Thursday, July 30, 2009

How to Be Funny and How to Laugh

Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
directed by Alain Resnais
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
on DVD at Banjo's

I fell asleep a lot in college, but never faster than when I went to a campus screening of Hiroshima, Mon Amour. To enjoy Last Year at Marienbad to its fullest, imagine the moment when Alain Resnais came across creepy snake charmer Sacha Pitoëff in a pile of French headshots at the casting agency. If one makes the sort of movie in which faces cast themselves, one can build an epic around a single sinister Sacha. Resnais does, but modestly, in a dreamlike, ever-funny fashion. The hotel, eventually, is full of ghosts, and each new tracking shot more unnerving than the last. But Pitoëff keeps the story moving, lurking at the edges, inviting some honest-to-goodness laughter in the most unexpected of places.