Many Years Ago at Marienbad

DATELINE: Classic Movie Requires Another View


The amazing classic French “art” film called Last Year at Marienbad was a tremendous influence on TV commercials. It was too esoteric to do much else for dumb audiences.

Well, the film has been re-mastered—and is stunning to see. The rococo corridors we saunter for long ambling walks are fresh with elegant details.

The narrator with ennui seems even more parfait for the job. And, you cannot find a more stylized actress than Delphine Seyrig. She couldn’t follow up this act with any other film performance, which is a career defining acting job.

You soon are staggered by the actors who wander the hallways making the same comments repeatedly. They never blink. It is rather disconcerting, but Resnais never let them blink in a scene, and most of the time they are moving at a snail’s pace.

We loved the cameo of Alfred Hitchcock to set the tone in the first 15 minutes.

Is it Marienbad or Frederiksbad? The grounds outside the hotel are so bizarre as to fit the nature of the tale.

And, the tale is a ghost story. Long before Stephen King took us to a Colorado haunt, the Marienbad location is even more horrific without one shred of blood. However, there are mysterious deaths. Who shot whom? And who fell off the balustrade?

The game with matchsticks is maddening—and fate.

The characters often refer to seeing phantoms or not being alive. Well, yes, they are all dead, reliving that hideous season when the lake frozen over in 1928, or was it 1929? They have lost track of time for good reason. They keep reliving every creepy moment.

This is a hypnotic and truly overwhelming movie that will be beyond the attention-deficit audiences of today. Watch in small doses. You will fall back under its influence almost immediately—and you will re-live every moment at Marienbad forever. Years will not matter.







Last Year at Carnival of Marienbad Souls

DATELINE:  Great Films Cross Paths

Last Year at Marienbad & Carnival of Souls on a Double Bill

Comparing two films released in mid-1962 may not be unusual.

The films come from different ends of the spectrum: one was made as a low-budget psychological horror film about death and ghosts—and the other was a high-end art film made in Europe by intellectuals.

Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls used the backdrop of an abandoned amusement park in the salt flats of Utah—and Alan Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad featured the elegant milieu of a notable spa and hotel grounds. Each found the setting to be most unsettling.

Delphine Seyrig and Candace Hilligoss are beautiful, detached women caught up in a maddening free-fall into the world of spirit and nightmare. Each faces a dance of death: Hilligoss seeing the zombies waltzing in slow motion in a pavilion of yesteryear, and Seyrig’s waltz is in a slow motion ballroom of high society.

As both films were released nearly simultaneously in the spring of 1962, it is doubtful they knew of the other using a similar means to portray a traumatic event.

One film, artfully if not coyly, refuses to settle the score and claim it is about ghosts—and the other uses supernatural to convey the frightful experience. Neither film resorts to cheap theatrics and special effects. You are cast into a nightmare by following the journey to its end.

Each film has run its parallel course to cult status, admired and praised by all too few viewers. It has been fifty years since the movies came to the attention of audiences—one at drive-ins on double bills, and the other in lost art houses of foreign motion pictures.

Each deserves your attention repeatedly.