Alain Resnais Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Alain Resnais 1922–

French director and actor.

A foremost filmmaker of the French New Wave, Resnais includes comic strips, Alfred Hitchcock, and Jerry Lewis among his influences. Fascinated with capturing the disjointed, yet fluid quality of time and memory, Resnais characteristically uses a non-narrative style and long tracking shots in his films.

Before directing, Resnais studied acting and editing at the Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques in Paris. His documentary experience commenced with several art films, Van Gogh, Guernica, and Gauguin, followed by a film on Nazi concentration camps, Nuit et Brouillard. Other short documentaries include studies of the plastics industry and the Bibliothèque Nationale. Resnais has often opted for collaboration with well-established writers. This, along with his taste for experimentation, formed the groundwork for his first feature, Hiroshima Mon Amour written by Marguerite Duras.

In L'Année dernière à Marienbad written with Alain Robbe-Grillet, Resnais shuns traditional plot in favor of focusing on psychological themes. This film is considered a milestone in the cinematic world. Jean de Baroncelli, called it the first cubist film, comparing it to Picasso's Les Demoiselles D'Avignon. Marienbad received limited popular acclaim, however, until it won the Great Golden Lion of the Venice Film Festival.

In La Guerre est Finie, Resnais sought to depict political reality. In addition, it was his first film concerning itself with a primary male character and the fusion of political and romantic lifestyles. Je t'aime je t'aime, on the other hand, represents a step into the science fiction world, telling the story of a man who must live his life twice. While examining the concept of time here, Resnais also had the opportunity to work with double imagery as a new form of narrative. Providence is his only attempt at comedy. However, Providence displays a strong Brechtian influence as well, and is generally considered to be Resnais's attempt to rediscover himself artistically.

Resnais's influence in the cinematic world has been chiefly noted of late in the new German cinema, whose exponents emulate his innovative forms of narrative. Though he is widely admired, he is not directly imitated; John Francis Kreidl said of Resnais, "There is no Resnaismania; he has no students because he is too difficult to copy; but he has become a sourcebook for the future."