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April 6 - 17, 2005

Alain Resnais

As one of the key Left Bank filmmakers of the French New Wave, Alain Resnais has become renowned for his politically engaged, elliptical works which frequently question the nature of time and memory in cinema. He has continued to explore these ideas throughout his career although his recent work has taken more audience-friendly forms. This retrospective presents a mix of some of the director’s most acclaimed early works as well as two recent forays into the genre of musical comedy.


April 6 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Hiroshima Mon Amour

Directed by Alain Resnais
France/Japan, 1959, b/w, 91 min.
With With Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada, Bernard Fresson
French with English subtitles

Resnais’s first feature film is greatly indebted to Marguerite Duras’s screenplay and is considered one of the finest films of the early French New Wave. Using a radically novel approach to expressing temporality through associative cuts that bridge the past and the present, Resnais presents the subjective point of view of a French woman who, haunted by her past during the war and filming an historical recreation of the atomic blast in Hiroshima, falls in love with a Japanese man.

April 13 (Wednesday) 9 pm

My American Uncle (Mon Oncle d’Amerique)

Directed by Alain Resnais
France, 1980, color, 126 min.
With With Gérard Depardieu, Nicole Garcia, Roger Pierre
French with English subtitles

Richard Roud characterized this work as “one of the greatest films about the human condition ever made.” The film’s engaging structure brings the theories of the French behavioral scientist Henri Laborit (who actually appears in the film to provide exegesis) together with the stories of three ordinary French citizens (each with a cinematic alter-ego): a Parisian actress, a media executive with political aspirations, and a farmer turned textile-plant director. Each responds to pressures, as Laborit’s theories would predict, through flight, struggle, or inhibition—and each takes solace in the hope that the proverbial “uncle” made good in America, and will come through to save the day. An unqualified commercial success, the film was awarded a special Critics’ Prize at Cannes.

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April 15 (Friday) 7 pm

Not on the Lips (Pas sur la bouche)

Directed by Alain resnais
France/Switzerland, 2003, color, 115 min.
With With Audrey Tautou, Isabelle Nanty, Sabine Azéma
French with English subtitles

A Parisian socialite marries an American businessman on a visit to the States but the marriage quickly falls apart. She need not worry as the union is not valid in her native France, leaving her free to wed a French metallurgist with very traditional ideas about matrimony. As farcical chance would have it, the metallurgist invites a prospective business partner to dinner one night, who just happens to be his wife’s ex-husband! Based on a 1925 operetta by lyricist Andre Barde and composer Maurice Yvai, the latest work from acclaimed director Alain Resnais is a charming, entertaining musical comedy and a far cry from the more sober works which established him as one of the major Left Bank filmmakers.

April 15 (Friday) 9 pm

Same Old Song

Directed by Alain Resnais
France/UK/Switzerland, 1997, color, 120 min.
With With Pierre Arditi, Sabine Azéma, Jan-Pierre Bacri
French with English subtitles

Resnais pays loving tribute to the late Dennis Potter (Pennies from Heaven, The Singing Detective) with his first foray in to the musical genre. Odile (Azéma), an upper class businesswoman, finds an escape from her humdrum marriage when an old flame (Bacri) returns. Meanwhile, her sister Camille (Agnès Jaoui) falls for a young realtor while caring for an older man with a passion for history. As in Potter’s work, characters burst into song by lip-syncing to works by Josephine Baker, Maurice Chevalier and Johnny Hallyday. The result is a thoroughly entertaining, romantic roundelay.

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April 16 (Saturday) 7 pm

Je t’aime, je t’aime

Directed by Alain Resnais
France, 1968, color, 91 min.
With With Claude Rich, Olga Georges-Picot, Anouk Ferjac
French with English subtitles

A poetic work of science fiction akin to Chris Marker’s La Jetée, Resnais’s film is a tightly wrought, mesmerizing exploration of memory and time. A man (Rich) is rescued from suicide by scientists and sent traveling in time, accompanied by a charming mouse who has been previously used in such experiments. The man becomes lost as fragmentary episodes from his past take over in a chaotic series of unordered events. Beautiful, tranquil, but increasingly menacing moments point to a love affair with a girl the man may or may not have killed.

Statues Also Die (Les Statues meurent aussi)

Directed by Alain Resnais and Chris Marker
France, 1950-53, b/w, 22 min.
French with English subtitles

This collaborative film, banned for more than a decade by French censors as an attack on French colonialism (and now available only in shortened form), is a deeply felt study of African art and the decline it underwent as a result of its contact with Western civilization. Marker’s characteristically witty and thoughtful commentary is combined with images of a stark formal beauty in this passionate outcry against the fate of an art that was once integral to communal life but became debased as it fell victim to the demands of another culture.

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April 16 (Saturday) 9 pm

La Guerre est finie

Directed by Alain Resnais
France, 1966, b/w, 122 min.
With With Yves Montand, Ingrid Thulin, Genevieve Bujold
French with English subtitles

One of Resnais’s most stylistically accessible and politically committed films, La Guerre est finie tells of an aging Spanish leftist (Montand) who travels between Paris and Spain as part of a clandestine group dedicated to the overthrow of the Franco regime. Emotionally torn between his long-established mistress (Thulin) and a young student (Bujold) and challenged by younger revolutionaries to realize that the center of the political struggle has moved away from him, he is forced to make choices about his life and his political ideals. A series of premonitions told in “flash forward” near the film’s conclusion make powerful statements about memory and aspiration, commitment and faith.

Guernica

Directed by Alain Resnais and Robert Hessens
France, 1950, b/w, 13 min.
French with English subtitles

Resnais made a number of creative documentaries on art in the late 1940s. This small but powerful film opens with a photograph of the destroyed town of Guernica, a casualty of the Spanish Civil War, and uses fragments of Picasso’s epic painting, together with other works by the artist and a passionate poetic text by Paul Éluard, to create a moving protest against war and a hymn to the possibilities of humanity. Characteristic elements of Resnais’s style are already in evidence in this early work: the use of editing to project a new vision of reality and the subtle and surprising interplay of images with a literary text.

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April 17 (Sunday) 7 pm

Providence

Directed by Alain Resnais
France/Switzerland, 1977, color, 107 min.
With With John Gielgud, Dirk Bogarde, Ellen Burstyn
English

In his first English-language production, Resnais employs a script by the British playwright David Mercer, an outstanding ensemble cast, and an effective score by Miklos Rozsa in a reflection on the creative process that rivals Marienbad in its audacious structure. A renowned but aging writer (Gielgud), facing illness and writer’s block, works through one mad night on a new novel as he reflects on his past and his fears, rendered in a pastiche of vivid imagery and sounds. The setting is a beautiful country house, which provides a counterpoint of calm to the writer’s turbulent mental world and the assortment of family members and acquaintances who impinge upon it.

April 17 (Sunday) 9 pm

Stavisky…

Directed by Alain Resnais
France/Italy, 1974, color, 120 min.
With With Jean-Paul Belmondo, François Périer, Anny Duperey
French and English with English subtitles

The Stavisky scandals were the S&L-gate of 1930s France. Resnais's film is about the downfall of a grandiose swindler, Alexandre Stavisky, and of an even grander swindle, the “tout va bien” image of prewar Europe as it rotted within. A financial pirate and theatrical entrepreneur, Stavisky manipulated both the surface frivolity and the government corruption. As a closing act, he flooded France with fake vouchers, which closed the banks, started riots and brought down the government. But Stavisky... is no biography; rather, it’s a delicately structured meditation on the past and on the fragility of beauty and time.

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