116 minutes| France| 1963| Subtitled| Colour| 35mm

Seemingly mundane reality is here transformed by montage into a mosaic of painful memory. An antiques dealer (the splendid Delphine Seyrig) impulsively invites an ex-lover (Jean-Pierre Kerien) to visit her in Boulogne, where she lives with her stepson (Jean-Baptiste Thierree), recently returned from military service and who, unknown to her – the dark secret at the film’s core – has participated in the torture and murder of a young Algerian woman called Muriel. The main characters are all tainted by the past, having memories they have to adjust to or surmount; and Resnais’ fragmented, agitated style (though not without humour) reflects their edgy, unsettled lives and personalities. In some ways recalling the Hitchcock of Vertigo (the impossible endeavour to resurrect a past love), Muriel also anticipates the Michael Haneke of Hidden (French guilt over the Algerian conflict hanging like a pall over the narrative). This is arguably Resnais’ most difficult film but perhaps too his greatest: its riches are infinite.

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