Last Year At Marienbad is one of the stranger films I've seen lately, even considering the fact that as of late I've been deliberately seeking out such things after realizing that's where my enthusiasms lie. Last week I saw the Czech film Daisies, which has considerable charms. I knew going into it that it was a weird one, that people had no idea what to make of it at the time of its release in 1961, although it was generally highly-regarded. I, watching it at 4:30 AM, kept awake by a drunken roommate, also didn't know what to make of it. It goes on for long enough that you eventually start to make sense of it, but the first couple of reels or so have a pretty steep learning curve.
Even then, there came a point where I was thinking that it was either a) a cinematic appreciation of the art of sculpture or b) a dissection of the bourgeois a la Luis Bunuel but less crass. I don't think either of those are true now that I've finished watching the film. But still, getting into it requires being into Hollywood-cinema style, in terms of both exploded silver halide lighting and expensive production design, really great black and white widescreen compositions, a feeling of impending horror-movie doom, and video art style repetition. At the beginning it feels almost exactly like a lot of video art, only shot on film, and a hell of a lot better.
It's kind of impossible. One of my favorite things in film- animation does this sometimes- is to be really experimental and all over the place, trying out new techniques in keeping with themes that that's a good way to live your life, to be daring. I like when films don't mind being distractingly formal because it works towards its own ends using those distractions. This is really experimental in a "I have no idea how that was done" kind of way, in a way that works towards ends of confusion and disassociation. It's the sort of thing most easily associated with dreams or drugs, specifically the "edge of freaking out" side of those things and experiences. It maybe goes on a bit too long and wears out its welcome, but it's the fact that it does that actually lets you into maybe understanding it.