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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 9. 1965.

Films — A Bogus Esotericism

page 8


A Bogus Esotericism

"Muriel," by its attempt to create moods of memory and nostalgia through complexity of treatment, is difficult to come to grips with.

The elliptical style of the cutting and the fleeting changes from sequence to sequence leave one in a suspended state. Here, the subject was unusual and interesting in itself, and Resnais's private scrapbook of horrors which was thrown at the audience as a prologue served as a suitable preparatory stimulant.

In this connection I must say that I found the link between this prologue and the rest of the film an extremely tenuous one. On viewing "Hiroshima" for the first time I was quite riveted to the seat. This was partly because I felt there was something "around the corner" which would eventually be reached. This "something" was perhaps a clue to understanding which would enable me to synthesize all the aspects of the film and come to grips with it as a whole entity.

The clue to understanding never came, and although I left the theatre in a sweat I could not help feeling that I had somehow been led up the garden path. Any "stimulation" I received from the film was, in fact, the level between my intellectual aspirations and my final ignorance, and was not due to any actual effect the film had on me, visual or mental.

A second viewing of the film confirmed this. I knew all that was to happen and any "mystery" that had been associated with a first viewing was absent. The film, as a piece of cinema, left me singularly unimpressed.

"Muriel" shares some of these faults. The construction of interrelating characters wandering in twin dimensions of past and present seemed to be a forced, artificial one, and I could not get involved in the activities and moods of the characters. I found the character of the son, as written and played, an intensely irritating one, despite the fact that he was a key figure in the "plot." The whole edifice left me cold.

Most of the players performed well, in particular Delphine Seyrig as the woman who summoned her lover of 20 years ago in order to recapture the taste of love. Despite any other considerations, however, the editing must be of prime importance in a film of this kind. I do not know whether the final, excellent result is due to Resnais or the credited editor. It is unfortunate that the skill exercised in the cutting could not have extended to the actual treatment of the subject. There is nothing particularly startling in Resnais's cinematic repertoire.

My principal objection to films of this kind is that the final "stimulation" is just not worth the effort put into watching them. One can expend considerable energy in trying to understand such a film. One may even have to see the film twice (as some people have) in order to "get with it."

This seems to me to be a futile pastime in that attempts to unravel the elements of such obscure complexities eventually lead to intellectual stagnation and the searching out of obscurities for their own sake.

In this connection I think Resnais is negating his function as a creative "artist." I do not mean that he must aim at the lowest intelligence level in the population. I do mean that he must be prepared to make films which, while appealing to the intellectuals as being meaningful comments on life, love and liberty, must contain sufficient "entertainment value" (if I can use an oft-scorned phrase) to convince a person of reasonable intelligence that such films are worth searching out and having a look at. It could be maintained that Resnais is aiming at a select audience.

I am suspicious of this suggestion because it acts as further reinforcement for the intellectual's belief that he has a divine right to examine and pontificate about such films with the apparent air of one who really knows what's going on.

At the risk of doing an injustice to Resnais find his followers, I must maintain that the making of such a film, and the pretentious accompanying adulation reeks of bogus esotericism.