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Alain Resnais: A Retrospective

Nov. 27 - Dec. 4, 2012


The ambition of the Lightcube Retrospective is to conduct a journey, a lengthy voyage through the filmography of an important, as opposed to 'great', director and ensure a brief overview and introduction to his work through the exhibition of a number of his films. The showing of the films will also be accompanied by discussions, video-essays, exhibitions and printed-material on the work of the director or idea in question.


27th November, 2012 / 6PM

In sharp contrast to the films in the New Hollywood, Resnais worked with cinematographer Sacha Vierny to move as far away from “realistic 1974 colors” drawing on the experimental bichrome colour films shot in the period as well as the pictorial magazines and graphic design of the 30s. The music by Stephen Sondheim a formative influence on Resnais similarly taps and subverts cultural nostalgia for a “bygone age” which in the end is what Stavisky represents, a period of French life on the cusp of being permanently altered by rising fascism and the inevitable years of war and industrial level slaughter. The latter being the subject of Night and Fog, for which Stavisky serves as a chronological prelude. Both films focus on the deceptive tranquility of surfaces and the fragility of memory, personal and historical. Within the gaiety of Stavisky’s splendid surface and great décor, a party that one always one is invited to, is the currents of doom and self-destruction and at the centre is Stavisky who like John McMartin in Stephen Sondheim’s musical Follies continues to sing and dance even as the moment eludes him. - Sudarshan Raman



27th November, 2012 / 8PM

Before anything, documentaries should be introspection. Resnais’s masterful short remains not (only) about horrific event, a result of man’s simultaneous return to primitiveness, and to his application of modern day philosophy (Nietzsche) – the holocaust, but also about his inquiry into the capability of cinema to be about it. What more can cinema tell? Can it even? Does it lie within the scope of a short thirty minute film to detail an event that took millions? How to do it? He asks questions, thus, not just about the event, but also about the helplessness of the medium before it, wanders in his lovely sideway tracks in concentration camps, with poetic elucidations as voiceovers, match-cuts between then(1934) and now(1955, the year of production), like Wordsworth in a field, wondering about the solitary reaper. - Debojit Ghatak


4th December, 2012 / 6PM

Statues Also Die is perhaps the boldest of Resnais’ shorts. Certainly the most political in its depiction of an institute's ideological function in disseminating what Chris Marker's text describes as 'this botany of death we call culture'. African tribal masks from Gabon and Benin had a major influence on Picasso and Georges Braque. Altgough unmentioned in the film, Resnais' composition and editing emphasizes this modernist legacy. Making much of the anti-naturalist forms and shapes in human representation, we see the beauty and fierce imagination in these detailed works, originally made for tribal rituals but stripped from context become relics which are dimly understood. Statues Also Die was a strong enough critique of colonialism that it would be suppressed by the French government.Especially its final section which turns its gaze to neo-colonialism. The film however would endure as a classic and would even be cited as a favorite of Senegalese master Ouslane Sembene. - Sudarshan Ramani



4th December, 2012 / 6:30PM

In the opening sequence, as the two lovers, their presence a collection of skin slathered with beads of sweat and flooded by darkness that engulfs them, she claims awareness (a state even greater than knowledge) of Hiroshima and he refutes her, 'You haven't seen anything.' She tells him of his visit to the hospital, of her trip to the museum (the hospital and the museum both serve a similar function: they preserve a relic receding quickly into the past and try to grant it a future) - she informs him of the films of Hiroshima's destruction that she has seen, of the artificial model of the destroyed city that she was a witness to, of the diorama; he rejects her, 'You haven't seen anything.' Resnais' artistic-manifesto seems to be the rejection of an awareness that is not the yield of a direct experience; his goal remains to separate a mere representation from the the real object (Wittgenstein) - cinema may create the illusion of reality, but it is not reality. Jean Cayrol's voiceover emphasises in Resnais's formidable Night and Fog: 'We can show you, but only the surface'; it is apt also for Hiroshima Mon Amour - a film obsessed with the texture of the human skin, also only a surface that hides the thousand expressions behind itself. One may also be assured that Resnais's pursuit of his erstwhile artistic objective remains potent still in 2012; the title of his new film? You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet. -Debojit Ghatak



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