Alain Resnais (1922 -2014)


Resnais: one of the masters, one of the great formalists who knew that form is only an extension of content (& vice-versa). Never repeated himself. Every movie (even if you didn’t like it, or if it wasn’t your favorite Resnais) a completely realized work of art & specific to its needs & processes. And the filmography is vast from shorts to documentaries to “fiction.” Check it out here.

Coming to his work in the early sixties, for the young European I was, it felt more accurate, searching, valuable, explorative than 99% of the literature coming out of France in those years — & that doesn’t just apply to the best-known ones, i.e.  Hiroshima mon amour (1959) & Last Year at Marienbad (1961) & their connections to the Nouveau Roman. Check out, for example, his collaborations with Chris Marker & Agnès Varda.

In 1960 he was a co-signer of the Manifesto of the 121, which protested against French colonial policy in Algeria. That war, and the difficulty of coming to terms with its horrors, was a central theme of his next film Muriel (1963), whose fractured narrative explored the mental states of its characters & was among the first French films to comment, even indirectly, on the Algerian experience.

Sat down yesterday afternoon & watched Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog) (1955) (a good part of it), followed by Mon oncle d’Amérique (My American Uncle) (1980). Two totally different, two totally stupendous films.

So sad, yet unhappily so normal & expected, that later last night, not one of the Hollywood luminaries as much as mentioned Resnais’s passing during the Oscar ceremonies.

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Pierre Joris

Pierre Joris is a poet, translator, essayist & anthologist who has published more than 50 books, most recently, Meditations on the Stations of Mansur al-Hallaj (poems) from Chax Press and The University of California Book of North African Literature (volume 4 in the Poems for the Millennium series), coedited with Habib Tengour. Exile is My Trade: A Habib Tengour Reader edited & translated by Joris, and Pierre Joris: Cartographies of the In-between, essays on Joris’ work edited by Peter Cockelbergh, came out in 2012. Forthcoming are Barzakh — Poems 2000-2012 (Black Widow Press) & Breathturn Into Timestead:The Collected Later Poems of Paul Celan (FSG).

3 opinions on “Alain Resnais (1922 -2014)”

  1. A quick question about Alain Resnais & Chris Marker’s Les Statues Meurent Aussi (Statues Also Die) – 1953 on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/embed/hzFeuiZKHcg
    Since my pidgin French gets me only so far, what is it about this that it was banned for so long?

    And if you need a Vietnam fix, Resnais’ and all the other directors parts of Loin du Vietnam certainly evince ‘nostalgia’.

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