Alain Resnais: Wikis


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Alain Resnais
Born June 3, 1922 (1922-06-03) (age 87)
Vannes, Morbihan, Bretagne, France
Years active 1936 - present

Alain Resnais (born 3 June 1922, Vannes, Morbihan) is a French film director whose early works are often grouped within the New Wave or nouvelle vague film movement. Although he has had a long and fruitful career, Resnais is best known for three early works that deal with themes of memory and trauma: Night and Fog (1955), Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), and Last Year at Marienbad (1961).



Resnais began making films in the mid-1940s after completing his studies at Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (IDHEC). He made several short films during this time, such as Guernica (1950), based on the Picasso painting and the town and battle that inspired it. His seminal short Night and Fog (1955) was one of the first documentaries about the Jewish Holocaust. Resnais chose to approach the subject indirectly because he felt an excess of gruesome imagery might make the Holocaust seem unreal and incomprehensible to his viewers. Instead he chose to film the empty concentration camps as they appeared in the fifties and avoided using stock footage of the actual holocaust until the very end of the film. The form of the film was revolutionary at the time and has been imitated many times since.

Resnais's most famous feature films also use innovative techniques to explore the subjectivity of memory in dealing with past violence and horrors. He completed his first full-length film, Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959) with a script by novelist Marguerite Duras. It is a romantic drama about a young French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) appearing in an anti-war film in the rubble and reconstruction of the city of Hiroshima. She quickly begins a brief unstable affair with a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada). The affair brings to light the political and cultural tensions that underlie even their most personal experiences and memories. The film made use of flashbacks to explore her repressed memories of a German lover killed in World War 2 and the subsequent humiliation and captivity imposed on her by her family. This movie was a great success for Resnais, garnering him international fame and cementing his place in French cinema history.

In 1960 Resnais completed Last Year at Marienbad in partnership with writer (and later, filmmaker) Alain Robbe-Grillet. The film concerns a man known only as X who meets a woman named A at an old-fashioned European resort and attempts to convince her that they met there once before as lovers. In this Marienbad Resnais took his exploration of subjective memory to shockingly experimental lengths, creating an unstable reality that shifts fluidly along with its characters' perceptions. As X attempts to conveys to A his memories of their previous meeting the very landscape around them morphs rapidly from shot to shot as the memories he describes flood into the present moment. Similar scenes play out in different ambiguous versions, and the viewer is unable to ascertain whether X is a villain who actually raped A or a hero/lover who helps her to escape from a dystopic prison-like resort. Many believe the film to be loosely based on the novel, The Invention of Morel.

Resnais was a near contemporary, though not fully a member, of the French New Wave, the group of critics-turned-filmmakers that included François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. More precisely, Resnais belonged to the filmmaking and literary community of the Left Bank, which included Agnès Varda, Jacques Demy and other filmmakers and authors with a commitment to modernism and little debt to the American cinema.

He worked regularly during the 1960s and '70s. Although not especially prolific, he has nonetheless achieved great critical success. In the 1980s, he experienced a disappointment after the critical and box office failure of several films. With Smoking/No Smoking (1993), he once again achieved international critical and commercial success.

Now in his eighties, Resnais is still creating more cinematic output, most recently with Coeurs (2006, known as Private Fears in Public Places in North America).

Personal life

Resnais was married to Florence Malraux (the only daughter of the late French statesman André Malraux). His current companion is French actress Sabine Azéma, whom he married in Scarborough, North Yorkshire.


Many of his films were produced by Anatole Dauman and Argos Films who also produced films for other Left Bank film makers such as Chris Marker. He was also known for his collaborations with literary figures such as Alain Robbe-Grillet, Alan Ayckbourn and Marguerite Duras.




  • Wilson, Emma (2006) Alain Resnais. Manchester: Manchester University Press

External links



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