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Critic’s Choice: ‘Last Year at Marienbad’ returns to seduce and confound us anew

Critic’s Choice: ‘Last Year at Marienbad’ returns to seduce and confound us anew
Giorgio Albertazzi and Delphine Seyrig in the 1961 movie "Last Year at Marienbad." (Rialto Pictures / Studiocanal)

The shimmering modernist puzzle-box that is “Last Year at Marienbad” returns to Los Angeles theaters this week in a new digital 4K restoration courtesy of Rialto Pictures. And because this is a picture that invites all manner of interpretive possibilities, I’m tempted to imagine an alternate 2019 that greeted Alain Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s singularly stylish enigma with the passion it deserves, perhaps even with some of the intense fervor that turned it into an art-house sensation in 1961.

Really, what better film to set off a fresh avalanche of competing hot takes than “Marienbad,” long hailed as a masterpiece by many but witheringly dismissed by Pauline Kael as “Sleeping Beauty of the International Set”? What would the culture make of its famous nonstory about a man and a woman arguing about a putative romantic encounter that could be construed as seduction or rape? I do not mean to reduce or confine “Marienbad” to the present moment; its ravishing surfaces, somehow both diamond-hard and evanescent, exist gloriously outside of time. It’s a movie to see now and ponder forever.

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‘Last Year at Marienbad’

In French with English subtitles

Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Playing: Starts July 12, Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena, and Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles

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