For a new cinema - Page 2

A look back at the forward-thinking films of Alain Robbe-Grillet
Last Year at Marienbad

The Turkish merchants, maids, souvenir hawkers, and child guides who appear on the sidelines are largely oblivious to the inchoate memories and stifled desires of the film's European ciphers. In a possible proto-swipe at Orientalism, Robbe-Grillet seems to be saying that Istanbul itself — that survivor of multiple Crusades, invasions, and reconstructions — will continue to endure, outliving the Istanbul of European fantasy.

True to the spirit of Robbe-Grillet, I can only tentatively state to what extent L'Immortale is representative of the rest of his filmography (as of press time, only one other film, 1966's surprisingly funny meta-noir Tran-Europe Express, was screened). No doubt, he'd be self-conscious about the air of canonicity necessarily implied by a retrospective. "The writer must proudly consent to bear his own date," he writes in one essay, "knowing that there are no masterpieces in eternity, but only works in history." Undoubtedly, there are times when Robbe-Grillet's work shows its age — Marienbad in particular has become fodder for countless perfume commercials and parodies of pretentious art cinema. Robbe-Grillet also recognized that prescience could be a double-edged sword. As if writing a self-fulfilling prophecy, he observes,"[Novels] survive only to the degree that they have left the past behind them and heralded the future." This idea equally applies to his films.


Through Dec. 18


Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787

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