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Hiroshima Mon Amour (Criterion Collection) (1959)

Cast: Emmanuelle Riva, Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada, more...
Director: Alain Resnais, Alain Resnais
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Criterion
Genre: Classics, Drama, Foreign, France, Classic Drama, Classic Drama, Criterion Collection
Running Time: 90 min.
Languages: French
Subtitles: English
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Alain Resnais's multi-award-winning Hiroshima, Mon Amour is neither an easy film to watch nor to synopsize, but it remains one of the high-water marks of the French "new wave" movement. Resnais and scenarist Marguerite Duras weave a complex story concerning a French actress's (Emmanuelle Riva) experiences in occupied France, juxtaposed with the horrendous ordeal of a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada) coping psychologically with the bombing of Hiroshima. These stories are offered in quick flashback vignettes, which permeate the contemporary story of the woman's relationship with the architect in contemporary Hiroshima. The characters are of the Then and the Now simultaneously, much like the famous watch that was dug out of the ruins of Hiroshima, its hands permanently affixed at 9:15. Resnais refuses to honor the traditional "unities" of film: we are never certain at any time whether we're watching the events of 1959 or of 1945. In truth, Hiroshima Mon Amour is not quite as inscrutable as certain critics would have us believe (the central theme of the importance of coming to grips with one's past comes through loud and clear), but it confused many filmgoers upon its first release, some of whom gave up the picture as a bad job and steered clear of all future Resnais efforts. Viewers are strongly encouraged to stay with this one from beginning to end; it won't be a smooth ride, but it will be an immensely rewarding one. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Never Nevere by chasiubao8 January 5, 2008 - 4:40 PM PST
2 out of 4 members found this review helpful
Resnais' lyrical realism creates a hypnotic portraiture of a woman at an impasse. Rivas breathes life into Duras' character with emotional depth and intensity. When Okada's character encounters Rivas, he instinctively recognizes a despairing soul marked by solitude. When he probes her, the word "Nevere" strikes a nerve. He learns that an affair between her and a German soldier during the Nazi occupation of France has seared her heart with the most exquisite joy and unbearable pain. Okada forces those memories to surface within her with paralyzing intensity. The price she must pay for another chance at love is to relinquish Nevere. Yet how can she surrender that which she is, have always known herself to be? Both say they are "happily married", but the film reveals that to be a unstable compromise. In order to function in the present, the passionate aliveness of the "impossible love" is "memorialized into stone". Okada, intoxicated by the possibility of a higher shared passion, forces Rivas to choose. Menacing and seductive, the possibility of a new world hovers at the edge of her awareness but she is preoccupied with self-betrayal and remains inwardly focused, towards Nevere.

Made Absolutely No Sense by notrust July 15, 2006 - 8:54 AM PDT
0 out of 3 members found this review helpful
I usually like artsy foriegn films, provided that there is some point to the excercise. This film, while technically good, simply has no idea what it is trying to say. In an interview included with the extras, the director Resnais admits that the viewer is supposed to project their own meaning into the story, and that Resnais's own interpretation of the film was unimportant since he was just one more viewer.

So the short of it is, the film is not supposed to make any sense, and the viewer has to provide their own meaning. What a cop-out! I don't watch a movie just to project my own thoughts onto the screen. If this sounds like an enjoyable way to spend 2 hours, then this is your movie!

This film is yet another "Emperor Has No Clothes" classic, that everyone is supposed heap praise upon because they didn't understand it, but don't want to admit they didn't for fear of seeming unsophisticated.

The female lead whines for 20 minutes at a time about her "feelings" and some atomic bomb victims are shown. The stoic male lead is supposed to be already dead which was interesting but never really explained. The ending is not a payoff at all, it just adds another layer of confusion.

The movie seems to be trying very hard to say something but never really does. Unfortunately, if the director has no idea what that movie's message is, Heaven help the audience.

Love versus the memory of love by percivaln April 24, 2005 - 1:13 PM PDT
2 out of 3 members found this review helpful
A French actress unintentionally falls in love with a Japanese architect while filming in Horishima, fourteen years after the bomb. In her love for him, she is haunted by the memories of her first love, which we explore through flashbacks. The relationships with her current and former lover are blurred, both "impossible loves" which both give her life and misery.

The direction, cinematography, editing, writing is wonderful. Emmanuelle Riva's acting is amazing -- emotions play across her face like light on a pond, constantly shifting, yet always clear and bright. Duras, best known for her breakthrough novel L'Amante (The Lover), a nearly-autobiographical story about her childhood love with a Chinese man in French Indochina, writes the story and does an amazing job showing the inner workings of the female protagonist, yet, like in L'Amante, does a poor job at giving life to her Lover.

By the end of the movie, we know very clearly why the girl from Nevers is in love with the boy from Hiroshima. However, why are we the audience and Hiroshima the man in love with her? Is it because she created a spark of nostalgia in him, when he was young and studying abroad (purely my hypothesis)? Are we just to accept at face value that she is an attractive blond actress, and therefore worth loving? It is true that to the protagonist, Why she is loved is unimportant. However, for the audience -- for me, the Asian man -- we need to know more than just Her love story. What about His love story? We are told that it was love at first sight, and expected to take it at that.

It is important to note that Eiji Okaka does not speak French. He was taught it phonetically for the movie, and there are moments where even with my few years of French, I realize his pronunciation is just off. Other times, it's garbled. Late in the film, Okada has a long speaking part in a close-up shot, and you realize the lip syncing is off. Then in the following medium shot, the audio volume and acoustics of his voice change noticeably. Audio complaints aside, I think Okada did an amazing acting job, especially considering he did not understand French.

Overall, a memorable film by Resnais (my first), a memorable story by Duras (though not her greatest), and a memorable performance by Riva. Definitely a movie I will be adding to my collection.

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GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.87)
213 Votes
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