Hiroshima Mon Amour (Alain Resnais / France-Japan, 1959):

Birth of the bomb and end of the affair, Alain Resnais shuffles the shards. ("Paint not the thing, but the effect it produces," says Mallarmé.) The essential image is from Viaggio in Italia, the dust covering the intertwined nude bodies is not Vesuvian ashes but glistening fallout, such is love after Hiroshima. The French actress "like a thousand women in one" (Emmanuelle Riva) and the Japanese soldier turned architect (Eiji Okada), murmurs over grievous footage: Twisted metal in the museum and charred children in the hospital, she’s seen them all, "rien" is his repeated retort. A one-night stand unspools the trauma that’s accumulated since 1945, a twitch of a hand is enough to cause a split-second memory to jab her consciousness like a needle. (Punishment and madness following a fling with a German soldier comprise her own tragedy back in Nevers, the Liberation is glimpsed through a grilled cellar window.) Therapy time in the tea room: "Why deny the obvious necessity of remembering?" Shock, fear, indifference, fear of indifference, the progression of modernity. Marguerite Duras has the blueprint, a pas de deux of anguish and desire to be recited in a daze. Resnais uses this libretto to shift the very skin of film: Tracking shots and parallel montage in continuous play, the up-angle camera glides through phosphorescent streets and cuts to Manet vistas, a heterogeneity of styles lays bare the tangle of mind and history. "A time will come when we can no longer name what it is that binds us" (cp. Losey’s La Truite). The idyllic French countryside comes equipped with a dungeon for collaborators, Japan is an impassive crone wedged between the two lovers on a bench. A most chic Guernica, sumptuously abstract and visceral, a sonata by Delerue and Fusco. "Dime-store romance, I consign you to oblivion." Rendezvous at the Casablanca café, Jung and Schrödinger, "difficult music heard for the first time" (Beckett). Roeg, Wong and Soderbergh take its lessons to heart, five decades later Resnais turns the verdure on the scorched ground into a madcap emblem (Wild Grass). Cinematography by Sacha Vierny and Michio Takahashi. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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