Friday, 20 August 2010

I Loved The Taste Of Blood Since I Tasted Yours.

I derive joy from simple pleasures. Like knowing that what is often thought of as the pioneering film of the French New Wave, Hiroshima, Mon Amour, was nominated for an Oscar. Strange it wasn't nominated for Foreign Language film (though that may well have to do with the submissions procedure), but for Best Original Screenplay for Marguerite Duras. Of course it lost (to Billy Wilder's The Apartment, which took home Best Picture also), but it did get a BAFTA (the UN Award - what the?)

Alain Resnais' 1959 masterpiece was widely acclaimed, coming around the same time as Fran├žois Truffaut's The 400 Blows and just before Jean-Luc Godard's seminal A bout de souffle. Resnais brought in the jump cut between memory and present, as well as keeping his story of love in another country very simple. He (credited on as Luis but given no name in the film, played by Eiji Okada) is an architect in Hiroshima, who was on active duty when the bomb hit, but whose family all lived in the city at the time. She (similarly, her name is Elle, played by Emmanuelle Riva) is an actress in Hiroshima for 36 hours only. The two begin a passionate affair despite the fact that they are each otherwise married. But the film doesn't focus on the words these two speak of and too each other so much as what is said about the city. It is almost as though Resnais and Duras are attempting to heal the damage done fourteen years earlier, using love as the bandaid. And it is beautiful. As the film progresses it seems entirely plausible that their feelings could possibly undo all of the damage bestowed upon the city.

Of course it can't, and in the final scene, which heavily references Casablanca, it becomes apparent that all good things must come to an end. But, like Casablanca, the memories will last a lifetime - they may not have started a beautiful friendship, but they will forever hold in their hearts the few hours they spent in carnal embrace, discussing the world and their names as cities.

The Japanese sections in particular were beautifully captured by Michio Takahashi (the French segments captured as flashback and memory by She were shot by Sacha Vierny), and the whole film wove its way into my consciousness like not many can. Resnais' crafting of the structure, and the way it was all cut together by a team, gave it a freshness that still holds firm fifty years later. The realness that somehow permeates through the artifice of the medium is striking - I do think it strange that the jumpcutting in this film and in A bout de souffle in fact seem to be the realest ways to portray humanity, despite the almost Brechtian selfawareness they by nature have.

It is a beautiful example of how simple cinema can be whilst saying absolute volumes. There is a good reason why this film is held up somewhere near the pinnacle of film. This is a film I look forward to revisiting time and time again, as I'm sure that every time something new shall shine through. 5 stars.

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