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"Enchantingly atmospheric and cryptic chamber piece..."
on 15 December 2011
French avant-garde and former French New Wave director Alain Resnais` third feature film which succeeded his highly acclaimed first feature film "Hiroshima Mon Amour" (1959) and "Last Year at Marienbad" (1961), was written for the screen by French poet Jean Cayrol (1911-2005) and tells the story about a middle-aged antique dealer named Hèlène Aughain who lives in her inner-city apartment in the provincial port-town of Boulogne-sur-Mer with her restless and secretive stepson Bernard who is haunted by a woman from his past named Muriel. Their lives changes when Hèlène is visited by her old lover Alphonse Noyard who has brought along a young woman named Francoise.
Masterfully directed by one of the greatest directors in cinema history, this character-driven and dialog-driven mystery, a metaphysical drama with rigorously composed visuals and sounds, about memories of love and war, where the past and the present is intertwined and where time dissolves, is a detailed and realistic portrayal of everyday life in a urban French town, a character in itself, where things much like the central characters are incomplete. Like Jean-Luc Godard`s "Le Petit Soldat" (1960), Alain Resnais` film pointedly deals with themes of the Algerian War of Independence which had ended the year before "Muriel, or the Time of a Return" was released.
The efficient use of cinematic devices and the creatively fragmented narrative is pivotal in this stringently structured and acutely written story, which is an enchantingly atmospheric and cryptic chamber piece with memorable acting performances. Like some of the greatest films made by directors Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) and Luis Buñuel (1900-1983), this symbolic, metaphorical and distinctly stylistic early nineteen sixties French-Italian co-production gradually decodes the consciousness of it`s characters. A truly engaging and elusive depiction of the human psyche which was awarded with the Volpi Cup for Best Actress - Delphine Seyrig (1932-1990) at the 24th Venice Film Festival in 1963.