Monday, 30 November 2009


Marguerite Duras was an unusual character in French cinematic history, a writer and director who repeatedly sought to challenge the whimsies and romantic flutters frequently associated with French films. She is perhaps best known for writing Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), a daring nouvelle vague romance which earned her an Oscar nomination and a special award at Cannes. This pithy oddity begins in the gardens of a hotel, populated by just two men and two women. Max is a professor who struggles to express his philosophies and bores most of his students, save his timid wife, Alissa. Max spends much of the film in pursuit of Elisabeth, a disconsolate woman sensitive to the world outside the hotel. Alissa, in the meantime, finds an admirer in the portly Stein, a voyeur who watches her nightly as she has sex with Max. Frequently, the soundtrack and image separate, leaving dialogue to run over into other scenes.

The film is clearly very personal – all of the characters appear to have aspirations of becoming writers, and the title most likely refers to Duras herself. It may then be no coincidence that, despite her attempts to remove the dialogue of charisma or fluidity, she has created an intriguing character in Alissa. Initially, Alissa appears vulnerable, forgettable; a simple asset of Max’s success. But before long, it becomes clear that, perhaps unconsciously, much of the film surrounds this woman’s effects on the group dynamic. Interesting but grating – a dehydrated reincarnation of Last Year At Marienbad.

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