Video Essay: ‘Last Year At Marienbad’ and The Doobie Brother’s ‘What A Fool Believes’ Are About The Same Thing

This year at the Alliance Française French Film Festival, a newly restored version of Alain Resnais’s Last Year At Marienbad (1961) will screen for the first time in Australia, nearly 60 years after it first bewitched and infuriated its new wave audience. The film is a deconstructed, alien interpretation of a meet cute, where boy meets girl at a seemingly never-ending high society gala, and tries to convince her that they fell in love at some other evening, in some other time.

Somehow as luxurious as it is empty, the experimental chess-set sensibility of Marienbad should have nothing to do with goofy, boomer-pleasing, dad-tier pop music. But listen closely to ‘What A Fool Believes’, The Doobie Brother’s 1979 yacht rock single, and some of Resnais’s dreamy patterns begin to surface.

Both the song and the film watch the central couple with bemusement, constantly guessing at whether they actually have a past together or not. Both stories bounce along to a pleasant but somewhat unpredictable rhythm, swinging from lyric to lyric, or scene to scene, with the tempo of an uncertain heart beating.

It’s just that one uses glacially-paced zooms down baroque hallways and the other uses falsetto Kenny Loggins harmonies. Don’t be a snob. Both are bops.

A restored version of Last Year at Marienbad will premiere as part of the 2019 Alliance Française French Film Festival, which runs across multiple Australian capital cities from 6 March to 10 April.

Check out the full line-up here.

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Eliza Janssen is a Melbourne writer of criticism and screenplays who wants you to know that there are pterodactyls in the background of the breakfast table montage in Citizen Kane. For more information visit elizajanssen.com @eliza_janssen

Eliza Janssen