Friday, June 06, 2014

Alain Resnais, RIP

The most memorably bad date of my collegiate life went like this:

A friend's girlfriend had arranged a blind date for me.  Given that this girlfriend was herself a difficult character -- pageant queen gone to terrifying seed -- a wiser man would have politely demurred.  But hey, I was looking for love.

We met at the student center, and it was clear in an instant that we were ill-matched.  I studied English, she studied Chem.  She had no evident interest in art or politics, I couldn't for the life of me remember what chelation and reagents were.  Apart from the aforementioned friend's girlfriend, we seemed not to have a single acquaintance in common -- and this on a very small campus.

But that was okay, because I had an ace in the hole:  the campus film club.  Every week, in one of the lecture halls, they screened a movie classic.  That was where I became acquainted with Fassbinder, Antonioni, and all the other highbrow moviemakers that college kids love.  But this particular night, they had scheduled one of those perfect date movies -- a screwball comedy from the 1930s or 40s.

I forget what it was, exactly.  My Man Godfrey?  Holiday?  Bringing Up Baby?  Anyway, it was a guaranteed good time, 100 minutes of laughter followed by a glamorous big-screen kiss.  Hard to resist.

So off we went to Blodgett Hall, where we sat in the uncomfortable seats normally reserved for Anthropology 101.  We make awkward small talk, and waited for the lights to dim.

Then disaster struck.

"I'm sorry," said the president of the club, walking in front of the screen and holding a round steel film canister.  "The company that we rent these things from seems to have screwed up.  Instead of [Godfrey/Holiday/Baby], they seem to have sent us a French at film called Hiroshima, Mon Amour."

Ah, yes.  Hiroshima, Mon Amour.  For those who have never had the pleasure, it is Alain Resnais' 1959non-linear meditation on memory and war, which launched the Nouvelle Vague.  A French actress and a Japanese architect are ending their affair, and ... talking about it. He remembers being in Hisrohima when the bomb fell, she remembers being shaved bald as punishment for a fling with a German soldier.  There are pictures of people dying and disfigured by the effects of atomic warfare.

"So," I said cautiously when the lights came up afterward.  "You want to, maybe, get a beer?"

"I don't drink" she said.  This might have been true, or might not.  For all I know, she might have taken the pledge that very moment.  It was probably just as well.

Anyway, I did not get lucky that night, and have always blamed Alain Resnais.  He was a good director -- I like L'Annee Derniere a Marienbad as much as you can like that sort of thing -- and haven't let this particular disaster interfere with a lifetime of snobby Francophilia.  But the guy did cost me a night of amorous fun, which is a serious offense.  Yes, it was thirty-odd years ago -- but I have neither forgotten nor forgiven

Anyway, Resnais is dead at 91.  The rest of the world mourns; I hereby declare victory.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The Egg's acumen is sorely missed!