Alain Resnais

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Alain Resnais (French pronunciation: [alɛ̃ rɛnɛ]; born 3 June 1922, Vannes, Morbihan) is a French film director whose early works are often grouped within the New Wave or nouvelle vague film movement. Although he has had a long and fruitful career, Resnais is best known for three early works that deal with themes of memory and trauma: Night and Fog (1955), Hiroshima mon amour (1959), and Last Year at Marienbad (1961).[1]



Resnais began making films in the mid-1940s after completing his studies at Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (IDHEC). He made several short films during this time, such as Guernica (1950), based on the Picasso painting and the town and battle that inspired it. His seminal short Night and Fog (1955) was one of the first documentaries about the Jewish Holocaust. Resnais chose to approach the subject indirectly because he felt an excess of gruesome imagery might make the Holocaust seem unreal and incomprehensible to his viewers.[citation needed] Instead he chose to film the empty concentration camps as they appeared in the fifties and avoided using stock footage of the actual holocaust until the very end of the film. The form of the film was revolutionary at the time and has been imitated many times since.

Resnais's most famous feature films also use innovative techniques to explore the subjectivity of memory in dealing with past violence and horrors. He completed his first full-length film, Hiroshima mon amour (1959) with a script by novelist Marguerite Duras. It is a romantic drama about a young French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) appearing in an anti-war film in the rubble and reconstruction of the city of Hiroshima. She quickly begins a brief unstable affair with a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada). The affair brings to light the political and cultural tensions that underlie even their most personal experiences and memories. The film made use of flashbacks to explore her repressed memories of a German lover killed in World War 2 and the subsequent humiliation and captivity imposed on her by her family. This movie was a great success for Resnais, garnering him international fame and cementing his place in French cinema history.

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