by Ryland Walker Knight
[The Resnais series playing at the PFA this November and December is part of a broader, traveling retrospective with a concurrent run in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center and a proposed stop at the newly renovated Museum of the Moving Image in early 2010.]
Now the shots, like true heartbreak, feel as though they will last forever. The film never drags, so to speak, but it sure is a drag: if it weren't so sad, it would be hilarious, a true and pitch-perfect parody of The Mélodrama, all its cogs of coincidence front-loaded and all its machinations timed, factory-like, to precise ends. People unravel, not their stories. And yet, people can never tell their own stories: words weigh too much. (Look at this blog!) So Alain makes the word weigh a ton, and his endless master shots foreground how these lummox-light fools talk around each other and never with one another. The most direct form of communication is a somersault, a joke. Not even music can tell a story like a body can, though a sonata may prove a haven or a gauze. And time can fly, as ever, in the fade from one scene to another: whole lives can be rearranged, and are, by, simply, the movie calling curtains on one of its idiots. Lit and timed like Gertrud—with spotlights highlighting the artifice but duration making the people deliberate material—this chic, art deco world—all of it tiles and squares and boxes, all of its lines of style—is one big columbarium. Every stage feels a coffin, the whole thing bound by rigors of time one block of misdirection and perjured, masking tape'd crate at a time.