The big deal here — although, no, it wouldn’t count for much if the film itself weren’t so ravishingly lovely and unassailably fine — is HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR‘s brand new “4K” restoration, unveiled at New York’s Lincoln Center in October and screening for the next two weeks at the Harvard Film Archive. Judging by the so far import-only Blu-ray — derived from the same restoration but limited to a “mere” 1080p (not to mention the comparatively meager screen-space of even the largest television) — watching this on the big screen is an experience that no one who loves this film should let themselves miss. And if you haven’t seen it, well…
I’m not going to tell you you ought to see it — it isn’t a question of eating your vegetables or finishing your homework, after all. But even setting aside its historical significance in the development of the French New Wave, or its key role in the internationalization of a certain kind of “art-house” cinema (a somewhat cursed blessing), Alain Resnais‘ first feature is a timeless, deeply moving poem of a film about peace, love, and memory — or else about war, loss, and forgetting. I urge you to want to see it. Emmanuelle Riva and Eiji Okada give luminous performances as, respectively, a French actress and Japanese architect for whom a particularly passionate one-night stand in Hiroshima turns first into a meditation on the atomic attack and its aftermath and then into an occasion for Riva’s Elle to unburden herself of her own life-defining story: her war-time affair (and first love) with a German soldier. Elle’s post-war ostracism in her hometown of Nevers — a name whose connotations are put to good use — is brutal, but it isn’t Resnais’ intention (nor screenwriter Marguerite Duras‘) to suggest an equivalency of suffering between Elle and the people of Hiroshima. She and Okada’s French-fluent Lui — both of them married and shaken by the unexpected intensity of their sudden bond — work their way, via lovemaking and Duras’ enduringly charged, elliptical dialogue, to an at least provisional clearing in which past and future, memory and forgetting, and love and war all attain an enchanted balance.
Also: Georges Delerue’s haunting soundtrack; the always striking and impeccable black-and-white cinematography (by Michio Takahashi in Japan, Sacha Vierny in France, and looking better than ever); the aesthetic and conceptual rigor — poised perfectly between classicism and the radically experimental — of Resnais’ direction; and, and … fine, I suppose you probably ought to see it after all. Reste à Hiroshima avec moi. You won’t regret it.
11/29-11/30 // Saturday: 9pm // Sunday: 5pm
Additional screenings well into December. Details are here.
Harvard Film Archive
24 Quincy St.