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L’année dernière à Marienbad, a black and white film, pervaded by a psychoanalytical Sensucht

L’année dernière à Marienbad remains a constant source of inspiration for Karl Lagerfeld, who has designed robes in black chiffon since 1983

A black and white film, pervaded by a psychoanalytical Sensucht and dedicated to a lingering memory, releasing a comprehensive stylistic and aesthetic repertoire. It is considered a cornerstone of the French Nouvelle Vague– despite the fact that the director Alain Resnais was never officially a member of this movement.

The film flows on a de-constructed narrative, which is not in chronological order and presented almost as if it were a dream. It outlines a plot that weaves past and present, confusing reality and imagination. The dialogues are fragmented and initiatory. The story is played out in the semi-empty Baroque interiors, transfigured by mirrors and gilded details, of a grand hotel in a Mitteleuropean ville d’eaux, along the Leibnizian and geometric lines of a park with a formal layout.

The original negative of the film, dating back to 1960 and still in good condition, was digitally restored at 4K resolution by STUDIOCANAL, thanks to funding received from Chanel. On 5 September 2018, the preview in Venice at the International Film Festival, the same setting that had confirmed its value in international circles some decades earlier. The restoration process was delicate and succeeded in faithfully reproducing the original contrast between black and white, and in restoring the polished finish to the beauty of the images. The chiaroscuro and the abstraction of the photography and the lights of the shots in dyaliscope now shine again, while the graphic palette was dusted down, a few scratches were removed from the original medium and a number of faults caused by wear and tear were eliminated. The original 35 mm of the soundtrack, by Francis Seyrig, a student of Olivier Messiaen, was also restored.In an unstoppable plot, the costumes help the viewer to find their bearings and reconstruct a possible chronological order. The main character, the proud Delphine Seyrig who plays A, and bears a vague resemblance to Gabrielle Chanel of whom she was a loyal customer – only wears clothes from the Maison of Rue Cambon. Alain Resnais wanted Seyrig to wear a real wardrobe, capable of evoking the glamour of the divas from the 1920s and of expressing an allure that was both classic and contemporary at the same time. This marked a turning point in stage costumes, encouraging actresses to use their own everyday clothes on the set the Nouvelle Vague would then amplify this trend. And indeed, a little black dress in muslin worn at the beginning of the film would subsequently be affectionately labelled by audiences, and by the clientele, as the dress à la Marienbad.

L’année dernière à Marienbad remains a constant source of inspiration for Karl Lagerfeld, who has designed robes in black chiffon since 1983. The 2011 collection was an exact copy of the film by Resnais – including the set of the runway show, staged in an eighteenth century garden beneath the glass domes of the Grand Palais. In 2013, Lagerfeld wrote and directed The Return: in the film Anna Mouglalis plays Delphine Seyrig, breathing life into an ethereal presence in the drawing rooms at 31 Rue Cambon, overlapping different temporal auras and evocative thoughts, thanks to the original dress worn by Seyrig during filming.

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