terça-feira, 10 de julho de 2007

It flows on like a river

(subentendido o risco permanente de enchentes e inundações)

Marienbad introduced to a generation of filmgoers the idea of the film as a self-contained world where past, present, real and imaginary images coexist without reference to external reality. Like the great films of Italian neorealism, Marienbad fractured the flow of narrative images with a musical gamut of discontinuities that freed film from the conventions of action/reaction, seeing/seen, perception/emotion that governed classical cinema, substituting for a 'common reality' entirely composed of cliches a mental world like the one we inhabit every day. Turning Bertolt Brecht's 'estrangement effect' into a source of pleasure, as surrealists like Tex Avery had done in their seven-minute cartoons, the film's feats of cinematic legerdemain - vanishing characters, characters who appear to be in two places at once, changing backgrounds and games with sound and image, like the uncanny moment when the stage actor's lips begin to move in time with X's voiceover - revolutionized the relationship of audiences to cinema.

In addition, that revolution transformed the once largely unconscious activity of interpreting films by inviting the spectator to attach multiple and contradictory meanings to the film's action and characters. Here are a few: 1) X is lying, trying to seduce A by describing an affair that never happened. 2) X is telling the truth, and A is in denial. (These two opposed interpretations were trotted out for the press as the conflicting views of Robbe-Grillet and Resnais respectively, a marketing device with a praiseworthy didactic intent.) 3) X and A are puppets controlled by the masochistic M. 4) As in a Breton legend Resnais knew from childhood, X is Death, come to claim A after granting her a year's reprieve. 5) A is ill, and the hotel is a sanatorium. 6) X is Orpheus, come to bring Eurydice back from the land of the dead, where the cadaverous M is king. 7) The three leads are figures in the dream of a woman struggling to liberate herself: A symbolizes the ego, X the Id, M the superego. 8) X is the only real person in a castle filled with phantoms like those in Alfredo Bioy-Casares' La invention de Morel - three-dimensional images mechanically repeating actions that are registered once and for all, like the images of a film. The question of conflicting interpretations is raised within the film by the enigmatic sculpture, which like the film itself has no referent in reality: Resnais had the sculpture made to match Robbe-Grillet's description, suggesting that the sculptor model it on minor characters in a painting by Poussin.

Marienbad nonetheless tells a story with a beginning, middle and end: A does leave the hotel with X. For Robbe-Grillet, who sees any film as a succession of present moments with no past or future, Marienbad tells the story of all his novels, an attempt to 'make an annoying void disappear.' 'What happens is just the opposite,' he told Andre S. Labarthe and Jacques Rivette in 1961. 'The void invades and fills everything. In Marienbad you think that there was no "last year," and only later do you realize that "last year" has invaded everything: you're in it. In the same way, you believe that there's no Marienbad, only to realize that that's where you've been from the beginning. The event which the woman refuses ends up contaminating everything, so that even though she thinks she has never stopped fighting, and has won since she has always refused, she realizes at the end that it's too late - she has accepted everything. Just as if it were all true, even though it probably isn't.'

For Resnais, however, Marienbad takes place in mythical time, like the stories of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Orpheus and the Breton maiden's bargain with Death, because he has constructed his film as a castle haunted by the great storytellers of cinema: Welles, Lang, Hitchcock (seen in silhouette in one shot), Cocteau, Pabst, Epstein, Gance, L'Herbier, Ophuls, Sternberg, Renoir, Disney, Lewton, Feuillade, Guitry, Bunuel, Bresson, Visconti, Antonioni, Bergman, Rossellini. Because his film is an original creation within which all those influences resonate, it is 'open to all myths,' as the director told Labarthe and Rivette. And although it is as singular an object as cinema has produced, it will be a long time before we see the last of its descendants.

Hitchcock, by the way, loved Resnais, whom he described as "almost a surrealist."

Bill Khron

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