Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hiroshima Mon Amour - Alain Resnais

Hiroshima mon amour is one of the most famous French films, at least in Europe. The movie has not had a lot of success in the United States, first of all because it is not an American movie, but also because the first 15 minutes presented images showing the casualties caused by the atomic bombed dropped by the American army in Hiroshima. The organizers of the Cannes Festival refused to screen Hiroshima mon amour. At the time, movies presented in Cannes were preceded by an image of the producers flag. Since Hiroshima mon amour was a French-Japanese production, and the organizers thought that the scenes of the aftermath of the bombing were too un-American (the movie was filmed in 1959, right in the middle of the Cold War), they simply did not allow Alain Resnais to present it in the festival.

In any case, Hiroshima mon amour has been praised since its release mainly because of its photography, its "fragmentation of time" (i.e., the mixing of flashbacks with current reality) techniques, its soundtrack (composed by Giovanni Fusco), and the fact that its plot was written by Marguerite Duras. Hiroshima mon amour inspired the French nouvelle vague. My American and younger readers might want to know that Memento would not exist without Hiroshima mon amour.

You can read more technical and sophisticated comments about Hiroshima mon amour here, here, and here. I would like to mention just three general reflections that came to my mind after seeing Hiroshima mon amour twice:

  1. Silence in itself does not provide any information to the viewer. Silence is (must be) used to make pauses and create tension, expectations. More silence = more expectations to fulfill. That is why nouvelle vague movies became a caricature of themselves: they abused of silence instead of enjoying it.
  2. Emmanuellle Riva was not a particularly attractive woman. In fact, Duras specified that the actress had to be "more seductive than beautiful." But we do not remember Riva for here physical appearance. The fact that the movie is in black and white allows us to focus on her acting and on the feelings she is trying to convey. Black and white enhance the theatrical character of movies, forcing the viewer to focus on performances instead of appereances. You can reach a similar conclusion after seeing Marlene Dietrichs Blue Angel.
I was able to find a full version of Hiroshima mon amour on Youtube, pasted below. This video has been viewed only 10,500 times. At the moment I'm writing these lines, though, Amazon has only 3 dvds of Hiroshima mon amour in stock. Probably people are finally willing to pay for movies (NOT).

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