Alain Resnais

Maria Flood

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online June 2018 | | DOI:
Alain Resnais

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Alain Resnais (b. 1922–d. 2014), born in Vannes, France, is one of the great cinematic innovators of the 20th and 21st centuries. In a career that spanned nearly seventy years and included nineteen feature films and more than twenty documentaries, Resnais produced an exceptional range of films that encompass a cross-section of genres and time periods. From the early commissioned documentaries, including Toute la mémoire du monde (1956), to his later explorations of the genres of the melodrama in Mélo (1986) or the musical in On connaît la chanson (1997), Resnais consistently engaged with, and moved beyond, cinematic conventions. Perhaps his most well-known works resist generic classification altogether: Hiroshima mon amour (1959) and L’Année dernière et Marienbad (1961) can be described as works that treat the question of memory, and of cinematic time itself. Resnais’s work is resolutely engaged with the political and social contexts of his time, and many of his early films tackle the most grimly iconic atrocities of the 20th century: the bombing of Guernica (Guernica, 1950), the Holocaust (Nuit et brouillard, 1955), the bombing of Hiroshima (Hiroshima mon amour), and the question of torture during the French-Algerian War (Muriel, 1963). These films treat the complex intersections of memory and trauma that marked France and Europe after World War II, and they are infused with a profound pathos and ethical sensibility that is particular to Resnais. This article charts the different facets of Resnais’s work, adopting a broadly chronological approach that highlights the major films, as well as Resnais’s relation to the New Wave, philosophy, and intermediality and collaboration.

Article.  7635 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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