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Muriel - DVD (French/English S

Delphine Seyrig , Jean-Pierre Kérien , Alain Resnais    Unrated   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Alain Resnais's 1963 memory film Muriel is a fascinating study of the relationship between the way things are remembered--a blend of fact, dream, and falsification--and the way things really are, with cinema itself the crucial bridge. A woman (Delphine Seyrig), haunted by the memory of her first love, meets up with him again and finds he's a long way from being the man she recalls. Meanwhile, her stepson (Jean-Baptiste Thierrée) is preoccupied with a torture death he witnessed in Algeria. In the case of the former, the present-day truths about Seyrig's old flame are mitigated and complicated by recollections of his old self, and what develops is a timeless portrait of the character more alive than his current actuality. In the latter, the young man's refusal to loosen the atrocity's grip on his life becomes increasingly fruitless as the tragedy only exists on film--and the world has moved on despite the injustice. A challenging work by Resnais in which perspective rapidly changes, the film nevertheless has a subtle, haunting quality in which the richness of the past and the bluntness of the present obscure one another and must be reconciled on celluloid. --Tom Keogh

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting memories... March 31 2010
By Edmonson TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The screenplay for Alain Resnais's "Muriel"(1963) was being worked on around the same time as his film "Last Year at Marienbad"(1961), though the movie was to come out a couple of years later once the Algerian civil war was over. This was also to be Resnais's first color film. "Muriel" is about Helene(Delphine Seyrig) who is an antique dealer who meets up with a past lover(Jean-Pierre Kerien), and about her stepson, Bernard (Jean-Baptiste Thierree), who is tormented by a girl named Muriel whom he participated in torturing in Algeria. A predominant theme is that people can never really know others since everyone is isolated and living in worlds of their own. Also important is how memories continue to affect and haunt the present as Bernard can't escape the memory of Muriel, and how this affects the people around him. The movie has a staccato, cubistic quality with rapid jump cuts interspersed with eerie music which emphasize the underlying agitation each of the characters carries with them as they struggle with their feelings and memories about their world. The town itself is recovering from the ravages of WWII and is just as scarred as the inhabitants. Everything is in a start of flux as people are trying to move on with their lives. The people come and go just as the antique furniture in Helene's apartment comes and goes to new respective owners. Even as everything is in a state of transition the stains of memories linger and continue to haunt the present.

This 2007 DVD also has an informative interview with Francois Thomas, author of "L'atelier d'Alain Resnais". This French film has English subtitles and has an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 with audio in Dolby Digital.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Resnais Resnais, fantastic Resnais Sept. 20 2000
By TUCO H.
Format:VHS Tape
"Muriel" is one of the greatest films ever made. It is Alan Resnais' ultimate masterstroke. It is better than both "Hiroshima Mon Amour" and "Last Year At Marienbad;" However, it ABSOLUTELY DEMANDS MULTIPLE VIEWINGS. It is a difficult but ultimately magnificent and supremely satisfying film experience.
The first time I saw "Muriel" (it was, for years, extremely hard to find on video and only one video store carried it even in movie mecca L.A.) I was completely confounded by it. The radical presentation of the ordinary characters in the context of their transcendent thoughts and memories seemed to be uninteresting and bland (probably because I hadn't thought of its connections to the universal). I didn't think it warranted any closer attention. But I knew there was something there I was uncomfortable with, a deeper aspect I wasn't picking up. I knew that great films sometimes take a while before they reveal themselves and that I had to come back sometime and reassess it.
After reading a deeply insightful old article from "Cahiers du Cinema" called "The Misfortunes of Muriel" in which Jacques Rivette and a group of other French critics praise this film to the skies and also Truffaut's little piece about it in his book "The Films in My Life," I decided to give it another try.
To say that I'm glad I took the time to make that reassessment is an understatment because this is such an amazingly satisfying film, that once all the pieces of the puzzle come togeher in your head in all their subtle details, THERE IS NOTHING ELSE TO COMPARE. You almost feel like you've just seen the birth of cinema.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Alain Resnais' Best Film Feb. 23 2000
Format:VHS Tape
Although "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" and "Last Year in Marienbad" will always get more press, I think that "Muriel" is Alain Resnais' best film. Beware, if you are not a fan of the most challenging foreign films or of the nouvelle vague, this film will absolutely confound you, it is challenging viewing. Resnais probably revolutionized film even more than Michelangelo Antonioni or Jean-Luc Godard did. "Muriel", the story of some very emotionally ravaged people set in a city being rebuilt after being destroyed during World War II, was the first color film directed by Resnais and features stunning work by his (and Peter Greenaway's) cinematographer, Sacha Vierny. I must recommend it, above all, for its absolutely incredible editing. Watch the first two minutes and be prepared to be blown away by Resnais' cutting techniques. Later, you will see him alternate quickly between scenes during the day and scenes during the night, something Godard later did in "Masculin-Feminin". "Muriel", like any film from Alain Resnais, is one of a kind. Hopefully, "Muriel" will someday become available on DVD using a remastered print, so that the beautiful bright greens and scenes shot in near darkness, will come across in all their glory. For now, we can thank Hen's Tooth Video for making this film available on VHS.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Resnais Resnais, fantastic Resnais Sept. 20 2000
By TUCO H. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
"Muriel" is one of the greatest films ever made. It is Alan Resnais' ultimate masterstroke. It is better than both "Hiroshima Mon Amour" and "Last Year At Marienbad;" However, it ABSOLUTELY DEMANDS MULTIPLE VIEWINGS. It is a difficult but ultimately magnificent and supremely satisfying film experience.
The first time I saw "Muriel" (it was, for years, extremely hard to find on video and only one video store carried it even in movie mecca L.A.) I was completely confounded by it. The radical presentation of the ordinary characters in the context of their transcendent thoughts and memories seemed to be uninteresting and bland (probably because I hadn't thought of its connections to the universal). I didn't think it warranted any closer attention. But I knew there was something there I was uncomfortable with, a deeper aspect I wasn't picking up. I knew that great films sometimes take a while before they reveal themselves and that I had to come back sometime and reassess it.
After reading a deeply insightful old article from "Cahiers du Cinema" called "The Misfortunes of Muriel" in which Jacques Rivette and a group of other French critics praise this film to the skies and also Truffaut's little piece about it in his book "The Films in My Life," I decided to give it another try.
To say that I'm glad I took the time to make that reassessment is an understatment because this is such an amazingly satisfying film, that once all the pieces of the puzzle come togeher in your head in all their subtle details, THERE IS NOTHING ELSE TO COMPARE. You almost feel like you've just seen the birth of cinema. It is nearly flawless in conception and execution and has to be one of the supreme works of art this century. It works on more levels than any other film I can think of, even "Pierrot Le Fou" and "8-1/2." The difference is, almost all of these levels are hidden at first sight. You definitely have to pay UNDIVIDED ATTENTION and CONCENTRATE to start with, especially if you're reading the subtitles in English. Every word is there for a purpose and every shot counts. I'd suggest that you watch it at the bare minimum 4 times before you even presume to make a judgment.
Here are ONLY A FEW of the things I like about "Muriel:" It uses a thriller form with many comic elements that ultimately becomes a sublime tragedy of modern existence. It has superb realism in acting (Marienbad's Delphine Seyrig in her greatest performance plays the lead) to beautifully contrast with what it's really about: the transcendent aspects of life such as memory and the way it and they (the other aspects) affect the present. Sascha Vierny's beautiful faded-tone, color cinematography seems almost calculated for psychological effect (similar to Antonioni's "Red Desert" which it probably influenced) and just indescribably poetic. The eerie, haunting modern music(Henze) used on the soundtrack adds an almost science fiction feel to the atmosphere (similar to "Hiroshima" but more grating and full of nervous tension). The virtuoso, quick cutting in the middle section is completely chronological in nature but elegantly provides multiple perspectives without distorting things with unnecessary length (since all these things are going on pretty much at the same time). The quick cutting, more than anything else, is what throws most viewers off, but after a few viewings you realize that this quick cutting is precisely one of the supreme sources of beauty in the film's overall design.
I cannot recommend this film highly enough for anyone interested in GREAT CINEMA. In fact, even though this is the BEST Resnais film, it isn't exactly the most popular one, and it'll probably take ages before it's available on DVD, and that's why you need to buy the video NOW before they decide to disconinue it.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alain Resnais' Best Film Feb. 23 2000
By Jeffrey Timko - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
Although "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" and "Last Year in Marienbad" will always get more press, I think that "Muriel" is Alain Resnais' best film. Beware, if you are not a fan of the most challenging foreign films or of the nouvelle vague, this film will absolutely confound you, it is challenging viewing. Resnais probably revolutionized film even more than Michelangelo Antonioni or Jean-Luc Godard did. "Muriel", the story of some very emotionally ravaged people set in a city being rebuilt after being destroyed during World War II, was the first color film directed by Resnais and features stunning work by his (and Peter Greenaway's) cinematographer, Sacha Vierny. I must recommend it, above all, for its absolutely incredible editing. Watch the first two minutes and be prepared to be blown away by Resnais' cutting techniques. Later, you will see him alternate quickly between scenes during the day and scenes during the night, something Godard later did in "Masculin-Feminin". "Muriel", like any film from Alain Resnais, is one of a kind. Hopefully, "Muriel" will someday become available on DVD using a remastered print, so that the beautiful bright greens and scenes shot in near darkness, will come across in all their glory. For now, we can thank Hen's Tooth Video for making this film available on VHS.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reality vs Memory of It April 13 2007
By Galina - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
"Muriel" (1963) directed by Alain Resnais is a drama about the persistence of memory (aren't all Resnains' films? Incidentally, I named my review of "Hiroshima Mon Amour" that I saw about two years ago, "Persistence of Memory".)

Muriel of the title is dead by the time the movie begins, the victim of torture by the French soldiers during the occupation of Algeria. One of the soldiers, Bernard, is back in France living with his step-mother, Helene (Delphine Seyrig) in the province city Boulogne and hunted by the memories of war and Muriel. Helen deals with her own past and memories of Alphonse (Jean-Pierre Kérien), an ex-lover who comes from Paris to visit her in the company of his new 20-years-old girlfriend, Françoise (Nita Klein)

The story which Resnais tells is simple and the trailer for the movie gives a viewer a very good idea of what they are about to see: The Past. The present. The future - is it possible? Uncertainty. Suspicions. Lies. Four main characters, Helene, Alphonse, Bertrand, and Françoise are in search of what they are. There will be secrets and confessions. Is that time to love? The main theme of the film is reality vs. memory of it. Can we always trust ourselves with what we remember? Does our memory reflect the events the way they really happened or our vision of them is altered as time passes and new realities inevitably enter our lives?

What makes "Muriel" unique after all these years is the way the director presents the journey into the past of his characters, how they see it, and how it affects their present lives and the possibility (or rather impossibility) of love and happiness. Alain Resnains uses quick flashes of memory in the form of almost hypnotizing jump cuts of his genius cinematographer Sacha Vierny (Resnains and Vierny had made 10 films together). Vierny provided beautiful melancholic visual palette of washed out colors that created the atmosphere of unbearable sadness, loss, and hopelessness. Vierny who always underlined his preference for atmosphere over formal perfection, had said, "My satisfaction is that the photography is not remarked on too much for itself". The visual originality and innovation are accompanied by unusual unnerving soundtrack, eerie and haunting that adds to the understanding of guilt and remorse the film characters live with.

"Muriel" is a puzzling and multi-layered film that is easy to admire and meditate on. It is not entertaining or heart-warming and it is hard to identify with its heroes (or anti-heroes) but is always fascinating and rewarding and it may reveal its secrets after multiple viewings.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A minor Resnais masterpiece Sept. 25 2010
By Mithridates VI of Pontus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Delphine Seyrig has always been my favorite French actress -- this was mostly based on her icy, regal, and hauntingly beautiful role in Alain Resnais' seemingly impenetrable masterpiece, The Last Year at Marienbad. In Resnais' third film, Muriel, or The Time of Return (1963) Delphine Seyrig's acting abilities really shine through. Gone are her icy stares, delicately turned head indicating ambivalence, impassive expressions -- instead, we see her vulnerable, motherly, and human. In short, if for nothing else, Muriel is a vehicle for Seyrig's true acting ability as Hélène, a middle-aged widow. Although Seyrig is only in her 30s, despite the artificial quality of the 60s makeup which attempts to make her older, we believe that Hélène has experienced a great deal in her life.

Seyrig's acting tour de force is hampered somewhat by the most obvious and bothersome flaw of this film -- poor supporting acting almost across the board. Hélène's traumatized son, Bernard (Jean-Baptiste Thiérrée), is probably the worst acted role in the film. Almost as poorly portrayed is Hélène's one time love interest who has come to visit her, Alphonse Noyard (Jean-Pierre Kérien). So in short, if one can tolerate some poor acting then the rest of Muriel, or The Time of Return has quite a lot to offer: ingenious editing, a convoluted but meaningful plot, and above all, an interesting examination of the trauma of war, the banality of everyday life, and the nostalgia of lost love and what could have been.

Brief Plot Summary (limited spoilers)
Hélène, who lives in an apartment which doubles as an antique story in the newly rebuilt (after WWII) city of Boulogne-sur-mer with her son Bernard, is visited by the lover from her distant past, Alphonse. Alphonse arrives with his young "niece" who is actually his current lover. Bernard, recently returned from the war in Algeria, is traumatized by his experiences, most notably, an incident concerning the brutal torture of a young girl named Muriel. As Hélène and Alphonse reminisce, they slowly realize that they have drastically different interpretations of their own previous relationship. Their past is no Golden Age. One desires to return to the bliss of youth the other tries to rationalize the destruction of youth. Bernard's story is slowly revealed explaining his refusal to engage properly with the people around him and his odd activities concerning a film he had made in Algeria. Both are attempting to rationalize the past -- both are unsuccessful -- and both are forever changed.

My Thoughts
The editing is superb and challenging. Both Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour and Last Year at Marienbad utilize unusual editing styles. Muriel is no different. For those not expecting experimental editing the experience can be a jarring and unsettling. Like Bresson, Resnais is obsessed with routine movements which often betray the state of mind of the characters. So, the camera moves from doorknob to light switch to bookcase to hand to book to hand to dishes to... well, you get the idea. However, Resnais utilizes this technique judiciously and to great effect.

In one instance, while Alphonse is paging through the documents which relate to Muriel, the girl abused by Bernard's fellow soldiers in Algeria, the scattered memories coalesce and the camera remains still. Other times, the memories are cobbled and interspersed and inspired by various banal objects. The cobbling effect from the banal is somehow deeply gratifying.
Likewise, certain metaphors and objects are returned to again and again, a particular building built on a slop of Boulogne-sur-mur, so shoddily constructed after WWII that the city waits for it to plummet down the hill. The place, the cinematography, are wonderfully melded. I wish Resnais didn't use color! I suspect, he realized this mistake since he returned to black and white in his next film, La Guerre est Finie (although poorly in comparison to his previous work).

Although in no way Resnais' defining masterpiece, Muriel is still a worthwhile viewing experience. It will be frustrating to some and rewarding to others. Definitely seek out this seldom seen film is you enjoy Resnais and Delphine Seyrig. She is in top-notch form and the film would be among the Resnais' greats if the supporting acting was up to the audacious task. Although a deeply reflective and moving work, Muriel also tends to be somewhat laborious -- I had to watch it in two sittings.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surreal Film-Collage July 26 2010
By Stephen C. Bird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I have seen "Muriel" many times and continue to be awed by its ambiance, its exploration of secrets, and its fantastic soundtrack. I love the disjointed, abruptly edited, non-linear, everywhere-at-once quality of this movie. It is a sort of "cut-up" film, a collage representative of the space-age early 1960's. [Although this may seem like an obscure connection/comparison--"Muriel" was made around the same time that WS Burroughs and Brion Gysin were in Paris experimenting with the controversial cut-up method in literature.] Similarly to the other Amazon reviewers of this work, I see "Muriel" as a study of the distortion of reality via memory, as well as the effects of loss and alienation upon one's perception of relationship. However, the film is so visually rich--and in combination with the soundtrack so arresting--that plot becomes irrelevant, and in the end this movie defies analysis. I willingly surrender to "Muriel's" atmosphere of kaleidoscopic confusion. There are so many disconnected moments and seemingly innocuous images in this film that I treasure--be it the globular glass coffee pot on a stand that Hélène brings to the dinner table for her guests to enjoy with their spiked dessert; sinister Bernard riding on a white horse along a cliff by the sea; Helene borrowing money from her skeptical friend so she can go gambling at the local casino; the bleak and yet strangely comfortable scenes of the cafes and bars of Boulogne; the haunting song "Déjà" which reminds us that "life is short, times flies." However, Resnais dwells on no one scene for too long, always moving on to the next jarring contradiction. Ultimately, what I love about "Muriel" is the fact that, like any great work of art, I will never completely understand it--it will always be a mystery. Like a puzzle from which a few pieces are permanently missing.

Stephen C. Bird, Author of "Hideous Exuberance"
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