It’s often said that there’s never been a movie quite like Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad. But in paying tribute to this French New Wave landmark on the occasion of its release in Criterion DVD and Blu-ray editions, some critics have noted that its unique style has been so influential on other films that it now might seem . . . strangely familiar.
This “graceful, haunting movie puzzle . . . , photographed in widescreen black and white by the great Sacha Vierny,” has “a visual texture that has exerted an influence over everything from Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations to Ridley Scott’s commercials,” writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times. And in his Los Angeles Timesreview, Dennis Lim adds to the list of descendants of this “sumptuous . . . unrivaled conversation starter”: “You can detect its imprint in the death-haunted reverie of Chris Marker’s La Jetée, the mazelike structures of Peter Greenaway’s puzzle-box films, the sinister corridors of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and David Lynch’s Inland Empire.” (TheL’s Cullen Gallagher also picks up on that Kubrick connection.)
IFC’s Michael Atkinson, however, sticks with the source, writing that “Resnais’ saturnine masterpiece remains exactly the film experience it was originally intended to be: a dream inside a puzzle inside a story that never actually takes place. Is there a better, more eloquent way to define movies?” And Time puts it most simply, on its “Short List of Things to Do”: “It’s still ravishing, confounding, and fun.”
Related: At Paste, Sean Gandert takes a closer look at Resnais’ documentary shorts legacy, specifically two works featured on Criterion’s Last Year at Marienbad editions: Toute la mémoire du monde and Le chant du styrène.
Update (15 JUL 09): Critic John Powers appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air to review Last Year at Marienbad. Click here to listen.