Some Time, Never
By ISABEL QUIGLY L'Annee derniere a Marien- bad. (Cameo-Poly.) RESPONSE to L'Annee der- niere a Marienbad (`U' certifi- cate) seems to me mostly a matter of temperament, not aesthetics. You are the sort of person this sort of thing appeals to or you aren't. You accept the idea of making a work of art that has no definable meaning, or rather is self-confessedly ambiguous and might mean anything at all, the joint authors of which don't agree on what, at a particular moment, they are saying; or you don't.
Me, I see that I'm not and I don't. 1 have brooded over what seems to me this pains- taking and pretty piece only to find it a tease and a nonsense; in fact, something of a monstrous legpull (which for all I know it may be). Of course, it has a kind of fascination, the fascination of any pleasantly devised puzzle, plenty of arguing points (every point, in fact, being arguable about in six different ways) and innumerable looking points, if you want a geo- metric view of life which you can jiggle, like a kaleidoscope, into any pattern you like.
Acres of newsprint have already been used in pointless discussion (absolutely, circularly point- less, since there is no point you can ever isolate and decide on, and no solution can ever be found, for none exists) about what is laughably called the action—whether a woman is meant to be talking to her analyst or an analyst de- scribing what he heard, whether a man is re- membering what happened or wishfully inventing what didn't, whether he, she and the lot of them are dead or not dead, real or unreal; and when you consider that even Alain Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet, director and script-writer, don't know and don't think it matters, were even angels-on-a-pin a bigger time-waster?
Not that this is the fault of the film's begetters, who clearly consider the action, in the sense of literal happenings, of quite secondary impor- tance. But here is where temperament breaks through and if, temperamentally, you are on the side of the humans, then if human passion and motive are being used at all you want to be able to believe in them and to care. In a sense the 'action,' what we see before us, takes place in a 'huge, luxurious, baroque hotel' filled with inmates who have the elaborate and unlikely chic of film extras. Accompanying what we see is a voice, persuasive, hypnotic, ruminant, telling what happened, or might have, or could have, in Marienbad last year between itself and a young woman (Delphine Seyrig), who now seems to be there but, of course, may not be.
No, I am not out for philistine fun at the expense of something obscure, confusing and apparently inconsequential. A film may be all these things, may shuffle time and place (what better than the cinema?) and explore the un- acknowledged connections between this and that, feeling, memory, intuition, attraction. My quarrel with L'Annee derniere a Marienbad is not that it tries to do things of the kind, but that it does them inefficiently and dishonestly. On its authors' admission, what happens has no mean- ing but a subjective one: think what you like, make of it what you please. You can explain this or that incident this or that way, take such a `cut' as you please or such a suggestion; make so and so out of a movement, a- change of clothes, a cry, out of anything you see. If you can please yourself so entirely about what it means, then there is not even a surrealist logic about it, a logic which obeys certain rules of human feeling even in dreams and which in the end, if you look long enough, makes even the most bizarre things explicable. Resnais thinks one thing, Robbe-Grillet another, one writes what the other photographs to contradict, and an elaborate card-castle of cinematic tricks is built up to mean and make so little you could weep for all the trouble they took.