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#304 Hiroshima Mon Amour

(1959, Alain Resnais)

“You saw nothing in Hiroshima”

So it is today that the Japanese surrendered at the end of World War II, which seems an appropriate time to review a movie about the Hiroshima bombings. I would have done it back on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombings themselves, but I took a long hiatus and didn’t do it so this will do instead. So, Hiroshima Mon Amour then. What’s it like?

Set in Hiroshima (obviously), a French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) is in Japan filming a movie about peace, where she gets into a relationship with a Japanese man (Eiji Okada). The two discuss the Hiroshima museum and then start talking about love and loss and memory. And…uh…the movie kinda stopped being about Hiroshima at that point and…I’m not really sure what it was about by the end.

Yes, this is another French-made film about Japan that rambles on about nothing for a long time and ends up not being about Japan after all. Yes, it’s Sans Soleil all over again. What is it about Japan that makes French filmmakers so enamoured with it that they have to make a philosophical essay of a movie in response? Please tell me. I’d like to know. I’d also like to ask, can we ban them from ever doing it again?

Essentially, this is a long conversation between two people of different nationalities about things. Not specific things. Just things. It starts out with them discussing a Hiroshima memorial museum and ends up with the actress reminiscing about a German soldier that she dated during the war, which of course was forbidden and so she was full of angst. And there’s some stuff about memory in there and everything is dressed up in flowery poetic dialogue that sounds completely unlike anything a real human being would say in casual conversation.

Because of this latter issue, the main problem with the movie is our good old friend “not giving a crap about the central characters.” They waffle on about nothing and talk in such flowery ways that they don’t feel like people, they feel like a catalyst for an essay that Alain Resnais wrote once. And not a very interesting essay either. Your essay gets an F, Alain. Sorry.

Here’s why. Your essay makes no sense and has no central point. Is Hiroshima Mon Amour about Hiroshima? No, that’s just added to the title to mislead you and make you think it may be about something a little more interesting (as interesting as World War II can be at this point). It drops the Hiroshima stuff pretty quickly and then just rambles on forever. I also found it hard to care much about the German solider romance backstory because I kept wondering what the hell happened to the Hiroshima stuff that the movie was allegedly supposed to be about.

In fact, it’s so hard to talk about this movie beyond this aspect because this is all there is. It’s just two people who barely know each other and are never really introduced to the audience talking. For 90 minutes. About nothing.

So again, I say, can we ban French people from making rambling essay movies about Japan? Or if not, can we ban them from being praised by critics and ending up on these lists? You want a movie about the devastation WW2 wreaked on Japan? Go watch Grave Of The Fireflies instead. You’ll get a lot more out of it.

Starring Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada, Stella Dassas & Pierre Barbaud
Written by Marguerite Duras
Produced by Samy Halfon & Anatole Dauman
Music by Georges Delerue & Giovanni Fusco
Cinematography by Michio Takahashi & Sacha Vierney
Edited by Jasmine Chasney, Henri Colpi & Anne Sarraute

Favourite Scene: Whenever they actually talked about Hiroshima, which, you know, the film was allegedly supposed to be about.
Scene That Bugged Me: Absolutely everything else.

Watch it if: You like rambling French films
Avoid it if: You want a movie about Hiroshima

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#227 The Bridge On The River Kwai

(1957, David Lean)

“Do not speak to me of rules. This is war, not a game of cricket”

World War II movies continue to pour off the list, and while normally they like to focus on Hitler and the Holocaust, here’s one that’s different. The Bridge on The River Kwai is set during the Burma Campaign, where the British Commonwealth along with Chinese and American forces decided to give those Japanese fellows a right good thrashing.

Although it doesn’t really contain much thrashing. Instead, a troop of British soldiers led by Lt. Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) are captured and taken to a Japanese prison camp led by Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa), where the soldiers are all ordered to work on a new Bridge On The River Kwai. Nicholson stands his ground and demands that the officers are not put to work, because this would violate the Geneva Convention. Meanwhile, an American soldier, Commander Shears (William Holden) plans to escape the camp, and later is recruited to destroy the bridge that the British are being told to make. There’s a lot going on here.

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#161 Sunless

Sans Soleil
(1983, Chris Marker)

“He wrote me: I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering”

Hi, this is Sven. I’m unable to provide today’s review and instead it will be written by an assistant of mine, based on opinions I’ve sent her in a series of letters. I’d have emailed, but, you know, I’m on holiday in the 1980s, so yeah.

He wrote to me about a film called Sans Soleil, sometimes known as Sunless depending on where you are in the world. And being in different places in the world is important to Sans Soleil, apparently, because this is an international movie about memories.

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