Saturday, September 4, 2010

Last Year At Marienbad (1961) On Further Review

Today is the first day of Labor Day weekend, and we're going to do something a little different. This weekend, and indeed this week, we're going to look at some critically acclaimed and some critically crucified films, and take a second look at them. We're calling this our BELABORED DAY week of films because the films we're looking at have been argued as great, or bad, past the point they deserve. We're going to look at these films and argue that perhaps they are not as good, or as bad, as people say they are. This is also the start of a series we're calling On Further Review, since in talking about films that are under-appreciated, we've come to realize that there are films on the other side which are just wildly over-appreciated. Some of the pieces will go into detail as to why the film isn't all the great and others (Thursday's Troll 2 ) are just pleas for reason.

First up, one of the most mentioned films from the French New Wave, Last Year At Marienbad:

The ultimate love it or hate it film.

The ultimate art film.

Probably best described in the words of the trailer as being a film that the audience makes up and puts together from the fragments that the film gives you. Its a puzzle film of sorts.

Its a stunningly beautiful film.

Odds are you'll either love its obtuseness and have an explanation for it all, or you'll find it a crashing bore and one of the silliest films you've ever seen.

Personally I find the film great to look at, but it puts me to sleep.

The plot has a man meet a woman at a hotel and tell her that they met the previous year, and that at her insistence agreed to run away together. She doesn't remember but he insists and tells her what happened. The question is; did it?

Repeated dialog, long tracking shots, people standing in posed positions, jumps through time and space (watch the clothes), meaningful voice overs...everything you think of when you think of art films is here in spades.

Does it work?

Your guess is as good as mine since I see why some people love it, and I understand why people hate it...even where it's good it's awfully pretentious twaddle.

I'm kind of wondering who this was made for, since it's clearly so "artistic" as to be kind of silly. Actually the film is the sort of thing that could have only been made in France during the height of the French New Wave. I mean that both as slap at it, because it made the film full of real pretentiousness, and a compliment because I admire its audacity, and no one since the French New Wave would have been ballsy enough to try it.

I know you're wondering, why is this a Further Review film if I'm fence sitting. It's a Further Review film exactly BECAUSE I'm on the fence. I'm taking the position that the film is neither as great nor as horrendous as the vast majority of people say it is. I think this is a film that rests a little bit in both camps.

Ultimately it's a film that you'll have to piece together and figure out for yourself since that's what the film is about anyway...after all it says so in the trailer...

Try it, just to see how it plays out in your head.

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