Last Year In Marienbad on DVD – The DVDfever Review

Last Year In Marienbad
Last Year In Marienbad is almost 60 years old, and when I saw the trailer for thie recently, I half expected Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse to pop up as if to make a spoof out of it, since the film looks like one of those classics which inspired 1980’s-style Calvin Klein perfume adverts.

This is because is starts with many people in posh suits, sat looking serious, while watching a play where people either talk in serious tones, or look into the middle distance off-camera, as if holding in a fart and not wanting to let on. Afterwards, the audience stand around as if the DVD player has become stuck, but no, they’re just pretending to pause… and then, after a moment or three, they start moving and talking. It’s weird.

For example, just imagine a serious male voice wittering: “This intolerable silence these walls, these whispers worse than the silence you’ve made my prison. These days here side by side, walking along these corridors with measured steps, at arm’s length, never closer, never reaching out with fingers or lips.”

There’s a bizarre plot where a seemingly desperate man tries to convince a married woman that she should up sticks and run off with them because they had an affair last year in Marienbad. She doesn’t remember. This could be because he’s talking out of his hat. Perhaps in 1929, when it appears to be set, this might’ve worked on a woman, but of course, this would never work in today’s modern world as you’d barely get a word in before they lose interest and move on.

Even halfway through, she tells him to leave her alone, but does he get the hint? No.

“If you keep looking at me… you’ll see me kill you”.

Meanwhile, there’s a seemingly running joke about a game that’s impossible to win. Whether played with cards or matches, two people take it in turns to remove one or more, but if you end up taking the last one, you lose. However, all it requires is for the other person to make their last move in the form of removing all but the last card or match.

Wikipedia states: “The film is famous for its enigmatic narrative structure, in which time and space are fluid, with no certainty over what is happening to the characters, what they are remembering, and what they are imagining. Its dreamlike nature has both fascinated and baffled viewers; many have hailed the work as a masterpiece, although others have found it incomprehensible.”, and that pretty well sums it up. It’s something you either go with or you don’t.

All that said, the outdoor garden scenes in the French hotel reminds me of the garden in the opening level of 2016’s Hitman reboot.

But… did she remember him in the end, or was he just telling a load of porkies? Well, to find the answer to that, if I had to sit through this, then so do you.

As I type, Last Year In Marienbad has a score of 7.9 based on 17000 votes. I sometimes seem to go against popular opinion, and it’s not by choice, but I’ve seen this from start to finish and am left wondering how someone made such a pile of utter junk, other than if they were making this film for a bet. Have a look at the trailer below. How do they all keep a straight face?!

This is not the first time I’ve seen something so terrible, however. The worst film I’ve ever seen is Fellini’s Satyricon, and this is reaching for that crown, for sure.

Still, at least it looks nice…

“Hopefully, the camera will move on quickly and I can take this bee out of my mouth.”

The film is presented in the theatrical 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio and in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen. Given that it has been remastered, the picture does give a very clean image for a film that’s almost 60 years old. DVD is understandly less sharp than a Blu-ray, but if this is the only way you’ll be able to watch it, that won’t be a huge issue on this occasion.

The sound is in mono… and everyone’s… talking… slowly…

The extras are as follows:

  • The Wanderers of Imagination (29:47): It’s well known that director Alain Resnais was a huge fan of Bolton Wanderers… (pardon? Oh, okay…) What I mean is that this is a piece *about* Alain Resnais, where a specialist in his work, Francois Thomas, talks about the late director who worked on this film together with screenwriter Alain Robbe-Grillet.

    There’s also chat from the latter’s wife, Catherine Robbe-Grillet, as well as comedienne Anna Mouglais.

  • Short films by Alain Resnais: If you want more, then there’s The Styrene’s Song (13:07) and All The Memory Of The World (21:02).

    Personally, I don’t need more of Resnais, but for fans of his work, it’s great that these are included.

  • Ginette Vincendeau (18:38): In the only piece on this disc in the English language, Ginette Vincendeau, Professor of Film Studies at King’s College London, gives her thoughts on the film, as well as how critics said at the time, “Don’t try and look for interpretations, just be swept along”.

    Made in 2005, this is billed as ‘Interview of Ginette Vincendeau’ but apart from the poor English phrasing, it’s not an interview, as such.

  • In The Labyrinth of Marienbad (33:26): This is more analysis of the film, also from 2005, but from an unseen Luc Lagier.

  • Trailer (Restored version) (1:27): In the original 2.35:1 ratio, starting off with the film’s own theme, but moving on to something slightly more upbeat and pacey. This was made for its cinema release, last Wednesday, on September 19th 2018.

The menu mixes some clips with a short piece of the theme, subtitles are in English and are optional if you need them, and there’s the bog-standard 12 chapters, although I go by the rule of thumb of one every five minutes, so that would make 19 by my book.

Last Year In Marienbad is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Amazon Video.


Running time: 95 minutes
Year: 1961
Distributor: Studiocanal OPTD4202
Released: September 17th 2018
Chapters: 12
Sound: Dolby Digital 1.0 (Mono)
Languages: French
Subtitles: English
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (35mm, Dyaliscope)
Disc Format: DVD9

Director: Alain Resnais
Producers: Pierre Courau, Anatole Dauman and Raymond Froment
Screenplay: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Music: Francis Seyrig

X – The man: Giorgio Albertazzi
A – the woman: Delphine Seyrig
M – The man who may be her husband: Sacha Pitoëff
Hotel guest: Françoise Bertin
Hotel guest: Luce Garcia-Ville
Hotel guest: Héléna Kornel
Hotel guest: Françoise Spira
Hotel guest: Karin Toche-Mittler
Hotel guest: Pierre Barbaud
Hotel guest: Wilhelm von Deek
Hotel guest: Jean Lanier
Hotel guest: Gérard Lorin
Hotel guest: Davide Montemurri
Hotel guest: Gilles Quéant
Hotel guest: Gabriel Werner
English introduction: Alan Edwards (uncredited)


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