Last Year at Marienbad
1961 | Drama/French New Wave | 94 minutes | In French with English subtitles
In the old-world chateau, Marienbad, filled with stuffy wealthy couples, a single man approaches a woman claiming they met before at Marienbad. In fact, he claims, she asked that they wait a year before taking their relationship to the next level. The woman cannot recall this past encounter. The man pursues the discussion and reminds her of the tenderness they once shared. She continues to rebuff him. Meanwhile, a second man comes on the scene, who may be the woman’s lover. He enjoys dominating the first man in the mathematical games they play. Through flashbacks and shifts in time and locations, the characters of these three are explored. There are no conclusions. What really did happen? Was it all a hallucination? It’s up to the viewer to figure it out. Directed by Alain Resnais.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 94%
Venice International Film Festival: Golden Lion Award (Best Picture)
It was selected as the 83rd most acclaimed movie in history by the review aggregation site, “They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?”
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Viewing this film again, I did not expect to have a cerebral experience, to see a film more fun to talk about than to watch. What I was not prepared for was the voluptuous quality of MARIENBAD, its command of tone and mood, its hypnotic way of drawing us into a puzzle, its austere visual beauty.
Alain Resnais’s LAST YEAR at MARIENBAD is more brilliant than ever—profoundly mysterious and disturbing, a para-surrealist masterpiece whose nightmarish scenario appears to have been absorbed from Buñuel and Antonioni and transmitted onward to Greenway. This is a superb film.
To revisit MARIENBAD today is to glimpse a vanished moment when American audiences drank in European films not because they were universal or ‘relatable,’ but for their otherness, their impenetrability, their defiant contrast to the simplistic and elephantine Technicolor epics that much of Hollywood was then embracing.
Resnais’s unerring gliding camera never falters. Its eloquence and grace are what give the sublime airlessness of MARIENBAD its sublimity.
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