric comments in front of gorgeous palaces and impeccably decorated gardens/hallways (uhh, shiny mirrors! :roll: ). But then the focus and editing rhythms shift from everything/everyone in this time/place to just Albertazzi trying his damnest to convince Seyrig that they met before and they must run away. Improbably, against the odds the filmmakers themselves (and author Alain Robbe-Grillet) stack against us caring for these people as characters, I became entranced. Pitoëff, who's either guarding angel or prison guard (or neither), is both a cool mofo and a creepy dude whose presence breaks the pattern of the other two's back-and-forth. Then there are the visuals, which are just a rich tapestry of design elegance trapping underneath the creepiness of the unknown. Didn't care much for the organ music soundtrack ("Carnival of Souls" did it better) but if that's the way Resnais prefers to set his mood more power to him. The easiest or hardest conclusions about where/what is going on in movie (looks like an intellectual's version of hell) aren't the point of the "Marienbad" experience as much as whatever you take out of experiencing its visuals pushing forward the elliptical plot. Personally the persistence of 'X' in pursuing 'A' struck a chore with me as the obstinence of an obsessed (unwanted?) lover that will forever chase what he can never have: the trust of the object of his (twisted?) desire. I found it all tragically romantic, and framed in such a way that it susbcribes to Kubrick's technique of making all his moving images look like a series of still paintings that just happen to move at 24 frames per second.

"Marienbad" didn't rock my world but it looks gorgeous (another high-def feather in Criterion's B&W hat), made me appreciate Resnais' skills as a filmmaker more and has interesting extras to boot. Loved hearing Resnais' saying he appreciated the complements from Lee Falk (creator of "The Phantom" and "Mandrake" comic strips) about "Marienbad." Never thought in a million years someone like Resnais would care what someone like Falk thought of his work. More when I rewatch this a few more times to wrap my head around the 'rape' theory (valid given it was Robbe-Grillet's original intent) because I just don't see it even when the bonus features explains it to me. :-k

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#143 Post by MyNameCriterionForum » Thu Aug 26, 2010 11:25 pm

dad1153 wrote:Loved hearing Resnais' saying he appreciated the complements from Lee Falk (creator of "The Phantom" and "Mandrake" comic strips) about "Marienbad." Never thought in a million years someone like Resnais would care what someone like Falk thought of his work.
Resnais must have been a big comics fan -- I think he started a project with Al Capp at some point, and even Stan Lee (?)

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#144 Post by zedz » Fri Aug 27, 2010 4:28 pm

MyNameCriterionForum wrote:
dad1153 wrote:Loved hearing Resnais' saying he appreciated the complements from Lee Falk (creator of "The Phantom" and "Mandrake" comic strips) about "Marienbad." Never thought in a million years someone like Resnais would care what someone like Falk thought of his work.
Resnais must have been a big comics fan -- I think he started a project with Al Capp at some point, and even Stan Lee (?)
Yes to Lee, and Jim Steranko too. Plus he completed one with Jules Feiffer. He's no mere dabbler, as I Want to Go Home is steeped in historical comic references (though I don't think it's a very good film).

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#145 Post by jdcopp » Fri Aug 27, 2010 7:14 pm

Shawn Levy's biography of Paul Newman claims that Newman and Resnais, at one time, were planning on making a movie based on Mandrake the Magician.

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#146 Post by MyNameCriterionForum » Sat Aug 28, 2010 12:27 am

zedz wrote:
MyNameCriterionForum wrote:
dad1153 wrote:Loved hearing Resnais' saying he appreciated the complements from Lee Falk (creator of "The Phantom" and "Mandrake" comic strips) about "Marienbad." Never thought in a million years someone like Resnais would care what someone like Falk thought of his work.
Resnais must have been a big comics fan -- I think he started a project with Al Capp at some point, and even Stan Lee (?)
Yes to Lee, and Jim Steranko too. Plus he completed one with Jules Feiffer. He's no mere dabbler, as I Want to Go Home is steeped in historical comic references (though I don't think it's a very good film).
Oh man, Steranko?! That would be interesting, as Steranko's pages are as carefully and stylishly arranged as Resnais' films.

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#147 Post by HistoryProf » Sun Aug 29, 2010 10:30 pm

watched this last night and have been ruminating on it, and try as I might I just can't shake the feeling that she is a ghost and X is Death is some form or another coming to collect her after agreeing to let her remain for one year. Or that she sold her soul or something...the particulars aren't important, but it just felt like a ghost story to me. I think the husband/guardian killed her and X is her escort to the other side, whatever that may be.

I can't say it's the greatest movie i've ever seen or otherwise echo the effusive praise it receives, but that's more a product of the fact that i'm just not very good with these kinds of films. It's why I don't much care for Godard, for instance. I'm very literal minded and have a hard time letting go with non-linear films. this was an exception for me though, and I did like it...mostly because it's simply gorgeous to look at and rather eerie and I love a good ghost story. Appropriately, I 'get' what Resnais tried to do with this film and appreciate it on an intellectual level, but will probably never love it like so many do who can appreciate the ethereal nature of it all on a more visceral level. That's okay though...I'm cool with that and actually really glad I picked it up at the B&N sale knowing it wasn't my usual cup of tea, but I was just so damned curious...the film had somehow entranced me by its reputation alone!

after posting the above, I realized it was still in the player so I'm doing something I rarely, if ever, do - watching it again! It instantly recalled one point I meant to address: the subtitles are not well defined at all, and in the scenes outside in particular they become unreadable in spots. The Optimum subs looked far bolder w/ appropriate outlining - and were pure WHITE rather than gray and thus easy to obscure in lighter scenes. Has this bothered anyone else? One nice thing about a repeat viewing so far is being less concerned with the dialog and narration since so much is so repetitive and I can focus more on the imagery...where the art of the film really lies.

Incidentally, i'm more comfortable than ever with the ghost story angle...perhaps some sort of purgatory for rich European folks ;)


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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#149 Post by aox » Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:23 pm

awesome

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Re: 478 Last Year at Marienbad

#150 Post by Napier » Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:54 pm

Now it all makes sense.

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