Alain Resnais _________________________ France (1922- )



Influential French New Wave director whose infatuation with cinema dates back to his youth. At age fourteen, he made his first amateur 8mm film; he went on to study at the Institut des Hautes ètudes Cinémato- graphiques in Paris. Resnais's professional career began in the immediate postwar era when he made a series of short films, a number of which dealt with artists and artrelated subjects: Van Gogh (1948), which won an Academy Award, Gauguin and Guernica (both 1950).

During this period, he also shot and edited films for other directors. His documentary featurettes Night and Fog (1955), a chilling, landmark examination of German concentration camps, and Le Chant du Styrene (1958), a poetic look at a plastics factory (in widescreen, no less), demonstrated that he was ready for more ambitious projects. Resnais's first 35mm feature, Hiroshima, mon amour (1959). In 1946, he made a 16mm feature, Ouvert pour cause d'inventaire, which dealt with the nature of history and memory, and deviated from traditional notions of narrative time as it recounted a fleeting liaison between a French actress and Japanese architect. Its sexual candor and provocative ideas, wedded to a dazzlingly sophisticated visual style, made Hiroshima, Mon Amour the New Wave's The Birth of a Nation and it deservedly won the Cannes Film Festival International Critics Prize. Resnais's follow-up was Last Year at Marienbad (1961), in which a man encounters a woman at a resort, where they may or may not have previously met (and had an affair). The film, which further examined the nature of memory, was an elliptical, clever bit of cinematic conjuring that even today provokes widely divergent responses.

Resnais's directorial output since then has been spotty-he has made barely a dozen films-but his highly personal approach has always been in evidence. The political realities of 20th-century Europe, along with a continued concern with time and remembrance, were dealt with in Muriel (1963) and La Guerre est finie (1966), a portrait of a weary, aging Leftist which is arguably Resnais's richest film emotionally. Stavisky (1974), the biography of a Russian-Jewish swindler in 1930s France, was sparkling and intellectually engaging, showing Resnais at his peak. Providence (1977) was his first English-language effort, a stylish but muddled misfire about a dying novelist. Resnais was back in top form with Mon oncle d'Amerique (1980), in which he focuses on the intertwining connection among three individuals and, in so doing, scrutinizes human relations via the theories of the French research biologist Henri Laborit. He was equally compelling in Life Is a Bed of Roses (1983), his last important film to date, in which he continued to experiment with narrative structure by contrasting the stories of a wealthy count who constructs a "temple of happiness" during the 1920s and a symposium on alternative education at that site in the present day. Since Life Is a Bed of Roses Resnais's films have been far less engaging: L'Amour ê Mort (1984), Melo (1986), about a love triangle, I Want to Go Home (1989), scripted by cartoonist/playwright Jules Feiffer and starring playwright-lyricist Adolph Green (which for some reason was never released in the U.S.), and most recently, a matched pair of films, Smoking and No Smoking (1993). He also directed Gershwin (1992), a one-hour video tribute to George Gershwin, whose music he had featured in I Want to Go Home. Resnais has worked in collaboration with some of the top writers and intellectuals of his time, including Marguerite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jean Gruault, Jorge Semprun and Jean Cayrol. (Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia. Copyright © 1994 Leonard Maltin)


ON THE WEB


ARTICLES

Brown, Royal S. "Hiroshima mon amour." Cineaste 29.1 (Winter 2003): 75. 5 May 2004 (http://proquest.umi.com.authenticate.library.duq.edu/pqdweb?index=7&did=000000534708711& SrchMode=1&sid=2&Fmt=4&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1094608407& clientId=3262")

Mohsen, Caroline. "Place, memory, and subjectivity, in Marguerite Duras' Hiroshima Mon Amour. Romanic Review. 89.4 (Nov 1998): 567-83.5 May 2004 (http://proquest.umi.com.authenticate.library.duq.edu/pqdweb?index=9&did=000000043598023& SrchMode=1&sid=2&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS= 1094608407&clientId=3262)