Review: ‘Muriel – Ou le Temps d’Un Retour’

As in Alain Resnais' previous pix, Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year in Marienbad, memory and the weighing of an important past event on the characters seem to be the keystone of the film. A fortyish woman, living in a small town with her stepson, invites an old lover, whom she has not seen in 20 years, to come to see her. He appears accompanied by a 20-year-old mistress whom he passes off as his niece. The stepson is suffering from an experience during the recent Algerian war when a fellow soldier tortured an Arab girl called Muriel.

As in Alain Resnais’ previous pix, Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year in Marienbad, memory and the weighing of an important past event on the characters seem to be the keystone of the film. A fortyish woman, living in a small town with her stepson, invites an old lover, whom she has not seen in 20 years, to come to see her. He appears accompanied by a 20-year-old mistress whom he passes off as his niece. The stepson is suffering from an experience during the recent Algerian war when a fellow soldier tortured an Arab girl called Muriel.

There can be no denying Resnais’ brilliance in his rapid cutting, which replaces camera movement, plus maintenance of a mood and knowing use of color. But an attempt to add mystery to the pic by the man being tracked down by his abandoned wife’s brother in the end makes this tale a pretentious one. The characters are forced to stand for things that are above their abilities.

Delphine Seyrig etches a mannered but acceptable portrait of the almost spinsterish widow who cannot cope with herself or her memories. Others are adequate in both simple and complex roles.

Muriel - Ou le Temps d'Un Retour

France

Production

Argos/Alpha/Pleiade/Eclair/Dea. Director Alain Resnais; Screenplay Jean Cayrol; Camera Sacha Vierny; Editor Kenout Peltier, Eric Pluet; Music Hans Werner Henze; Art Director Jacques Saulnier

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1963. Running time: 120 MIN.

With

Delphine Seyrig Jean-Pierre Kerien Nita Klein Jean-Baptiste Thierre Claude Sainval Laurence Badie
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