Rendezvous with Resnais

Inside Criterion / Tech Corner — Dec 11, 2008

Technical director Lee Kline, just back from Paris, where he worked on Last Year at Marienbad with Alain Resnais, reports:

I was a little nervous to show Alain Resnais our new transfer of Marienbad, but I pushed hard to have him come into Scanlab, one of the very good French labs we use. It was important that this film look right on video, and I needed some guidance. As it turned out, he couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful. We watched the whole film together in HD, and he definitely wanted it to be brighter and less contrasty. Before he came in, I had been going in the other direction, since the print I viewed appeared to have a fair amount of contrast. But Resnais was clear that it should not be a very cold-looking film, and he liked going from dark to light very dramatically. The added contrast was only taking away from the needed warmth. As for the overexposed footage, we nailed that one right on the head.

We talked about picture restoration, and he’s good with cleaning up the film as needed. For audio, though, he really wants to have a track that’s unrestored on the DVD, one closer to what people would have heard in theaters back in the sixties. He has suggested doing two tracks—one unrestored, the other restored—and letting people choose. He’s fine with putting in a card that says why there is a choice.

He signed his name several times for me, and I have a few sheets of paper with different choices. I promised to show him everything before we put out the DVD, so he really knew what he was approving! He would like a DVD of the movie to see the final grading.

Resnais is a very dapper man—he was dressed in a bright red shirt, dark tie, and what appeared to be a long Moncler puffy overcoat. His English is great, and he’s looking forward to the interview next week. He purchased many Criterion laserdiscs back in the day and hated VHS. Earlier I happened to be working in the same room on In the Realm of the Senses—a slightly awkward film to be color correcting. Resnais saw a few minutes of it, and I jokingly told him, “I hope we haven’t made the organs too magenta.” He just smiled.