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Last Year in 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 in Marienbad and the Last Year in Marienbad Blu-ray release, see Last Year in Marienbad Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on October 5, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Alain Resnais
Writer: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Starring: Delphine Seyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoeff, Françoise Bertin, Jean Lanier, Gilles Quéant
» See full cast & crew
Last Year in Marienbad Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, October 5, 2009
Alain Resnais' "Last Year at Marienbad" (1961) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. Amongst the supplemental features on the disc are a lovely introduction by film scholar Ginette Vinendeau, "In The Labyrinth of Marienbad" by Luc Lagier, "Alain Robbe-Grillet" by Frederic Compain, "Toute la memoire du monde" (1956), "La chant du styrene" (1958) and more. With optional English, German, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish and Japanese subtitles. Region A/B.
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 in 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 British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
This is a strong transfer that comes extremely close to the one director Resnais approved for the Criterion Region-A release of his film. Contrast is very good, clarity superb and detail strong. The color-scheme is as good as that of the Criterion release - the blacks are lush and well saturated while the whites are gentle and natural looking. There are all sorts of lovely grays as well.
Generally speaking, edge-enhancement is not a serious issue of concern. I spotted its presence a couple of times, but, once again, I am absolutely certain that the overwhelming majority of you won't be bothered by it. Macroblocking is nowhere to be seen.
There are absolutely no stability issues. When blown through a digital projector, Last Year at Marienbad remains tight around the edges. This being said, I share the opinion that there are certain scenes that look slightly better on the Criterion release. The grain, as revealed by our screencaptures, is fully intact.
Finally, I am going to grade this transfer as a 4 instead of 5 only because I spotted a few minor flecks popping up here and there that I did not see on the Criterion release (obviously, the U.S. distributors have thoroughly cleaned up their transfer). Still, this is one mighty impressive transfer that makes me very excited about the future films we are going to see introduced via the Studio Canal Collection. (Note: This disc is coded for Regions A and B. Therefore, in order to access its content, you must have a native Region-A, native Region-B, or Region-Free player. Please note that there is PAL content preceding the main menu).
Last Year in Marienbad Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray release: French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. I viewed the film with the original French track.
I could not hear much of a difference between the French LPCM 1.0 track found on the Criterion release and the French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track this release arrives with. The dialog is as crisp, clear and easy to follow as it is on the LPCM 1.0 track. The lack of mild background noise/hiss is where the Criterion release is a step ahead of this one. Still, I have no major reservations here whatsoever. For the record, Optimum Home Entertainment have provided optional English, German, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish and Japanese subtitled for the main feature. When turned on, they split the image frame and the black bar below it.
Last Year in Marienbad Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Introduction - film scholar Ginette Vinendeau offers a lovely introduction for Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad that is quite similar in spirit to the one she did for the Criterion Blu-ray release. In English with optional French, German, Dutch and Japanese subtitles. (19 min. 480/60i).
Short Film 1 - "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. The film also appears on the Criterion Blu-ray release. In French with optional English, German, Dutch and Japanese subtitles. (14 min, 1080p).
Short Film 2 - "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". The film also appears on the Criterion Blu-ray release. In French with optional English, German, Dutch and Japanese subtitles. (23 min, 1080p).
Alain Robbe-Grillet - a fascinating documentary by Frederic Compain focusing on the history of Resnais' film. In French with optional English, German, Dutch and Japanese subtitles. The documentary does not appear on the Criterion release. (49 min, 480/60i).
In The Labyrinth of Marienbad - a film by Luc Lagier deconstructing the film's complex narrative. In French with optional English, German, Dutch and Japanese subtitles. The film does not appear on the Criterion release. (34 min, 480/60i).
Trailer - the original Studio Canal trailer. With optional English subtitles. (4 min, 480/60i).
BD-Live Functionality -
Booklet - a 20-page booklet with information about the film.
Last Year in Marienbad Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Region-B folks: Buy with confidence! Optimum Home Entertainment's Blu-ray release of Alain Resnais's Last Year at Marienbad looks lovely. There are also some excellent supplemental features on it that do not appear on the Criterion release. Yes, I am now very much looking forward to see what other films will be introduced via the Studio Canal Collection. Things are looking very good! Very Highly Recommended.
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Last Year in Marienbad Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Studio Canal Collection Gets Detailed - September 16, 2009
Our British mates of DVD Times have listed the full release details of seven titles that Optimum Home Entertainment is releasing on Blu-ray on September 28 under the "Studio Canal Collection": 'Belle de jour', 'The Deer Hunter', 'The Elephant Man', 'Last Year In ...
• Optimum Unleashes Blu-ray Deluge - June 2, 2009
Optimum Home Entertainment has added nearly forty catalog titles to its Blu-ray schedule, for release between July and September 2009. Titles run the gamut of genres, from Hong Kong martial arts to European arthouse classics, and more Luc Besson than you can ...
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