Mood, Shadows and Wait, what? – A First Watch of Last Year at Marienbad

Last Year at Marienbad reeks of a “litmus test” movie. How is that?

It’s a movie where, when people look at it, they will do one of a few things:

1) Oh, that’s interesting! I should check that out!
2) WTF is this movie about?
3) Eww, black and white? Why would you watch that?
4) Eww, words? Why would you read a movie?

Then, let’s say someone decides to watch it. That’s when the most interesting results come from this test.

What do you think of the movie? How does it make you feel? – These are boilerplate answers for anyone who watches a movie.

The true questions regarding Alain Resnais’ odd yet alluring film is when you discect the film while not really even talking about it.

To talk about this film in regards to performance and story, key things that are tantamount to almost every film discussion, it would be missing the point of not only it’s true qualities, but of it’s mere importance since its release in 1961.

Sure, you can talk about whether A and X really met the previous year or what exactly M did to A would be, in a strange sense, rather pointless. In fact, the mere suggestion of its importance could be dismissed by the fact that the characters don’t actually have names. That’s right, those letters are the names of the principal characters.

No, talking about the quality of the film itself is merely a tipping point to what the film truly wants to discuss, which seems to be the need and importance of structure for mood and continuity.

Marienbad constantly cycles back and forth, whether it’s in different times, places, dreams or realities. And yet, after a first watch, to me it doesn’t even matter whether I understand the movie or not.

In fact, I’ll venture to guess that the writer and director doesn’t seem to care much either. That wasn’t the point.

So a question to truly be asked to someone who wants to watch this movie should be this: Do you have a lifetime to burn when it comes to talking about a singular movie?

Because asking if the movie is “good” or “watchable” or “a masterpiece” seems to be antithetical to the point of the movie itself.

And who am I, really, to say whether you should watch it or not? I firmly believe it’s quality is irrelevant to what the intention of the writer/director had, which is to have a deeper, more meaningful discussion about time, story and the meaning and relevancy of continuity.

So who am I to judge a movie on such simplistic terms?

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