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Hiroshima, mon amour (1959)
Reviewed on 2013 July 21
You know those silly stereotypes of French cinema, where the characters pontificate about their angst and nothing gets done? If you don’t — if you’re lucky and you’ve been spoiled by stuff like Diabolique — then Google “Henri Le Chat Noir” and you’ll get the gist in five minutes. If you know what I’m referring to, even if you don’t agree with me, at least you’ll get the joke when I say I think this is exhibit A. I know this is a classic, and I am impressed with what director Alain Resnais tried to say about pain and the elusiveness of memory. It still didn’t pull me in.
“Elle”, or “she” (Emannuelle Riva), and “Lui”, or “he” (Eiji Okada), are lovers in post-World War II Hiroshima, drawn to each other like moths to a flame. She is a nurse, he is an architect, and we’re introduced to them clinging to each other. The romance between them is abruptly cut, from hands on each other’s backs to horrible scenes of the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. Lover’s hands are replaced by doctor’s hands, endlessly picking dead skin off the victims of radiation poisoning. This is as powerful as it is horrifying. The rest of the film seems to be droning conversation about their pasts.
Here’s another movie where if you say it wasn’t your thing, people will tell you to stick with stuff from Adam Sandler, and that’s not the issue. Cocteau was way more artsy and pretentious (if you like) and his stuff was entertaining. This could have been riveting; but it just didn’t grab me, though I appreciate the magnitude of the story and the non-linear, almost fever-dream way it’s presented. The problem was that I felt Elle and Lui were too thinly sketched to grow very attached to them. The movie just dragged on and on. I’ll admit that some of dragging was because of painful subject matter, but the remoteness of the characters worked against it.
Two chocolate morsels.