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Time Out New York Project: Issue #769, June 24–30, 2010
Dir. Alain Resnais. 2009. PG. 104mins. In French, with subtitles. André Dussollier, Sabine Azéma, Emmanuelle Devos.
Alain Resnais’s mind-bending new feature begins innocently enough: Dentist-cum-aviatrix Marguerite Muir (Azéma) goes shopping for shoes, luxuriating in a carefree day until a thief on in-line skates snatches her purse. Per the title of the novel (The Incident) from which the film is adapted, this is the event that sets Marguerite on a collision course with Georges Palet (Dussolier), a semischizoid suburbanite who finds her stolen wallet and develops a fervent obsession. What follows might best be described as a “stalker farce,” in which Georges and Marguerite play increasingly destructive games of one-upmanship. Multiple voice messages lead to slashed car tires lead to stern police warnings. And then the power roles shift…
Ever the pop-culture aesthete, Resnais makes wide-reaching references and allusions: He’s acknowledged Curb Your Enthusiasm as a partial influence, and includes an onscreen quote from Gustave Flaubert (“No matter, we shall have loved each other well”) that perfectly encapsulates the film’s delirious yet melancholy tone. Georges and Marguerite’s comically tinged dalliances are always counterbalanced by a sense of impending mortality. Indeed, the film has the feel of a final testament, much like the latest (or last) works of Resnais’s nouvelle vague colleagues Eric Rohmer (The Romance of Astrea and Celadon) and Jacques Rivette (Around a Small Mountain). Yet death is not something to fear in this universe. The transformative finale suggests rather that it is something to smile at, cheekily, yet acceptingly. The journey may end, but the sublimity (and frequent ridiculousness) of our time on earth remains, forever and always.—Keith Uhlich