Alain Resnais's 1963 memory film Muriel is a fascinating study of the relationship between the way things are remembered--a blend of fact, dream, and falsification--and the way things really are, with cinema itself the crucial bridge. A woman (Delphine Seyrig), haunted by the memory of her first love, meets up with him again and finds he's a long way from being the man she recalls. Meanwhile, her stepson (Jean-Baptiste Thierrée) is preoccupied with a torture death he witnessed in Algeria. In the case of the former, the present-day truths about Seyrig's old flame are mitigated and complicated by recollections of his old self, and what develops is a timeless portrait of the character more alive than his current actuality. In the latter, the young man's refusal to loosen the atrocity's grip on his life becomes increasingly fruitless as the tragedy only exists on film--and the world has moved on despite the injustice. A challenging work by Resnais in which perspective rapidly changes, the film nevertheless has a subtle, haunting quality in which the richness of the past and the bluntness of the present obscure one another and must be reconciled on celluloid. --Tom Keogh
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