KimStim and Kino are shedding much needed (and highly desired) light on the career of French auteur Alain Resnais by making a quartet of his 1980s movies available on home video for the first time. Known primarily for a pair of arthouse classics, Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959) and Last Year at Marienbad (1961), and the short concentration camp documentary Night and Fog (1954), Resnais’s filmography is spread out over the course of 70+ years — and the octogenarian auteur’s latest film is set to premier at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. But while most of us have to wait for Les herbes folles until it screens over here (a New York Film Festival hopeful?), in the meantime we have these four 80s flicks to remind us of his singularly poetic sensibility.
Jean-Pierre Melville’s name evokes images of fedoras and lengthy trench coats billowing like church robes. In appropriating iconic symbols of American gangster films, Melville created his own world, in which hardboiled mythologies meshed with the philosophical concerns of post-World War II France. But after several films in this mold, such as Bob le Flambeur and Deux Hommes dans Manhattan, Melville wanted a change. Film historian Tom Milne writes: “In a spirit of contradiction, it seems, since the Nouvelle Vague was by then at flood tide, he announced with his sixth film [Léon Morin, Priest] in 1961, that he was tired of being the darling of a handful of cineastes.”
“There’s a dissatisfaction with merely going to the movies,” proclaims Shirley Clarke in Noël Burch and Andre S. Labarthe’s documentary Rome Burns: A Portrait of Shirley Clarke (1970). Throughout, she is never without two things: a cigarette between her lips, and a sincere humility. Seated on the floor of a Parisian apartment with friends and colleagues (including Jacques Rivette and Yoko Ono), the New York-native Clarke opens up about her revolutionary ideas about cinema, as well as her own misgivings about her earlier works. The three features she had shot at that point—The Connection (1962), The Cool World (1964), and Portrait of Jason (1967)—wrenched burgeoning cinema verite trends in new, groundbreaking directions. But for every liberating frame that passed through her camera, Clarke saw more work that needed to be done. To her, the then-current relationship between the audience and the movie was antiquated: “I don’t want them separated by the screen anymore.” In fusing experimental, documentary, and narrative film techniques, Clarke was a significant force in creating “modern” cinema in the 1960s.
Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based writer, musician, and curator whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Life Sentence, Moving Image Source, Bright Lights Film Journal, Beat to a Pulp, NoirCon, Crimefactory, Film Comment, The L Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Fandor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Hammer to Nail, Spinetingler, Between Lavas, Reverse Shot, and Guitar Review. He records instrumental music as Modern Silent Cinema and plays in the hardcore band Night Squad.