Hallwalls is proud to present five newly restored short documentaries from filmmaker Alain Resnais (1922–2014). Resnais would go on to make his mark in feature films—including the Oscar-nominated Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) and Last Year at Marienbad (1961)—but these early-career shorts demonstrate an already keen eye. The films are a remarkable compendium of the stylistic elements found in his features, and represent an important contribution to the distinguished French documentary tradition. Distributed in the U.S. exclusively by Icarus Films.
All the World’s Memory (Toute la mémoire du monde)
(21 minutes, 1956)
This homage to the National Library of France takes us on an impressive and impressionistic architectural tour. Winner, 1957 Cannes Film Festival. The same year Resnais also released his acclaimed Holocaust short Night and Fog (Nuit et brouillard, 32 min.), made ten years after the liberation of Nazi concentration camps (not included in this program.)
(14 minutes, 1949, co-directed with Robert Hessens)
A decade before Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959), this devastating depiction of the 1937 Nazi bombing of the city of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War features Picasso’s paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Text by leading Surrealist poet Paul Éluard (1895–1952).
(13 minutes, 1949)
The artist’s own writings and artwork are used to trace his creative journey, from losing his job in finance—the catalyst for his commitment to paint—through to his final days in Tahiti.
Song of Styrene (Le chant du Styrène)
(13 minutes, 1957)
Resnais carries out a poetic investigation into the origins of plastic. It is the perfect example of how to turn a commissioned industrial film into a lyrical, satirical film masterpiece. Text by novelist Raymond Queneau (Zazie dans le métro, 1959)
(18 minutes, 1948)
This boundary-pushing short evokes the life of Vincent Van Gogh, using his paintings as the only visual material. Winner, 1950 Academy Awards, Best 2-Reel Short.
“Alain Resnais has created some of the most important and indelible films of the postwar era” (Harvard Film Archive).
“His early work in documentaries obviously encouraged Resnais to concentrate on perfecting the details of his craft, to concentrate, that is, on the more intellectual, the more abstract aspects of filmmaking” (Film Comment).