Looking For Muriel: A Journey Through and Around the Alain Resnais Film

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BearManor Media, Jan 31, 2022 - Performing Arts
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Muriel, or The Time of Return was director Alain Resnais’ first color feature, and its film stock immediately set it apart from many other French movies of the early 1960s. Appearing hot on the heels of Resnais’ arthouse smashes Hiroshima mon amour and Last Year at Marienbad, Muriel failed to attract the same attention as its predecessors, and the film’s initial domestic release yielded indifferent box office results. This lukewarm response could perhaps be attributed to Muriel’s probing of the still fresh wounds inflicted by the Algerian War, as the French public of the time held little appetite for further discussion of what was widely viewed as a messy, dispiriting conflict.

Yet time has allowed Muriel to slowly emerge as Alain Resnais’ masterpiece, and its exquisite distillation of its director’s preoccupations marks it out as the quintessential Resnais film. Looking for Muriel examines both the film and its setting of Boulogne-sur-Mer, and also delves into numerous related areas, including the Algerian War, the French New Wave cinema movement, the Second World War, and the wider careers of both Alain Resnais and Muriel’s incomparable star, Delphine Seyrig. Muriel’s intricate editing and complex script are also discussed, as are other films which touch on similar themes.


Darren Arnold is a film critic and author of Devil’s Advocates: The Devils and The Pocket Essential Spike Lee. He lives near London with his family.


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