Alain Resnais

(redirected from Alain Renais)
Alain Resnais
BirthplaceVannes, Morbihan, Brittany, France

Resnais, Alain

(älăN` rānā`), 1922–2014, French filmmaker. Although not an official member of the French cinema's New Wave movement, he shared its innovative and personal approach to style, content, and narrative. His work, however, was more in the modernist literary tradition, less linear, more concerned with form and cinematic theory, and more overtly interested in social and political issues. His films also often display a unique preoccupation with time and memory.

Resnais began his career in 1947, directing short documentaries on various subjects in the arts, e.g., Van Gogh (1948, Academy Award) and a study of Picasso's Guernica (1950). The last and most acclaimed of these, Nuit et Brouillard (1955, Night and Fog), is an examination of Nazi concentration camps. In his early features, Resnais often collaborated with contemporary novelists associated with the post–World War II antinaturalistic nouveau roman [new novel], and he frequently employed flashback and fast-forward techniques that emphasized the mutability of time. Resnais reflected his documentary experience in his first feature, the haunting Hiroshima mon amor (1959), with screenplay by Marguerite DurasDuras, Marguerite
, 1914–96, French author, b. Gia Dinh, Indochina (now Vietnam). Usually grouped with the exponents of the nouveau roman [new novel] (see French literature), Duras abandoned many of the conventions of the novel form.
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, which merges present and past in a story of a passionate love affair that also recounts and documents the destruction of Hiroshima. His second feature, L'Annèe dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad, 1961), written by Alain Robbe-GrilletRobbe-Grillet, Alain
, 1922–2008, French novelist and filmmaker, b. Brest. Robbe-Grillet is considered the originator of the French nouveau roman [new novel], in which conventional story is subordinated to structure and the significance of objects is stressed above
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, is the paradigm of European art films: an enigmatic, evocative, and exquisitely composed work that explores perception, time, and the ambiguities of memory.

Among Resnais' other films are Muriel (1963); La guerre est finie (The War Is Over, 1966), which mingles political intrique with elements of personal alienation and intimacy; Stavisky (1974), another political work drawn from a 1930s French scandal; Providence (1977), his first English-language feature; and the witty, prize-winning Mon Oncle d'Amérique (1980). Later films are more free-form and antirealistic, and were generally less popular with critics and the public. These include La Vie est un roman (Life Is a Bed of Roses, 1983), Mélo (1986), Smoking/No Smoking (1993), On connait la chanson (Same Old Song, 1997), and Coeurs (Private Fears in Public Places, 2006). Though Resnais directed dozens of films, his last documentary and his first two features remain the most influential and best known.


See studies by R. Ames (1968), J. Ward (1968), J. Monaco (1978, 1979), F. Sweet (1981), H. Callev (1997), E. Wilson (2006), and H. Vaughan (2013).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Resnais, Alain


Born June 3, 1922, in Vannes. French film director.

Resnais studied cinema at the Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques and also studied acting. He is a representative of the New Wave, a trend in the French cinema in the mid-1950’s. His first motion pictures included the short film Van Gogh (1948) and the documentaries Guernica (1949) and Night and Fog (1956). Resnais’s feature films include Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), Last Year at Marienbad (1961), Muriel (1963), La Guerre est finie (1966), and Je t’aime, je t’aime (1968). In 1967 he collaborated on the film Far From Vietnam.


Iutkevich, S. “Novaia shkola frantsuzskogo korotkometrazhnogo fil’ma.” In the collection Frantsuzskoe kinoiskusstvo. Moscow, 1960.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Concentrationary Cinema: Aesthetics as Political Resistance in Alain Renais's Night and Fog (1955)
Elsewhere, he offers briefer, unqualified praise for two documentaries (Shoab by Claude Lanzmann, and Night and Fog by Alain Renais) and several works of Holocaust history (especially David Wyman's The Abandonment of the Jews).
A brilliant rereading of Hiroshima Mon Amour, the revered collaboration between Alain Renais and Marguerite Duras, for instance, allows the author to advocate for women-made films not as an attempt to reinstall questions of auteurship but rather to study how a women's authorial voice becomes a subversive act deconstructing patriarchal traditions and heft.
Among the latter: Ang Lee's campy Taking Woodstock, which empties the 60s event of any political subtext but offers a fun spree through sex, drugs, and silliness; Ken Loach's bubbly Looking for Eric with Eric Cantona (fun to watch) about a postal worker getting his life back together with a bit of "teamwork"; Alejandro Amenabar's Agora, set in ancient Egypt with soap-opera scenes galore (a la Ben Hur); and Alain Renais insipidly quirky Les Herbes Folles, about a menage a quatre.
Director Alain Renais meanders through 50 scenes exploring how lonely people can be in relationships.
1995: Allen, Martin Scorsese and French director Alain Renais are awarded Golden Lions for their lifetime achievements.
Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Renais, and Francois Truffaut made us aware of film as film, a thinking person's medium very much involved in the questions raised by the Holocaust, the A-bomb, psychoanalysis, and world revolution.
Having done Ayckbourn with Smoking/No Smoking, Alain Renais' homage to British drama turns to Dennis Potter by having the characters burst into lip-synched snatches of popular French song (disconcertingly not always sung by their own gender) from the 30s onwards by the likes of Aznavour, Chevalier, Sylvie Vartan, Johnny Hallyday and Josephine Baker.
Yet, "Schindler's List" is very much Hollywood fare, dramatic storytelling that, while based on fact, cares nothing for the lessons taught by films such as Alain Renais' "Night and Fog" or, more importantly, "Shoah" - works suggesting that the absence of horrific spectacle may be the prime aesthetic guide in representing what is almost beyond comprehension.