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What a way to make a comeback! This terrific piece is quite timely, too, as a Resnais retrospective is making the rounds and will be in Berkeley next month. I've seen a smattering of his films before, some of them (like Night and Fog) multiple times, but I'm eager to do some serious thinking on this filmmaker, and a thoughtful piece like this is a good way to gear up.

I wonder if Resnais was intending to make his document a timeless one, which it almost inarguably is, and as you point out comes directly from his aesthetic choices. If this was indeed his purpose, it seems to fit in with the universal message voiced on the narrated soundtrack.

I also wonder if he had seen a film like Czechoslovakia's Distant Journey before making this one, and if such an experience affected his approach.


Hey Brian - Thanks a lot. I would like to see more of his pictures too (only two so far) and spend time thinking and writing about them as well. His uncanny facility with editing to shift time and space is appealing, startling, and probably frustrating sometimes too. It's become such a familiar technique that I overlooked exactly what he's doing here and how it affects the viewing experience at first. I initially picked this one up because its been on so many top films and top history films lists, and I had read a bit on the debate about it. Also, the war is history at this point so I was anxious to see how films about it changed in character.

I like the point you raise about the universal message in the text being reflected in the filmmaking. I'd like to do an experiment of watching the picture without the narration. If I could watch it with just the music would it have the same effects? The main point for me is that art endures and I wonder if Resnais was conscious of that when making his creative decisions. Whatever his motives, he rises to the challenge through his own medium and expands the cinematic potential for historical documentaries at the same time.

I haven't seen Distant Journey but just checked a review of it. It definitely seems to have kinship with this one both in topic and experimental approach. I'll keep my eyes peeled for it. Cayrol's text did remind me in some ways of Elie Wiesel's book about his own experiences in a concentration camp, Night (1955). Overall, I was more excited about Resnais' manipulation of past and present images through editing.

Please let me know if you view more Resnais. I'd love to read more of your thoughts on his films.

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