Time After Time: The Films of Alain Resnais

Muriel

Alain Resnais

The purest expression of Resnais' central theme — how the present is the prisoner of the past, can never elude its snares — Muriel is singled out by many critics (correctly!) as the director's masterpiece: Jean-Louis Comolli called it "Resnais' most beautiful film," and Godard loved it so much he featured its poster on a wall in Two or Three Things I Know About Her. A middle-aged widow (Delphine Seyrig) living in an antique-stuffed apartment in Boulogne summons her ex-lover (Jean-Pierre Kérien) from Paris. As she attempts to recapture the (illusory) happiness of their past, her stepson (Jean-Baptiste Thierrée) is driven to violence in a futile attempt to extinguish the memory of his actions as a soldier in the Algerian War. Filmed with what has been called "hallucinatory realism," scored with unnerving songs by German composer Hans Werner Henze, and acted with stylized intensity by Seyrig, Muriel "surpasses [the] better-known Last Year at Marienbad and Hiroshima mon amour … a subtle, precise, and wrenching film" (Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader).

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