Alain Resnais’ Toute la mémoire du monde

Short Takes — Jun 3, 2013

Before he radically transformed narrative cinema with such nonlinear masterpieces as Hiroshima mon amour and Last Year at Marienbad, the French New Wave icon Alain Resnais, who turns ninety-one today, began his career experimenting with cinematic form in short documentaries. The best known of these is probably the epochal 1955 Holocaust film Night and Fog, but the director also made a number of other gorgeous poetic ruminations on the ineffable. To honor M. Resnais on his birthday, we’re posting his evocative 1956 short Toute la mémoire du monde, which is both a look at the inner workings of the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris and a meditative piece about the fragility of human memory and the ways in which we try to shore it up—which would remain favorite themes of Resnais’. This beautiful film—featuring cinematography by Ghislain Cloquet (Au hasard Balthazar) and music by Maurice Jarre (Lawrence of Arabia)—was included on Criterion’s release of Last Year at Marienbad, now out of print.

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