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A Theater Near You

Sunday, January 13, 2008
4:15 p.m. Muriel
Alain Resnais (France, 1963)

Restored Print

(Muriel, ou le temps d’un retour). Muriel is a bold and beautiful film. Alain Resnais takes a very ordinary incident—the reunion of a provincial woman and her former lover—and out of the trivia of everyday anxieties creates a mosaic of memory and conscience, or what Susan Sontag called “an examination of the form of emotion.” Hélène (Delphine Seyrig) sells antique furniture out of her Boulogne apartment; overnight, her decor can change from Second Empire to rustic Normandy. What remains constant is the hermetic life of her memories and those of her stepson Bernard, who spends his days sorting evidence of French atrocities in Algeria collected on his tour of duty. The memory of Muriel, a young girl tortured by his fellow soldiers, is more real to him than day-to-day life. When Hélène’s old lover shows up unexpectedly, the past comes full circle, only to prove the impossibility of remembering, and of forgetting. Resnais presents the drama in a chain of intercut scenes—horizontally connected, and always in the present.

Muriel is repeated on Wednesday, January 16.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Jean Cayrol. Photographed by Sacha Vierny. With Delphine Seyrig, Jean-Pierre Kerien, Nita Klein, Jean-Baptiste Thierrée. (115 mins, In French with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From Koch Lorber)