PROVIDENCE (Alain Resnais, 1977)

How does one evaluate Alain Resnais’s first English-language film, which he directed haplessly from a tricky, overwritten script by playwright David Mercer that includes, however, a coda that soars? At night a portentous camera slowly roams the grounds of Providence, the luxuriant estate of dying British author Clive Langham, who, indoors, is imagining his new […]

SONG OF THE STYRENE (Alain Resnais, 1958)

“An Olympian film, of matchless gravity.” — Jean-Luc Godard, reviewing Alain Resnais’s Le chant du Styrène With witty commentary written by Raymond Queneau, Le chant du Styrène was Alain Resnais’s last documentary before Hiroshima, mon amour (1959) launched his ongoing career in feature films. It was commissioned by a company, Péchiney, intent on singing the […]

ALL THE MEMORY OF THE WORLD (Alain Resnais, 1956)

“The [Bibliothèque Nationale de France] is a model memory, stockpiling everything printed in France.” Alain Resnais’s wondrous documentary, marred a bit by Maurice Jarre’s jarring score, surveys France’s national library, which Resnais depicts as a world inside the world, a prison for books. During the film’s twenty-one minutes, voiceover narration indeed refers to the books […]

I WANT TO GO HOME (Alain Resnais, 1989)

Alain Resnais’s films possess rigor, a quality notably lacking in his mostly English-language I Want to Go Home, a comedy about the gap between an estranged father and daughter and, also, French and U.S. attitudes and culture. The father, a septuagenarian cartoonist (beautifully played by Adolph Green—yes, that Adolph Green), is in Paris for an […]

LOVE UNTO DEATH (Alain Resnais, 1984)

A frantic Elisabeth struggles with Simon on their bedroom floor. Apparently Simon has had a heart attack. Dr. Rozier pronounces him dead.      After the doctor has left, though, light as air Simon descends the corkscrew staircase that reminds us of the spiral staircase encapsulating the mysteries of Time in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). Simon, we […]

LIFE IS A BED OF ROSES (Alain Resnais, 1983)

Three time-frames infiltrate one another; three stories interlock—and a fourth, medieval story is contained in the contemporary story as an expression of children’s imagination. Alain Resnais’s La vie est un roman—literally, Life Is a Romance, but in the States, Life Is a Bed of Roses—is all about imagination: imagining a royal estate, imagining a utopian […]