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Last Year at Marienbad(1961)
In a huge, old-fashioned luxury hotel a stranger tries to persuade a married woman to run away with him, but it seems she hardly remembers the affair they may have had (or not?) last year at Marienbad...
For more about Last Year at Marienbad and the Last Year at Marienbad Blu-ray release, see Last Year at Marienbad Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 11, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Delphine Seyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoeff, Françoise Bertin, Jean Lanier, Gilles Quéant
Director: Alain Resnais
» See full cast & crew
Last Year at Marienbad Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 11, 2009
Alain Resnais' hugely controversial "Last Year at Marienbad" (1961) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The transfer for this release has been personally supervised and approved by the French director. As requested by him, in addition to the newly restored uncompressed monaural track, Criterion have also provided the original unrestored track. Amongst the supplemental features on the disc are a new audio interview with director Resnais, recorded exclusively for this release, as well as two of his most well known documentaries - "Toute la memoire du monde" (1956) and "La chant du styrene" (1958). Region-A "locked".
A chic European hotel. A man (Giorgo Albertazzi, The Merchant of Venice) meets a beautiful woman (Delphine Seyrig, Blood on the Lips) and the two begin talking. The man insists that he once had an affair with the woman. He tells her how they met at Marienbad, what they did and how they parted ways.
The woman is puzzled. She does not know the man and is certain that they have never met before. But the man seems to know a lot about her; much of what he utters is true. Who is he? Is it possible that they met and she forgot about him? Is it possible that they had an affair? She does not believe the man and walks away.
The man follows the woman. He tells her more about their affair. He even explains how they agreed to meet a year after they parted ways. The man also mentions a shooting. Something bad, the man cannot recall exactly what happened. Does the woman remember? No, she does not.
In a secluded corner of the hotel, another man, who has been observing the woman from afar, lures its guests into a card game he insists they could never win. The game - a series of cards displayed in a certain way are to be removed; the loser always gets the last card - attracts many, but no one ever wins against the man.
Scripted by French writer Alain Robbe-Grillet (La Jalousie), Alain Resnais' L'Annee Derniere a Marienbad a.k.a Last Year at Marienbad (1961) is the quintessential art film. It is perplexingly beautiful, impressively maddening and impossible to fully deconstruct.
Last Year at Marienbad is also a bold exercise in form. Director Resnais intentionally emphasized form over narrative - contrary to what the Nouvelle Vague promoted - which confused immensely those who at the time had praised and embraced the fresh straightforwardness and elegant simplicity of Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows (1959) and Jean-Luc Godard's Band of Outsiders (1964). As a result, Last Year at Marienbad effectively split audiences and critics into two groups ï¿½ one immediately proclaiming that cinema had finally evolved into an art form and another dismissing the film as a pretentious pseudo-intellectual drivel.
Both groups, however, agreed that Last Year at Marienbad conveyed impressive style. The chic looking hotel, its elegantly dressed guests, as well as the beautiful camerawork separated Last year at Marienbad from practically every other film made at the time.
Last Year at Marienbad is comprised of a number of different segments that belong to a larger story. It is practically impossible, however, to align them in a manner that successfully reveals the mystery surrounding He and She. At best, one could speculate about their relationship.
One of the more interesting segments from Last Year at Marienbad is focused on a card game. A man appears and announces that when he plays cards he never loses. Throughout the film, the man is seen observing She from afar, which some have interpreted as a sign that he is somehow related to her. Others, however, have insisted that he represents something far more sinister.
This permanent sense of uncertainty is what makes Last Year at Marienbad a film impossible to forget. While viewing it, one is slowly immersed into a constant game of guessing with endless possibilities.
Last Year at Marienbad Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
As noted in the booklet provided with this package, the transfer for the Blu-ray release has been personally supervised and approved by Alain Resnais. Additionally, "the new high-definition transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm fine-grain master positive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, and Digital Vision's advanced DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction."
I decided to provide the small description above so that people could have a good understanding of what the Blu-ray transfer represents. A couple of days ago, I was forwarded an interesting statement that very much questioned the new look of the film, so hopefully those who have already critiqued the transfer, without seeing it, will now have a better grasp of what is what.
This being said, Criterion's transfer is exceptionally strong and very convincing. Contrast is impeccable, clarity excellent and detail as good as I hoped it would be. The color-scheme is also terrific - the blacks are lush and well saturated, the whites gentle and natural looking, and the variety of grays well toned. As implied above, the transfer is in a remarkably healthy condition - I did not detect any debris, specks, scratches, or dirt to report in this review. All in all, this is yet another fantastic release by Criterion.
I would also like to quickly comment on how the Criterion Blu-ray release compares to the R2 Optimum DVD release. First, if you see both, you should immediately be able to tell that Criterion's transfer has been cleaned up dramatically -- there are hundreds of tiny specks and dots on the Optimum release that could be rather annoying. Second, the color-scheme on the Criterion release is substantially stronger. Third, fine detail is an issue of concern on the Optimum release, but not on the Criterion transfer. Finally, the Criterion transfer is stabilized while the Optimum transfer isn't.
Last Year at Marienbad Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As requested by Alain Resnais, Criterion have supplied two audio tracks - a newly restored French uncompressed monaural track and the original, unrestored, French mono track (please take a moment to read the tiny note provided at the very end of the booklet supplied by Criterion, which explains why the French director made the request).
I chose to watch Last Year at Marienbad with the newly restored French track (however, I will likely revisit the film soon using the unrestored track) and wasn't disappointed. As noted by Criterion, the monaural soundtrack was remastered from 24-bit from a 35mm optical soundtrack print. For the restored version, clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using the Pro Tools HD system.Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated audio workstation.
Obviously, the results are spectacular. The dialog is crisp, clear and exceptionally easy to follow. I did not detect any balance issues to report in this review either. Additionally, the haunting soundtrack is remarkably potent (and far more convincing than that heard on the Optimum DVD release - if you own the DVD, make sure that you compare it to the Blu-ray). Finally, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
Last Year at Marienbad Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Alain Resnais Audio Interview - Filmmaker Francois Thomas, author of L'atelier d'Alain Resnais, conducted this rare in-depth audio interview with the French director exclusively for the Criterion Collection in 2008. Here, Alain Resnais talks about his encounter with Alain Robbe-Grillet, their instant attraction to each other, how Last Year at Marienbad was initially envisioned, etc. With optional English subtitles. (1080p, 33 min).
Unraveling The Enigma: The Making Of Marienbad - In this new documentary, many of Alain Resnais' collaborators - including his assistant directors Jean Leon and Volker Schlondorff, script girl Sylvette Baudrot, and production designer Jacques Saulnier - reflect on their work with the legendary director. Volker Schlondorff's comments in particular are quite interesting. With optional English subtitles. (1080p, 33 min).
Ginette Vincendeau on Last Year at Marienbad - Alain Resnais' film has been viewed as both cinematic genius and intellectual nonsense, and everything in between. In this interview, film scholar Ginette Vincendeau discusses the various interpretations of the film and elucidates for its mysteries. Her elaboration on the speculative notion of Last Year at Marienbad being a film about a rape victim is fascinating. In English. (1080p, 23 min).
Two documentaries by Alain Resnais: Toute la memoire du monde (1080i, 21 min) and Le chant du styrene (1080p, 14 min) - Alain Resnais began his career making documentaries, the most famous of which is his 1955 film Night and Fog. The two documentaries offered on this Blu-ray disc were made in the late 50s. Toute la memoire du monde (1956) is a poetic piece about the French national library in Paris and the archiving of memory that looks forward to his later films Hiroshima mon amour and Last Year at Marienbad. La chant du styrene (1958), commissioned by Societe Pechiney, was shot in the Pechiney polystyrene factories and features boldly abstract color images and voice-over text by Raymond Queneau.
Trailers - Subtitled in English (1080i)
Booklet - Criterion have supplied a 46-page booklet containing Mark Polizzottiï's essay "Which Year at Where" (The author has written eight books, including Revolution of the Mind: The Life of Andre Breton. He is director of publications and intellectual property at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), "So Close. So Far Away: Alain Robbe-Grillet and Last Year at Marienbad", "Robbe-Grillet Introduction to the Screenplay", and "The Myth of Perfect Harmony" by Francois Thomas (L'atelier d'Alain Resnais and Orson Welles at Work).
Last Year at Marienbad Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It is difficult for me not to be overly excited about Criterion's June releases. After their spectacular treatment of Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, I was very much looking forward to see what they have done with Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad. Once again, I am utterly impressed. Folks, this is exactly what we want to see on Blu-ray - fantastic films with fantastic transfers. Very Highly Recommended.
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• Today on Blu-ray - June 23rd - June 23, 2009
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