Who's In It: Andre Dussollier, Sabine Azema, Emmanuelle Devos, Mathieu Amalric
The Basics: A shoe-shopping dentist and weekend aviatrix loses her purse and, when the wallet inside is finally found and returned by a middle-aged married man, the pair begin a very strange courtship. He wants to meet. She doesn’t. (“You disappoint me,” he grumps into the phone, with more than a little bit of the serial killer in his voice.) Then, on a dime, she becomes obsessed with him. Missed connections, misunderstandings, confusing details, weird detours, bemused bystanders and hypnotized trips to the local cinema ensue before a hilariously dark climax involving a stuck zipper, a vintage prop plane and a child who daydreams of eating cat food.
What’s The Deal: You know how to watch a movie. You know what narrative cues to expect and when. And you know what you like. But the go-to guy to upend all those assumptions is French New Wave pioneer Alain Resnais. He’s an old-school iconoclast with his own way of doing things and he’s more concerned with “pure cinema” and reminding you that you’re in an artificial environment watching a movie where anything can happen than he is with conventional ideas about narrative. He likes to set you up and then leave you bewildered while you wonder why he’s gone off in some new direction in the very next scene. Your job is to hang in there and enjoy the disorientation. After a while it starts to make sense. And by “after a while” I mean after you’ve sat through the movie twice.
Why This Isn’t The Right Movie To Start With If You’ve Never Seen His Films Before: The man is 88 now and he’s been making challenging movies for decades. The sleepwalky 1962 Last Year at Marienbad turned him into one of the most debated filmmakers of that era and his head-spinning, fragmented approach to directing made Boss of All Film Critics Pauline Kael write an essay called “Is Cinema Going to Pieces?” I like to think about what would happen if a person only ever saw his movies and never once sat through a regular movie. Then regular movies would feel like the experimental thing.
But Is It Good? Yes, it’s great (save for the horrible smooth-lite-jazz saxophone noodling going on in the score) and you’ll wonder what you just watched, but you won't be bored for a second.