Monday, February 25, 2008

Rearranging the pieces of life

Lame-ass headline aside ("He Was Nouveau When It Was New"... oh, NYT editors, you're so damn clever), it's a good overview of Robbe-Grillet's work as a writer. The later section of the piece examines the influence of Last Year at Marienbad, his '62 collaboration with Alain Resnais, which is well worth tracking down -- that is, if you have a taste for 60s-era arty-farty films. Marienbad (as well as Resnais' earlier film Hiroshima mon amour), is basically the modern template for the pretentious art film, but if you're game, there are few better pieces of willfully demanding art to surrender yourself to.
A dreamlike, fragmented narrative, “Last Year at Marienbad” opened in New York in 1962. The style, “with its use of glamorous, glazed-looking actors framed in mannerist poses within the glittering, implicitly decadent mirrored salons of a luxe European hotel, may no longer dazzle audiences that have seen it cribbed (and spoofed) by countless perfume ads and rock videos,” Mark Harris wrote in The New York Times last month. But its “nightmarishly looping, repetitive semi-narrative, drenched in incantatory voice-over and toxically discordant organ music, is as disturbing as ever and retains its power to frustrate anybody who hopes to shake loose some answers after 93 minutes.”

In an interview, P. Adams Sitney, a Princeton film professor, called the film “an extremely abstract version” of Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” in which a woman “disappears and maybe dies and yet transmographies into the land of the Nouveau Roman.” In his view, “the combination of Robbe-Grillet’s literary prestige and the innovative nature of ‘Marienbad’ was perfect for that moment in the history of taste.”

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