81. “Hiroshima mon Amour”, Alain Resnais (1959)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

Hiroshima mon Amour

Hiroshima mon Amour aka Hiroshima My Love

dir. Alain Resnais (1959) scr. Marguerite Duras cin. Michio Takahashi and Sacha Vierny with Emmanuelle Riva and Eiji Okada

In 100 words: Memory and the act of remembering are the main concerns of this French New Wave classic, opening with an incredible montage of newsreel, recreations, and documentary footage of Hiroshima juxtaposed with shots of two embracing bodies, first covered in ashes, then in sweat. She and He discuss the nature of memory, especially trauma, how one inhabits or experiences them and how one forgets them. That these conversations all play out amidst a credible dissolution of a love affair is Duras’s power. That these are presented with stunning imagery, ingenious editing, and sinuous music akin to reliving memories is Resnais’ gift.

Other Movies for Context: Resnais has a fascinating and long filmography, but I’ve seen three other works from him: the incredible and important documentary Night and Fog (1955) about the Holocaust, Last Year in Marienbad (1961), which gave me a headache, and Mon oncle d’Amerique (1980), which was great but felt like a dream. In terms of the subject matter, the only other definitive Hiroshima movie I can think of is Shohei Imamura’s Black Rain (1988), which plays out more like a straight-up drama, but with heightened and lurid flashback scenes that recall Resnais’s film.

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