THIS FILM IS ITSELF A GAME. HE LOVES THE IDEA OF THE CURTAIN LIFTING. THAT’S WHEN THE SHOW BEGINS
language, it must also be one that enjoys the fun of cinema for its own sake. Anyone already familiar with Resnais will know the score; it’s something ABC Radio National’s film critic Jason Di Rosso says leaps beyond the certainties of ‘‘ the Hollywood industrial mode of filmmaking’’ to produce an ‘‘ incredibly playful’’ work of art. But Di Rosso warns potential viewers not to be overwhelmed by the challenge.
‘‘ I think people can approach these films a little too seriously; I think they’re meant to also be pleasurable things, as well as being things that are quite deep and make you think and potentially send you off on all sorts of weird intellectual tangents,’’ he says. ‘‘ They’re meant to be things that you enjoy, and they’re meant to (also) have the visceral side to it — they’re meant to have (an) emotional impact.’’
In fact, Di Rosso suggests, it wouldn’t have been possible to have a filmmaker of the calibre of idiosyncratic US auteur David Lynch without having had ones such as Resnais before him.
‘‘ It’s that play, that deliberate and very interesting blurring of the lines between past, present, reality, imagination, that make his films so beguiling and wonderfully playful, and that also no doubt inspired much better known filmmakers,’’ he says.
‘‘ There’s that wonderful way with a filmmaker like Lynch, say in Mulholland Drive, where two story-lines are blurring: are you watching a dream, are you watching a fragment of memory that’s been expanded?’’
You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet makes explicit use of Resnais’s love of the theatre; the director has said he thinks the two forms are intimately related, despite a tradition of regarding them as separate.
‘‘ People often say there’s a total difference,’’ he said at a press conference after the film screened at Cannes last year. ‘‘ That one doesn’t act for a film the same way one acts for the theatre, and vice versa . . . that theatre is a noble art, whereas film is not.’’
But a key tie binding the two forms together, he suggests, is the fact at the moment of a theatrical performance, ‘‘ you cannot raise your hand in the room and say, I didn’t really understand, could you start the scene again? You have to continue, you have to listen and you have to try to understand as a spectator. And at the cinema, up until now, I haven’t seen anyone go to see the technical staff and say, well, could I please see the second sequence again because I fell asleep in the middle of the film or I didn’t follow.’’
His statement suggests a playfulness about the act of filmmaking, something long-time muse (and, since 1998, wife) Azema confirms in an interview with Review.
Resnais, she says, is ‘‘ the inventor of his own kind of cinema’’ who ‘‘ breathes it from morning to evening — he’s like cinema walking on two legs’’. The result is that he invites the audience to join in his game; ‘‘ to love the idea of entertainment’’.
‘‘ This film ( You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet) is itself a game,’’ she says. ‘‘ It starts with us, the actors, introducing ourselves with our real names and soon after we understand that the movie shifts on to the text, (which) is cinema but also theatre; actually it is entertainment with a capital E. And that reflects the love that Resnais has for all forms of entertainment, not only cinema and theatre but music; he loves the idea of the curtain lifting. That’s when the show begins.’’
She describes it as being ‘‘ a bit like a Russian doll, a box within a box’’ and suggests that for this reason the film rewards multiple viewings, a wonderfully ironic notion given its title. ‘‘ It’s full of many directions which you can only appreciate if you see it multiple times,’’ she says. ‘‘ It’s all mixed and mingled by the great puppeteer who is Alain Resnais; the game in the game that is also the acting in the acting.’’
The title itself began, it turns out, as a playful thing. According to Resnais, even before the film was made ‘‘ we said this as a joke to start with . . . and it became a kind of proverb, a saying, and we didn’t think it would stick, but it was written on the (film) boxes; we had labels with the title on them’’.
Critics initially took the name to be an ironic acknowledgment that Resnais had produced all there was to be seen of his films, a suggestion made redundant once it emerged he was already working on a new one, based on another playwright with whom he has collaborated and whose material he admires, Briton Alan Ayckbourn.
Ever trying to confound expectations, Resnais is adamant about one thing: that none of his many works should be linked to any others, even his own brilliant Hiroshima Mon Amour or Riva in Haneke’s Amour which are, after all, so close to You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet in so many ways.
‘‘ I try not to repeat myself, ever,’’ he said at Cannes. ‘‘ If I had realised that in this film people thought it was a kind of a testament then I wouldn’t have been bold enough or energetic enough to shoot it, so let’s just (say it’s) a coincidence.’’
Perhaps, you might say, we still ain’t seen nothing yet.