Alain Robbe-grillet

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Last Year at Marienbad Review


Excellent
Upon its release in France, Alain Resnais' Last Year in Marienbad caused the streets surrounding local cinemas to be crowded by intellectuals, college students, and nouvelle vague die-hards. In the US, it posited itself in theaters alongside the release of another visual haiku on questionable existence -- Roger Corman's Premature Burial. It would later be spoofed by Woody Allen, get outright cribbed by Stanley Kubrick and Almodóvar, be recognized as a seminal work by giddy surrealists, and denounced as one of the worst films ever made by right-wing talking heads. It would also serve as the basis for Brit-rock pioneers Blur's video for "To the End."

It remains, however, a work of compressed and canny nothingness -- liquefied time dribbled over the remains of a love affair that may or may not have happened. A testament to leading lady Delphine Seyrig's virile gaze, Resnais has famously stated that the film is about nothing but this wouldn't stop the critical forge to make it into everything. Jonas Mekas claimed it nothing but a "pretentious ornament" while a pre-Kael New Yorker likened it to Finnegan's Wake; the New York Times' claim that it was "the 'furtherest out' movie we've ever had" would be laughable even if the publication wasn't printed on Jack Smith's home planet. Marriages ended; friends became blood enemies; sons and daughters were disowned for the length of its 33-week run at The Carnegie.

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Time Regained Review


Excellent
A literal adaptation of the final book of Marcel Proust's Remembrances of Things Past would be inconceivable and boring, since the tastes and smells which reveal layers of memory cannot be captured onscreen. Raoul Ruiz's Time Regained does the next best thing. Ruiz weaves a fragmented, experimental narrative in the form of a tapestry. There's an uncanny beauty achieved by telling his story in this manner, which reveals thoughts and inactions by using the very limitations of the film medium. He presents us with a series of photographs, or images shot into mirrors or through doorways which open up to the past and present (and cross-cut between the two with relative ease.)

Taking place within the huge estates and manor houses of the cultural elite, with string quartets playing in their studies and tiny cakes neatly arranged on trays in their kitchens, our main character, Marcel (Marcelo Mazzarello) wanders through this world drinking it in. The plot is inconsequential, it is more about observing the crowded rooms and bitten back emotions, the sips of wine and soft handshakes. Every now and then, Marcel is forced to confront his decadent relatives (sneeringly funny John Malkovich and sour Pascal Greggory.)

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