Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
From an admittedly crowded field this might just walk off with the Most Pretentious French Film Ever Made award – and what a cut glass chinstroking chore it can be. Amid a posh gathering at a palatial country pile a man tries to convince a woman they had an affair the year before. Only she doesn’t recall. And you can’t tell past from present. And they keep saying the same things over and again but with continuity errors. What with the loony editing and the searching looks it’s like being trapped in a ninety-minute commercial for a new fragrance by Dennis Potter.
What does it mean? Not even clever people know that – which is why so many of them like it, of course. A system malfunction romance which draws attention to its own artefact as film, mimics the processes of thought itself, and may or may not be a response to the cold war, a rape, mortality, the birth of Christopher Biggins, or simply a moonstruck metafiction in which one character knows the whole jig is just dreams made of cycling celluloid.