Last Year at Marienbad is a bizarre, utterly challenging French film, made in 1961 by director Alain Resnais, from a script by legendary (and very controversial) experimental writer Alain Robbe-Grillet. Endlessly repeating imagery from a narrative about a relationship that may or may not have happened (sounds imaginary), within the realm of astonishing architecture and using compelling avant-garde music, actors Delphine Seyrig, Alberto Albertazzi, and Sacha Pitoeff bring Robbe-Grillet's odd combination of surrealism, minimalism, and disturbed romanticism to life.
They used to read Robbe-Grillet's fiction over French radio to laugh at it, but somehow Resnais reached into his work and beautifully translated it for film. It will still exasperate many, but the works of David Lynch and Guy Maddin and any knowledge of their canon will make Last Year at Marienbad far more accessible now than it would have been when released over forty years ago.
Last Year at Marienbad is about to do its week-long revival run at McCaw Hall at the Seattle Center (also known as the SIFF Theater).
Is it a good date film? Yes, strangely enough — the endless scenes of beautiful people doing weird things (or not doing weird things, maybe doing weird things) over and over is sublime. You may laugh, you may settle deep into its enfolding, almost smothering alien sensuality, but you will have plenty to talk about once the lights go up and you head out for drinks or coffee.
Thanks to SIFF for bringing this influential, exasperating work back to Seattle through next week!