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November 17, 2004

I woke up, sleep still pressing violently on my skull, with this sentence forming in my head that went something like I'll pour this island over you; followed by some description of contrasting colors, all delivered like an invective to a spurned lover or something like that. I wish I remembered what it was exactly; I recall thinking that it wasn't a great sentence, but that it was really fascinating nonetheless. I need to start writing things down.

I was waking up early to catch a screening of The Assasination Of Richard Nixon. I'll save my thoughts on the film itself for later, but I do want to mention something from the press notes. Apparently, Alfonso Cuaron and his producing partner Jorge Vergara fronted the cash for the film entirely by themselves, mostly with the profits they made from Y Tu Mama Tambien. Also today, I read an LA Times article about the failure of The Polar Express, in which it was revealed that neither Tom Hanks nor Robert Zemeckis cut their extravagantly high fees for this inherently risky project. Compare and contrast.

I watched what are perhaps Alain Resnais's two most famous films, Night And Fog (1955) and Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) back-to-back tonight. Both of which I've seen before, but felt a strong urge to revisit. Particularly the latter, which had the curious ability to leave an enormous impression on me and yet evade my recollection entirely in the year or so since I first viewed it. Certain images left their mark, and the feel of it is especially indelible, but what about the specific content?

Watching it again this evening was revalatory. It was like a brand new film, although I had a constant sense of deja vu as I watched it; the images I remembered were there, but entire scenes filled in the spaces between them that are so good that I cannot believe I forgot them. I think I understood the film quite well, but at the same time, I could go in and analyze it on a shot by shot or cut by cut basis (and indeed, much of the meaning of the film is in the juxtaposition: of image upon image, past upon present, dialogue upon inner monologue -- this is clearly the work of an editor-turned-director) and probably never completely reach the bottom of it.

Going in the first time, perhaps I was burdened by the comments of Soderbergh, on whose recommendation I checked it out in the first place. Free of that, with nothing but a strong desire to explore the film, I discovered that perhaps my hazy memory of it is not my own fault. Resnais has constructed a film that is almost nothing but hazy memories, interspersed with sudden, soothing, shocking moments of clarity. The flashbacks are not flashbacks, just as the progressive narrative is not necessarily meant to be the present. I think the film is summed up best by its two characters in two separate soliloquies. First, and perhaps most eloquently, the Japanese gentleman (played by Eiji Okada) expresses his thoughts on the love affair that is central to the film:

When years have passed and I've forgotten and other stories just like this one happen again and again, as they're bound to keep happening, I'll look upon you as the image of love without memory. Possibly I shall look upon you as the torment of forgetting. This I know.

Near the very end of the film, his lover (Emanuelle Riva) offers her take on their romance:

Just as it was with him, I'll first forget your eyes, the same way. Then, I'll forget your voice, the same way. Then I will forget all of you, piece by piece. You will turn into a song.

I feel at the moment that I can't say anything about the film that isn't already explained better in those two quotes. See the film; and if you've seen it once (as the cliche goes), you really haven't seen it at all.

I was hoping to add Last Year At Marienbad to the evening's viewings, but it'll have to wait.

Full day tomorrow: Hotel Rwanda followed by Alexander followed by a Matthew Barney-Jacques Derrida double feature at a local college. See you on the other side.

Posted by David Lowery at November 17, 2004 5:39 PM