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Blu-ray Review: Hiroshima mon amour – “A true classic”

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Hiroshima mon amour is a cornerstone of the French New Wave. The first feature from Alain Resnais (Last Year at Marienbad) is often cited as one of the most influential films of all time.

A French actress (Amour’s Emmanuelle Riva) and a Japanese architect (Woman in the Dunes’ Eiji Okada) engage in a brief, intense affair in postwar Hiroshima, their consuming mutual fascination impelling them to exorcise their own scarred memories of love and suffering. With an innovative flashback structure and an Academy Award–nominated screenplay by novelist MARGUERITE DURAS (India Song), Hiroshima mon amour is a moody masterwork that delicately weaves past and present, personal pain and public anguish.

I was sent the new Criterion release of the film to check out and, as always with their releases, it was a delight to watch the film and the various extras (full list below). The film itself is a classic and rightly so. It delves deep into the horrors of war, romance, loneliness, memory, being a stranger in a strange land and so much more. All told through the words and thoughts of the two main characters.

That incredible thirteen-minute opening of two bodies covered in dust or ash, intercut with documentary-like scenes of Hiroshima, that slowly resolves into the sweaty bodies of a couple who have just made love is superbly done and immediately draws your attention. The cinematography is just incredible, with various styles and techniques used throughout. You can see how it has influenced so many other filmmakers through the years.

The use of flashbacks, especially the very brief ones, were true innovations back in the day, evoking a small flash of memory that we have when talking or thinking about things from our past. They are done so well and they enhance the dialogue and events on screen. The editing is truly sublime.

I suppose that is one of the brilliant things about the French New Wave and their influence on cinema. They are prime examples of show, don’t tell.

With Hiroshima Mon Amour, nothing much really happens. Just two people who found a connection and spend time having conversations (or one long conversation I suppose) in hotel rooms, during walks, in restaurants and so on. Yet through the use of flashbacks, we learn so much more about them and it is all done so effortlessly. You are swiftly drawn into the lives of the two protagonists as the memories of their past gradually come to the fore and alter the way they perceive the new relationship.

The picture quality is superb with everything having been cleaned up during the restoration, but with just the right amount of grain to make everything look just how you want an old film to look. The audio is also fantastic after the restoration.

As with many New Wave or Art House films, your enjoyment can often depend on the mood you are in as you watch them. If you are not a fan then there is nothing I can say that will change your mind. However, if you have never dabbled it is well worth taking a dive into the many brilliant films out there. Sometimes I want to watch a big-budget comic book movie, or a stupid comedy, or a blood-chilling horror, and other times I want to watch a bit of French New Wave. All of those things are cinema to me and Hiroshima mon amour is a true classic.

If you do live for films, then this is well worth adding to your collection.

The Criterion Collection and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment are releasing the film on Blu-ray on 3rd January 2022.

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary by film historian Peter Cowie
  • Interviews with director Alain Resnais from 1961 and 1980
  • Interviews with actor Emmanuelle Riva from 1959 and 2003
  • New interview with film scholar François Thomas, author of L’atelier d’Alain Resnais
  • New interview with music scholar Tim Page about the film’s score
  • Revoir Hiroshima . . . , a 2013 program about the film’s restoration
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Kent Jones and excerpts from a 1959 Cahiers du cinéma roundtable discussion about the film

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