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A middle-aged widow reunites with her ex-lover and her stepson, who is haunted by a terrible event he witnessed during the Algerian War, in Alain Resnais' masterful meditation on time and memory.
Many critics (correctly!) single out Muriel as Alain Resnais' masterpiece- it certainly belongs on any list of the greatest films ever made. Jean-Louis Comolli called Muriel "Resnais' most beautiful film" when it was released, and Godard loved it so much he featured its poster on a wall in 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her. Here is the purest expression of Resnais' central theme: how the present is the prisoner of the past, can never elude its snares. A middle-aged widow (Delphine Seyrig) living in an antique-stuffed apartment in Boulogne summons her ex-lover (Jean-Pierre Kérien) from Paris. As she attempts to recapture the (illusory) happiness of their past, her stepson (Jean-Baptiste Thierrée), recently returned from service in the Algerian War, is driven to violence in a futile attempt to extinguish the memory of an atrocity to which he was both witness and tacit participant. Filmed with what has been called "hallucinatory realism," scored with unnerving Henze songs, and acted with stylized intensity by the great Seyrig, Muriel "surpasses [Resnais'] better-known Last Year at Marienbad and Hiroshima, mon amour... A subtle, precise, and wrenching film" (Dave Kehr).