Been & Going


[Why Watch This] Hiroshima, Mon Amour

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I have always been a fan of French cinema. And, I’m going to be totally honest here, I don’t always understand it. But I feel like my understanding of a French film often has an inverse proportion to the quality/reputation/pretentiousness of the film that I am watching. And I’m ok with that, it’s kind of like why I am also a fan of Opera (with a capital “O”). Sometimes it’s just an impression or an emotion. Narrative, schmarrative, I say.

I was thinking about this all last week because I heard on the radio that Alain Resnais died at the ripe old age of 91. (According to resnaisthe Washington Post, they didn’t reveal a cause of death, which makes me want to quote an Eric joke: “the chute didn’t open.”) Ok, Alain Resnais, I remember you. You’re that guy who directed the stark and devastating Nazi documentary Nuit et Bouillard or Night and Fog that my 11th grade World History teacher showed us while sobbing quietly in the back of the room. You’re also that guy responsible for Hiroshima Mon Amour, perhaps the most memorable of all the movies we watched in my Boston University ultra-pretentious French Cinema class.

And why, you may ask, in a class showing the incomparable Breathless (Goddard), The Lovers (Malle), and Jules et Jim (Truffaut), does this little film by Resnais still bug me all these years later.

When I was twenty I was much more un-ironically pretentious than I am now. I fear my today self would find my twenty year oldelle et lui self to be quite insufferable. And my twenty year old self really wanted to get it, I really really wanted to love this movie. This is the movie that Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater wish they could make. The film is basically a series of conversations over a 3 day period between two lovers, named She (who is French) and Him (who is Japanese), who are essentially breaking up. They debate stuff like memory and failed relationships all drawing parallels to the bombing of Hiroshima, which is shown at the beginning of the film almost as a documentary that is narrated by the two characters.

The script was famously written by a novelist and poet Marguerite Duras and was 16 pages long! Yes, 16 pages for a 90 minute film which means there is a lot of repeated dialogue, all coming back to the theme of memory and hiroshimaforgetfulness.  Sounds great, right? Go rent it now! It’s probably on Netflix. If you’re still skeptical, here’s the most famous line from the film: “You are not endowed with memory.” BOOM!

OK, side note, you can also use Hiroshima Mon Amour to play my favorite game: Line from French Film or Smith’s song lyric? Let’s play (answers below):

  1. “No, I feel nothing”
  2. “I think about life and I think about death and neither one particularly appeals to me”
  3. “Life is very long, when you’re lonely”
  4.  “We’ll probably die without ever seeing each other again”
  5. “You were bored in a way that makes a man want to know a woman”
  6. “He never really looks at me, I give him every opportunity”
  7.  “You’re destroying me, you’re good for me”
  8. “Love is natural and real, but not for you my love, not tonight my love” two shot
  9.  “When you speak, I wonder whether you lie or tell the truth”
  10. “He’s going to kiss me and I’ll be lost”
  11. “No, it’s not like any other love. This one is different- because it’s us”
  12. “I’m feeling very sick and ill today but I’m still fond of you”
  13. “Life is never kind but I know what will make you smile tonight”
  14.  “I was bored before I even began”
  15.  “I loved the taste of blood since I tasted yours”

So there you have it, if you love your poetry a little cryptic and melancholy, run, don’t walk to see this film. And I guess that’s why I’ve always been endowed with the memory of watching it for the first time: powerful images, depressing and intensely dramatic one-liners, sign me up!



Answer Key:

  1. Hiroshima Mon Amour
  2. The Smiths- Nowhere Fast
  3. The Smiths- The Queen is Dead
  4. Hiroshima Mon Amour
  5. Hiroshima Mon Amour
  6. The Smiths- Girl Afraid
  7. Hiroshima Mon Amour
  8. The Smiths- I Know it’s Over
  9. Hiroshima Mon Amour
  10. Hiroshima Mon Amour
  11. The Smiths- Hand in Glove
  12. The Smiths- What Difference Does it Make
  13. The Smiths- I Don’t Owe You Anything
  14.  The Smiths- Shoplifters of the World Unite
  15. Hiroshima Mon Amour
If you scored:
13-15: Let’s have lunch! If you can drag yourself from the deep dark depths of your soul.
10-13: You are but a dabbler in the dark arts of French Cinema and Morrissey. I’m ok with that
5-9: Strictly an amateur. Buy some black eyeliner, a horizontal striped shirt and a beret tout suite!
1-4: Go watch Transformers and listen to Lorde.

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