Muriel is a bold and beautiful film. Resnais takes a very ordinary incident-the reunion of a provincial woman and her former lover-and out of the trivia of everyday anxieties creates a mosaic of memory and conscience, or what Susan Sontag called “an examination of the form of emotion.” Hélène (Delphine Seyrig) sells antique furniture out of her Boulogne apartment, where she lives hermetically surrounded by her memories and those of her stepson Bernard, who spends his days sorting evidence of French atrocities in Algeria collected on his tour of duty. The memory of Muriel, a young girl tortured by his fellow soldiers, is more real to him than day-to-day life. When Hélène's old lover shows up unexpectedly, the past comes full circle, only to prove finally the impossibility of remembering, and of forgetting. Resnais presents the drama in a chain of intercut scenes-which is to say, horizontally connected, and always in the present.

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