Tuesday, December 02, 2008

muriel...

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some stills from alain resnais' stunning film muriel, which i watched twice this past weekend. resnais clearly understands the loneliness one holds inside of them. i can't think of any clear definitive connection, but for some reason, i kept thinking of two filmmakers whom i assume were totally outside of resnais field of vision at this point. one was harry smith, and in particular his masterpiece 'mahagonny'(which hadn't yet been created), and the other was ozu.

certainly the ozu connection came about through a kind of visual sense of color in the mid 1960's, reflected in muriel in the night shots of bars and city streets taking on the vivid colorings of night light similar to ozu's films of the same period with many scenes taking place in tokyo bars and small restaurants. in muriel, resnais also uses static shots of objects - particularly doors and doorways - similar to the way ozu used static shots of objects to speak about the interior of characters. just as a small vase alone on a shelf in ozu suggests loneliness or solitude; in muriel, resnais fills the main setting of the story in an apartment, with antiques that are for sale, reflecting a kind of temporariness or unsettled - transient - nature of the characters. in both cases, the objects and people reflect each other.

the harry smith connection is a difficult one to articulate, and probably stretches things a bit too much. nonetheless, the movement of mahagonny has a similar kind of feeling to several scenes in muriel, particularly near the beginning where a few characters are walking along the street and then eating dinner. the jump cuts and visual shifts are disorientating, and mess with one's sense of stability in the same way the movement of mahoganny does. as a visual experience, they both kind of pull the rug out from under you. and then there's the sound. in both cases there are moments (much more so with harry smith's film of course) where the sound and visual are not connected in a literal way; and in muriel, resnais does this beautiful thing where a conversation will end visually, but continue on the audio track into a new scene, which is essentially silent. there's a drifting back and forth in both films. resnais' muriel, of course, came years before smith's, but i would guess it would not be inconceivable that smith could have seen muriel, at some point in new york.

regardless of my fabricated connections, i would definitely recommend muriel to anyone who hasn't seen it, and i'd recommend seeing it two, or three times in a row...

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2 Comments:

Blogger ArtSparker said...

okay...something to rent. Also the mention of doorways gives me the excuse to use the word liminal...just because it's a champion word, and is thee any root connection with the word limn, which I think of an austere sort of rendering...

1:57 PM  
Blogger sroden said...

yes, i was in a show called liminal spaces once... top notch word!

6:46 AM  

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