"Last Year at Marienbad" (1961) and "Diary of a Suicide" (1972)
The attraction of the enigmatic has rarely been so strong as in a pair of French avant-garde films, one returning to DVD and one new to the format. Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad (1961) and Stanislav Stanjoevic's Diary of a Suicide (1972) share not just two actors — the sphinx-like Delphine Seyrig and the inscrutable, deadpan Sacha Pitoeff — but also a common romanticized ideal regarding the mystery of narrative. The central action of both films is, essentially, one character telling a story to another, though this hardly does justice to either of the films' richly nuanced scripts or the entrancing performances of the actors. Both films feed off our desire for resolution and clarity, and in denying — or drawing out — our needs, they become commentaries on listening and perception as much as storytelling.
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.