Melbourne Cinematheque: The Garden of Forking Paths: The films of Alain Resnais

26 Apr

We head back to Europe at this week’s cinematheque with Alain Resnais being the focus for the next three weeks. The left-bank French director has been influential since the 1950s, focusing first on short films and documentaries, and later on feature films. Cinematheque has chosen to highlight the first twenty-five years of Resnais’s career with the first screening including Hiroshima Mon Amour, Nuit et Brouillard and La Guerre est Finie.

Nuit et Brouillard (Night and Fog) (1955) is perhaps one of Resnais’s best known documentaries. Running for only 32 minutes it is a look at the Nazi death camps, combining black and white stills and archival footage with colour images shot in 1955 with narration by actor Michel Bouquet. Originally censored in France, the film was written and composed by Holocaust survivors Jean Cayrol and Hanns Eisler, respectively.

Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) is Resnais first feature film and explores the relationship a French actress has with a Japanese architect. Dispersed within this story line are miniature flashbacks to the actresses past relationship with a German WWII soldier creating a decidedly nonlinear narrative. As well as this use of flashback and juxtaposition of relationships and war is the use of narration between the two main characters, She (Emmanuelle Riva) and Him (Eiji Okada) which is rigidly structured and repetitive.

To end the night is the Oscar nominated La Guerre est Finie (The War is Over) (1966) which follows a man and his fight against the Franco regime in Spain. Yet this man- played by Yves Montard and going by three different names in the film- is weary with the realisation that he is fighting for a lost cause and running for his life.

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