Bizarre classic has final showings today and tomorrow

Alain Resnais' "Last Year At Marienbad" opens with a sky full of pinpoint stars, shining but just a tad fuzzy. You could have the cosmos at your disposal. Resnais won't tell you what his sky is made of. He wants you to regard, and contemplate and make up your own mind. Not for the last time.A voice joins the image, chanting, reciting, a litany of the décor within the huge hotel, apparently as infinite as the cosmos, where most of "Marienbad" is set. We don't see the narrator for a long time. We hear his litany asynchronous, usually, with what we're actually regarding, though the detail of the speech and the detail of the interior décor grow impossibly complicated quickly. After awhile you realize that the speech repeats, but not exactly, and at times we join in toward its middle, its beginning or its end.The speech appears to resolve with two characters on the stage within the film frame, a speech delivered as the climax for the hotel guests watching the entertainment. But these can be no ordinary hotel guests, even adjusting for how long ago and far away in our "real life" the film begins. A camera slides left, right, sometimes up and down, over, seemingly, a gaggle of exceptionally well-made wax manikins. When one woman finally blinks it rattles the viewer like a concussion grenade. When we first see a man moving in the corridor he moves much faster than the camera, upsetting what we've come to comprehend as the natural order of things in this universe. Under those pinpoint stars.Three main characters populate "Marienbad." Both of the men, played by Giorgio Albertazzi and Sacha Pitoeff, want the woman, played by Delphine Seyrig. The three characters are called "X," "M" and "A," respectively, although you won't learn those appellations from anywhere in the narrative of the film. Within that narrative, they simply seem to know each other. At times. "X" insists "A" is having an affair with him, and that they must run off together, leaving "M." But "A" sometimes swears she can't remember "X" at all. Indeed, they can't agree where they are, or what year it is. "Last Year At Marienbad" seems at first to supply a clue, but within the film, nobody's sure, finally, if they were at Marienbad last year or some other year or if they ever left Marienbad, or some other place, in the first place. The outdoor grounds of the hotel, when finally see them, offer no respite, laid out as mechanically, and as enigmatically, as the interiors. "X" seems to want love from "A" and "M" seems to want dominion over "A." At times I wonder, though, if "X" simply wants to make his world make sense. The narrative of the film itself follows the lead of that monologue we heard at the beginning, revising and editing itself, leaving "X" helpless as the only one who cares, and requires, that it should have an understandable flow.At most movies, even my favorites from this year, I sneak glances at my watch, a bad habit picked up at the Seattle International Film Festival, where I had to figure out my next few moves for the day. At "Marienbad" I didn't feel seriously tempted once. The film sucked me that far into its own insistences about time. I can't tell you how to regard the film. But I can urge you to make an appointment by this Thursday. "Last Year At Marien bad" plays July 18-24 at SIFF Cinema, 321 Mercer Street at Seattle Center. For prices and showtimes call 206.633.7151 or visit[[In-content Ad]]