Los Angeles Times - 02/01/2008
"LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD remains one of cinema's glorious enigmas, endlessly compelling and intriguing. It is a beautiful film..."
A.V. Club - 06/24/2009
"French New Wave director Alain Resnais helped semi-popularize the notion of formalism as an end in itself with the 1961 arthouse sensation LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD..."
Total Film - 06/01/2011 4 stars out of 5 -- "Fifty years on, Alain Resnais' ice-cold enigma of a film still looks as stylish as ever..."
In Alain Resnais's masterwork, L'ANNÉEE DERNIÈRE À MARIENBAD, each fantasy-laden, heavily dramatized, aesthetically perfect scene is dictated by the memories of a man (Giorgio Albertazzi), who is one of many elegant, aristocratic guests vacationing at the enchanting resort, Marienbad. Because the story consists of foggy memories that may or may not be accurate, the film unrolls like a repetitious dream. In the opening sequences, the man describes the immensity and silence of the lavishly decorated baroque hotel as the camera roams its empty hallways. Soon after, the hotel guests appear, assembled for a theater production inside the hotel. Like the actors in the play, the characters in the film make it obvious that they are also playing established roles and reciting lines. Sometimes they simply pose as the camera passes over them, while at other times, they stand like statues, trying to remember what happened last year. They amuse themselves with parlor games, ballroom waltzes, target practice in the shooting gallery, and strolls through the garden. Meanwhile, the man establishes the abstract plot about a love affair he began last year with a woman (Delphine Seyrig), reconstructed from his partial memories. She remembers nothing of the affair, not even the man's name. In fact, most of the guests cannot even recall the year in which these things might have happened--was it 1928 or 29' Each of Resnais's sets is more remarkable than the one before, as are the costumes by Chanel. Emphatic organ music drums up a fury of suspense as the actors's performances become increasingly overdramatized and unnatural, mocking the meaningless aristocratic resort activity they're depicting, while also epitomizing it. The climax comes in a famous sequence--which repeats itself about 10 times in a row--in which the camera races down the corridor into the embrace of the woman, who is clad in a birdlike white feather gown. Like a Marguerite Duras poem trapped inside an M.C. Escher drawing, Resnais's L'ANNÉEE DERNIÈRE À MARIENBAD is a film that stands alone, unique in its dialogue, architecture, style, and its deeply effective, sweeping mood.
Not just a defining work of the French New Wave but one of the great, lasting mysteries of modern art, Alain Resnais' epochal visual poem has been puzzling appreciative viewers for decades. A surreal fever dream, or perhaps a nightmare, Last Year at Marienbad (L'annee derniere a Marienbad), written by the radical master of the New Novel, Alain Robbe-Grillet, gorgeously fuses the past with the present in telling its ambiguous tale of a man and a woman (Giorgio Albertazzi and Delphine Seyrig) who may or may not have met a year ago, perhaps at the very same cathedral-like, mirror-bedecked chateau they now find themselves wandering. Unforgettable in both its confounding details (gilded ceilings, diabolical parlor games, a loaded gun) and haunting scope, Resnais' investigation into the nature of memory is disturbing, romantic, and maybe even a ghost story.
A formally astonishing and narratively audacious film, one that plays with time and memory, suggesting how little can be known with certainty. In a baroque and spacious hotel, a man sees a woman and believes that he knows her from the year before -- except, as the film jumps from time to time, events keep repeating and altering slightly, making the entire world unstable and recollection undependable. What is real and what is imagination... and is anything true'