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This review is from: Muriel, ou le Temps d'un retour [Masters of Cinema] [DVD]  (DVD)
I have seen Muriel twice, first on the R1 DVD (Koch Lorber). This later Eureka/MoC R2 release differs by having better picture and a nice booklet. The colors and details are the same, but the aspect is correct on MoC, as the picture is slightly squeezed on the R1. (Also the subtitles on the R1 are yellow, which I find a little disturbing.)
The picture shows signs of age, it is not especially sharp and rather grainy. But the colors are vivid. Despite this I guess the quality of the transfer is as good as it can get (the R1 shows he same grain). And I watched it on a projector without any problems.
The Booklet contains two essays, the first (by B.Kite) is more theoretical and a little fluffy, and the other (by Anna Thorngate) sets the film in it's historical context and gives a more straightforward (and better) analysis. As a complement, I can recommend Richard Neuperts excellent book "A History of the French New Wave Cinema", where Muriel is analysed and set in the context of the 'new wave' and Alain Resnais other films.
Muriel, ou le Temps d'un retour came out 1963, shortly after the end of the algerian war. It takes place in Boulogne, a city which met a lot of destruction in WW2, and then rapidly modernized with big functionalist concrete buildings. Here Helene lives with her son Bernard, in an apartment where "everything is for sale" as Helene works as a antique dealer. They are visited by Alfonse, a lover of Helene since long ago. And Francoise, Alfonse's lover. The film then follows the characters during a period (we don't know for how long). Some themes of this complex film is memory, identity, and fragmentation (Helene's apartment is fragmented, as is the city and actually the relations of the characters and the characters themselves).
As both essays in the booklet point out, in Muriel Resnais doesn't take the subjective perspective of any of the characters, but rather a "collective point of view". (Thorngate). It's like the action and the characters are viewed through a mind that is zooming in and out and changing location all the time, maybe trying to get a grasp of it all. Sometimes in the film the camera jumps through the city (Boulogne), watches something else (objects, a building) while the characters talk, and sometimes we are shown a sequence of rapid and seemingly random cuts of what is happening to the characters on different locations. Like someone playing fast forward and skipping through chapters of a DVD. Interesting is how when Bernard shows his film from the war, the tempo slows down. Maybe this is the heart of the film. Also, different to Resnais other films Marienbad and Hiroshima, there are no actual flashbacks in time (but maybe some fast-forwarding?).
Well, this is a complex film with a rich content and a special form that can be seen several times. It's better to see it than read about it. But Muriel is no "easy" film with a clear narrative where everything is explained. If you like french cinema, or like the other films by Resnais, you will probably enjoy this.
All in all, that MoC have released Muriel, an important piece of cinema and part of the french new wave, on a high quality R2 DVD with a nice booklet is reason to buy. It would have been nice to have some more extra material, some interview with Resnais or commentary, but you can't get everything. Highly recommended to anyone interested in cinema!