New York Film Festival – Opening September 26 – Announces Premiere
of Restored Resnais’ French New Wave Classic Hiroshima Mon Amour
By: Ellis Nassour
The Film Society of Lincoln Center ‘s 52nd New York Film Festival, which begins September 26 and runs through October 12, will premiere an all-encompassing 4-K pixel restoration of Alain Resnais’ 1959 debut feature, the French New Wave classic Hiroshima Mon Amour w, acclaimed as one of the most important films of the movement. On October 17, the film will have its first theatrical screenings in decades at FSLC’s Walter Reade Theatre.
[For Film Festival ticket packages and information on single tickets, see below.]
"Hiroshima Mon Amour is one of the most influential films in the short history of the medium," says Festival director Kent Jones. "It’s difficult to quantify the breadth of its impact on worldwide cinema."
Jones adds, "Few films have had such a lasting, wide-ranging impact. Hiroshima Mon Amour is a devastating experience on every level: visually, sonically, emotionally, intellectually."
Critic Andrew Sarris wrote: "Hiroshima Mon Amour is the most important contribution to film aesthetics since Citizen Kane! Duras’ script soars to new levels of narrative! Riva’s portrayal provides that rare illusion of continuous existence beyond the ellipses of the cinema!"
Originally Resnais, who died in March at age 91, had been commissioned to make a documentary about the atomic bomb in the style of Night and Fog, his acclaimed 1955 film about the holocaust. He became frustrated by the difficulty of producing a factual film on such a disquieting topic. Instead, he decided to make a fictional film that would reflect the fact that "planes with atomic bombs were circling the earth all the time, but everyone seemed oblivious."
He decided the devastating impact of the Hiroshima bombing, a turning point of World War II Asian conflict, needed a deeply emotional back-story. He brought in best-selling novelist Marguerite Duras and worked with her to create the screenplay. It was his debut feature. In the powerful 10-minute prologue, a montage of photographs, newsreel, reconstructions, and the bodies of the two leads entwined as lovers momentarily covered in the glowing ashes of the atomic fall out give a glimpse of the documentary Resnais might have made had he stuck to his original commission.
As Hiroshima Mon Amour it became a classic love story in which the use of the ccatastrophic atomic bomb became the film’s background.
Duras, a French/Vietnamese born attorney turned writer who died in 1961, began her prolific literary career in the early 40s. She had many of her works turned into plays and films; and was an actress and director as well. In 1957, her novel Questa Età Arrabbiato was co-adapted by Irwin Shaw into the Italian/French/American co-production This Angry Age, directed by leading French director René Clément and starring acclaimed Italian actress Silvana Mangano and Anthony Perkins.
Hiroshima Mon Amour focuses on French film actress Elle (Emmanuelle Riva) who goes to the once devastated, but now rebuilt Japanese city of Hiroshima to make an anti-war film. She begins a brief but intense affair with a Japanese architect (Eiji Okado). Confronted by images of the war, and encouraged by her lover to reveal the secrets of her past, she recounts the story of her first tragic love with a German soldier during the Nazi occupation of France.
It’s widely considered one of the most groundbreaking as well as beautiful movies. It leaves the viewer with an indelible impression.
From newwavefilm.com: "Its fractured structure, mixing past and present in a way previously only attempted in literature, it’s mature and complex treatment of character, poetic dialogue, subjective use of sound, deliberate blurring of the line between fantasy and reality, expanded the frontiers of cinema and inspired many filmmakers both at the time and in years since."
t was awarded the International Critics’ prize at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival. Due to its harrowing anti-nuclear stance, it was controversially kept out of the main competition to avoid offending the U.S. It was Oscar-nominated for Screenplay in 1961 and won the New York Film Critics Best Foreign Film.
Hiroshima Mon Amour certainly didn’t cater to the tastes of the masses and controversy surrounded it. Nonetheless, it became a worldwide art-house sensation. Due to rights issues, the film hasn’t been exhibited in the U.S. in years. The film, restored at a cost of $40,000, is being released by Rialto Pictures.
The film boasts brilliant cinematography, editing, and scoring by, respectively, Sacha Vierny; Jasmine Chasney, Henri Colpi, and Anne Sarraute; and Georges Delerue and Giovani Fusco.
An assessment from newwavefilm.com: "The unusual relationship between sound and picture is another of the film’s distinctive features. Rarely do word and image correspond. Instead we are left uncertain whether we are hearing real or imaginary conversation, or commentary spoken by the characters. Duras’ dialogue is both lyrical and oblique. Emmanuelle Riva, chosen to play Elle in part because of the timbre of her voice, recites many lines as if hypnotised or dreaming … The musical speech of memory spoken by Riva and Eiji Okada sets a dominant tone against which the discordant breaks in time and visual rhythm form a dynamic counterpoint. The two elements are effectively held together by the resonant musical score."
One of the central themes of the film – the relationship between time and memory – is one that Resnais would explore in subsequent films, such as his equally acclaimed 1961 L’année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad), BAFTA-nominated for Best Film, Oscar-nominated for Screenplay (Alain Robbe-Grillet). Other films: Far From Vietnam; the controversy-dogged Algerian war spy drama La Guerre est Finie (The War Is Over), starring Yves Montand; the psychedelic freakout time travel Je t’aime je t’aime; Stavisky, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Charles Boyer; his first English-language film Providence, a "playful conceit" starring Gielgud, Ellen Burstyn, Dirk Borgarde, and Elaine Stritch; and, currently in release, Life of Riley, adapted from Alan Ayckbourn’s play.
Hiroshima Mon Amour‘ s 4K resolution restoration was done Argos Films, Fondation Groupama Gan, Fondation Technicolor, and Cineteca Bologna, with support from the National Center of Cinematography.
During the 17-day NYFF there’ll also be revivals of Howard Brookner’s Burroughs: The Movie (1983), Sergei Parajanov’s The Color of Pomegranates (1968), and Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America (1984).
Tickets for the 52nd NYFF go on sale to the general public at noon on Sunday, September 7. Becoming a Film Society member before July 31 provides access to a pre-sale period for single tickets to festival screenings and events ahead of the general public.
Subscription packages and VIP passes gives the earliest access to tickets and are on sale through July 31.
Depending on the level purchased, these provide access to Main Slate and Special Event screenings including those on the Festival’s Opening, Centerpiece and Closing nights. VIP passes also afford access to such events as the invitation-only Opening Night party, filmmaker brunch, and VIP Lounge. For information about purchasing these packages, visit www.filmlinc.com/NYFF. To become a Film Society member, visit www.filmlinc.com/support/home.
The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Royal Bank of Canada, Jaeger-LeCoultre, American Airlines, The New York Times, Stella Artois, HBO, the Kobal Collection, Trump International Hotel and Tower, Row NYC Hotel, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the NY State Council on the Arts. Support for the NYFF is also provided by KIND Bars, Portage World Wide Inc., WABC-7, and WNET NY Public Media.