Hiroshima, Mon Amour


1h 28m 1960
Hiroshima, Mon Amour

Brief Synopsis

During a brief affair, a French actress and a Japanese architect think back on their devastating experiences during World War II.

Film Details

Also Known As
Hiroshima - min älskade, Hiroshima My Love, Hiroshima, Mon Amour
Genre
Romance
Drama
War
Foreign
Release Date
1960
Production Company
PathT International; Pathe Image
Distribution Company
NEW YORKER FILMS/ZENITH INTERNATIONAL; Cocinor; Gala Film Distributors Ltd; Nelson Entertainment; New Yorker Films
Location
Nevers, France; Hiroshima, Japan; Paris, France; Tokyo, Japan

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Synopsis

A French actress, shooting a film in the city of the title, strikes up an affair with a handsome Japanese architect, but the two of them are haunted with their respective memories of World War II: the bomb that fell on Hiroshima and the Nazi Occupation of France.

Film Details

Also Known As
Hiroshima - min älskade, Hiroshima My Love, Hiroshima, Mon Amour
Genre
Romance
Drama
War
Foreign
Release Date
1960
Production Company
PathT International; Pathe Image
Distribution Company
NEW YORKER FILMS/ZENITH INTERNATIONAL; Cocinor; Gala Film Distributors Ltd; Nelson Entertainment; New Yorker Films
Location
Nevers, France; Hiroshima, Japan; Paris, France; Tokyo, Japan

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White

Award Nominations

Best Writing, Screenplay

1961

Articles

Hiroshima, Mon Amour


An art house sensation unlike any other, this groundbreaking depiction of cultural differences and the slippery nature of human memory was a major calling card for the late Alain Resnais, who made this debut feature after ten years of documentary shorts including the acclaimed Night and Fog (1955). In fact, this project originated as another documentary short (focusing this time on the devastation wrought by the atomic bomb on Hiroshima at the end of World War II), but he decided that there was no way to sufficiently address and convey the nature of that event in the intended format.

A solution arrived in the form of Saigon-born French writer Margeurite Duras, a prolific novelist and playwright who would go on to become a noted experimental filmmaker in her own right a decade later. Resnais himself had also started in other fields, most notably as an actor, but a career behind the camera was cemented with his 1948 short, Van Gogh, which picked up an Oscar for Best Short Subject (Two-Reel). His frequent focus on painters and musicians was an ideal match for Duras' screenplay, which presents a nameless French actress (Emmanuelle Rivia, a future Oscar nominee herself for Amour) and a married Japanese man (Eiji Okada) carrying on an extended conversation during a brief love affair while she shoots a film in Hiroshima.

The dual nationalities of the two characters was actually a matter of commercial necessity as the film was the first narrative feature collaboration between France (via distributor Pathé Films and production companies Argos Films and Como-Film) and Japan (via Daiei Studios, who would go on to the long-running Gamera and Zatoichi film series). Riva was essentially an unknown at the time, but she would soon become a familiar face in international films for decades ranging from Jean-Pierre Melville's Léon Morin, Priest (1961) to Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors: Blue (1993). A bit more seasoned was Okada, whose role here led to a string of notable titles like Woman in the Dunes (1964) and Antarctica (1983).

Perhaps less discussed but equally important are the collaborations among some of the other crafts on this film, including dual music composers courtesy of the great Georges Delerue (who would become a Truffaut regular as well) and the more experimental Giovanni Fusco, who would score several films for Michelangelo Antonioni. The cinematography was also the result of a pairing of Japanese cinematographer Michio Takahashi for some of its grittier documentary segments and the delicate, gliding camerawork of Sacha Vierny, who had been working with Resnais since Night and Fog and would go on to shot such films as Belle de Jour (1967) and many films directed by Peter Greenaway.

Despite or perhaps even because of its unorthodox narrative approach (including an innovative use of interspersed flashbacks to indicate bursts of memory), Hiroshima Mon Amour became a sensation upon its release and racked up a number of accolades including awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review, the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics, a BAFTA UN Award, and an Oscar nomination for Duras's screenplay. Most significantly, its screening out of competition at Cannes alongside The 400 Blows is usually regarded as the opening salvo in the French New Wave, which would become one of the most important film movements of the 1960s.

In fact, the term "new wave" was already part of the English-language critical parlance when Resnais's film opened in the United States in the spring of 1960, with The New York Times critic A.H. Weiler calling it "a complex yet compelling tour de force--as a patent plea for peace and the abolition of atomic warfare, as a poetic evocation of love lost and momentarily found, and as a curiously intricate but intriguing montage of thinking on several planes in Proustian style."

Among its fellow films in the French New Wave, Resnais's film would quickly become significant as a touchstone for what would become known as the Left Bank (Rive Gauche) members with stronger ties to art forms outside cinema (compared to the more internationally famous Cahiers du cinéma members). In addition to Resnais and Duras, other significant colleagues of the Left Bank would include Chris Marker and the married Jacques Demy and Agnès Varda.

Inspired by the creative fruit of working with a noted novelist, Resnais repeated the same feat with his next film, Last Year at Marienbad (1961), also shot by Vierny, which pushed the fragmentation of memory even further thanks to an audacious screenplay by Alain Robbe-Grillet. In fact, memory and temporal displacement would become fixtures in Resnais films for the rest of his career regardless of the screenwriter.

Hiroshima Mon Amour has since become a repertory mainstay, a staple of film schools, and a home video favorite, most recently with an immaculate restoration conducted in 2015. For that most recent edition via Criterion, New York Film Festival director Kent Jones noted that the film's refusal "to resist a comforting sense of definition fifty years after its release may help to account for Resnais's nervousness when he set off for the shoot in Japan. He was convinced that his film was going to fall apart, but the irony is that he and Duras had never meant for it to come together in the first place. What they created, with the greatest delicacy and emotional and physical precision, was an anxious aesthetic object, as unsettled over its own identity and sense of direction as the world was unsettled over how to go about its business after the cataclysmic horror of World War II." Even divorced from its historic context and the intended postwar audience, viewers can still step into the distinct cinematic realm created by Resnais and Duras to appreciate its haunting snapshot of a meeting two people, two worlds, and two artists whose worked fused together in a flash for one indelible moment.
Hiroshima, Mon Amour

Hiroshima, Mon Amour

An art house sensation unlike any other, this groundbreaking depiction of cultural differences and the slippery nature of human memory was a major calling card for the late Alain Resnais, who made this debut feature after ten years of documentary shorts including the acclaimed Night and Fog (1955). In fact, this project originated as another documentary short (focusing this time on the devastation wrought by the atomic bomb on Hiroshima at the end of World War II), but he decided that there was no way to sufficiently address and convey the nature of that event in the intended format. A solution arrived in the form of Saigon-born French writer Margeurite Duras, a prolific novelist and playwright who would go on to become a noted experimental filmmaker in her own right a decade later. Resnais himself had also started in other fields, most notably as an actor, but a career behind the camera was cemented with his 1948 short, Van Gogh, which picked up an Oscar for Best Short Subject (Two-Reel). His frequent focus on painters and musicians was an ideal match for Duras' screenplay, which presents a nameless French actress (Emmanuelle Rivia, a future Oscar nominee herself for Amour) and a married Japanese man (Eiji Okada) carrying on an extended conversation during a brief love affair while she shoots a film in Hiroshima. The dual nationalities of the two characters was actually a matter of commercial necessity as the film was the first narrative feature collaboration between France (via distributor Pathé Films and production companies Argos Films and Como-Film) and Japan (via Daiei Studios, who would go on to the long-running Gamera and Zatoichi film series). Riva was essentially an unknown at the time, but she would soon become a familiar face in international films for decades ranging from Jean-Pierre Melville's Léon Morin, Priest (1961) to Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors: Blue (1993). A bit more seasoned was Okada, whose role here led to a string of notable titles like Woman in the Dunes (1964) and Antarctica (1983). Perhaps less discussed but equally important are the collaborations among some of the other crafts on this film, including dual music composers courtesy of the great Georges Delerue (who would become a Truffaut regular as well) and the more experimental Giovanni Fusco, who would score several films for Michelangelo Antonioni. The cinematography was also the result of a pairing of Japanese cinematographer Michio Takahashi for some of its grittier documentary segments and the delicate, gliding camerawork of Sacha Vierny, who had been working with Resnais since Night and Fog and would go on to shot such films as Belle de Jour (1967) and many films directed by Peter Greenaway. Despite or perhaps even because of its unorthodox narrative approach (including an innovative use of interspersed flashbacks to indicate bursts of memory), Hiroshima Mon Amour became a sensation upon its release and racked up a number of accolades including awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review, the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics, a BAFTA UN Award, and an Oscar nomination for Duras's screenplay. Most significantly, its screening out of competition at Cannes alongside The 400 Blows is usually regarded as the opening salvo in the French New Wave, which would become one of the most important film movements of the 1960s. In fact, the term "new wave" was already part of the English-language critical parlance when Resnais's film opened in the United States in the spring of 1960, with The New York Times critic A.H. Weiler calling it "a complex yet compelling tour de force--as a patent plea for peace and the abolition of atomic warfare, as a poetic evocation of love lost and momentarily found, and as a curiously intricate but intriguing montage of thinking on several planes in Proustian style." Among its fellow films in the French New Wave, Resnais's film would quickly become significant as a touchstone for what would become known as the Left Bank (Rive Gauche) members with stronger ties to art forms outside cinema (compared to the more internationally famous Cahiers du cinéma members). In addition to Resnais and Duras, other significant colleagues of the Left Bank would include Chris Marker and the married Jacques Demy and Agnès Varda. Inspired by the creative fruit of working with a noted novelist, Resnais repeated the same feat with his next film, Last Year at Marienbad (1961), also shot by Vierny, which pushed the fragmentation of memory even further thanks to an audacious screenplay by Alain Robbe-Grillet. In fact, memory and temporal displacement would become fixtures in Resnais films for the rest of his career regardless of the screenwriter. Hiroshima Mon Amour has since become a repertory mainstay, a staple of film schools, and a home video favorite, most recently with an immaculate restoration conducted in 2015. For that most recent edition via Criterion, New York Film Festival director Kent Jones noted that the film's refusal "to resist a comforting sense of definition fifty years after its release may help to account for Resnais's nervousness when he set off for the shoot in Japan. He was convinced that his film was going to fall apart, but the irony is that he and Duras had never meant for it to come together in the first place. What they created, with the greatest delicacy and emotional and physical precision, was an anxious aesthetic object, as unsettled over its own identity and sense of direction as the world was unsettled over how to go about its business after the cataclysmic horror of World War II." Even divorced from its historic context and the intended postwar audience, viewers can still step into the distinct cinematic realm created by Resnais and Duras to appreciate its haunting snapshot of a meeting two people, two worlds, and two artists whose worked fused together in a flash for one indelible moment.

Two Landmark Films by Alain Resnais


Alain Resnais has an uneasy reputation, on one hand lauded as a director of several major films but on the other sometimes slighted as somebody who doesn't quite snap into focus as a personality. Of the key French New Wave directors, his career hasn't sparked the same continued interest as, say, Truffaut and Godard or even the recent revivals of Rivette and Rohmer. If Resnais at times seems close to becoming just a question on a final exam (match his name to "memory" if multiple choice) that's unfortunate as proven by the recent DVD release of two early films that made his reputation, Night and Fog (1955) and Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959). Both do in fact deal with memory on some level though not as some ethereal artistic idea but as something that directly affects individual and political lives. It's altogether appropriate that one of Resnais' very first films was a documentary on libraries, those repositories of our collective memory.

This is apparent in Resnais' 1955 Night and Fog, which wasn't the first Holocaust documentary but in many ways was the most important until Claude Lanzmann's Shoah (1985), which is also due soon on DVD. Resnais combined color film of the inactive concentration camps with black-and-white archival footage in ways that are familiar now but quite surprising at the time. His own fascination with memory and its effects parallels one of the key issues in Holocaust studies: How much can, or even should, be represented? This is addressed explicitly in Night and Fog even though the film takes something of an overview approach, from deportation to daily life in the camps to an ambiguous liberation. The atrocities are fully present, in visual ways that written descriptions can never quite match. With the sombre delivery of Jean Cayrol's almost poetic narration and Hans Eisler's nervous music, Night and Fog is both a stark reminder and an open warning. There's little outrage in the film but more a heartbroken sense of loss.

Criterion's DVD of Night and Fog features their usual first-rate transfer of the film. Even though it runs only 31 minutes, Criterion apparently decided that any additions would be either a distraction or inappropriate and released just the solitary film (though at a lower price of $14.95). The extras are similarly sparse: There's a brief radio interview with Resnais and a set of short but worthwhile biographies of all the collaborators (which included future director Chris Marker and cinematographer Sacha Vierny). Night and Fog certainly would have benefitted from a historian's commentary or even an essay but neither are included. One worthwhile option, though, is to view the film with a music-only track which makes it easier to note Resnais' editing strategies, contrasts of screen direction, and uses of massed people and objects.

By contrast, Hiroshima Mon Amour is an intimate film, featuring basically only two characters though their interactions in public spaces and various flashbacks make this anything but a theatrical dialogue. Resnais worked from a script by Marguerite Duras, one of the key writers in the Nouveau Roman movement who later became an acclaimed director (India Song). Again contributing is cinematographer Vierney, composer Georges Delerue (who did orchestrations for Night and Fog) and others.

Hiroshima Mon Amour focuses on a French actress (Emmanuelle Riva in her first credited role) who goes to Hiroshima to play a nurse in a film "about peace" and has an affair with a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada, a veteran of Naruse and Ichikawa films and later one of only two major characters in Woman in the Dunes). The temporary couple talk, plan and discard various possibilities about their future while digging out revelations from their past. This sort of thing can be parodied as "French art film" but it's important to remember that the goal isn't naturalism and it isn't the flowing dialogue that's often presumed to be observable in real life but actually isn't (Do you know anybody who talks like a Mamet or O'Neill character?). Certainly "poetry" would be a misleading word--this isn't Shakespeare either--but it does hint at the kind of heightened awareness that Resnais and Duras are attempting. This approach drives Riva and Okada to subtly understated performances that wiggle into the characters and their formation. Instead of fully formed characters presented to us, in Hiroshima Mon Amour we watch them struggle to form themselves, to define new relations without a map. But the film opens into a wider political world with the grimly unforgettable documentary footage of the Hiroshima bombing victims peppered through much of the first half-hour. The interplay of individual to society, random to intentional, language to image, and health to sickness makes this a complex sequence, the more so due to some of the footage being obvious but unmarked re-creations (undoubtedly another deliberate tactic at exploring another type of memory created by documentaries).

Criterion's DVD features a sharp transfer of the film that captures the various textures and subtle lighting. Putting the film into context is an audio commentary by historian Peter Cowie, video interviews with Resnais and Emmanuelle Riva, and a version of the screenplay annotated by Duras herself. A thick booklet includes an essay by critic Kent Jones, brief Duras prose sketches, and a reprint of a 1959 roundtable discussion by the Cahiers du Cinema staff that's as insightful as it is peculiar.

For more information about Hiroshima, Mon Amour and Night and Fog, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Hiroshima, Mon Amour, go to TCM Shopping. To order Night and Fog, go to TCM Shopping.

by Lang Thompson

Two Landmark Films by Alain Resnais

Alain Resnais has an uneasy reputation, on one hand lauded as a director of several major films but on the other sometimes slighted as somebody who doesn't quite snap into focus as a personality. Of the key French New Wave directors, his career hasn't sparked the same continued interest as, say, Truffaut and Godard or even the recent revivals of Rivette and Rohmer. If Resnais at times seems close to becoming just a question on a final exam (match his name to "memory" if multiple choice) that's unfortunate as proven by the recent DVD release of two early films that made his reputation, Night and Fog (1955) and Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959). Both do in fact deal with memory on some level though not as some ethereal artistic idea but as something that directly affects individual and political lives. It's altogether appropriate that one of Resnais' very first films was a documentary on libraries, those repositories of our collective memory. This is apparent in Resnais' 1955 Night and Fog, which wasn't the first Holocaust documentary but in many ways was the most important until Claude Lanzmann's Shoah (1985), which is also due soon on DVD. Resnais combined color film of the inactive concentration camps with black-and-white archival footage in ways that are familiar now but quite surprising at the time. His own fascination with memory and its effects parallels one of the key issues in Holocaust studies: How much can, or even should, be represented? This is addressed explicitly in Night and Fog even though the film takes something of an overview approach, from deportation to daily life in the camps to an ambiguous liberation. The atrocities are fully present, in visual ways that written descriptions can never quite match. With the sombre delivery of Jean Cayrol's almost poetic narration and Hans Eisler's nervous music, Night and Fog is both a stark reminder and an open warning. There's little outrage in the film but more a heartbroken sense of loss. Criterion's DVD of Night and Fog features their usual first-rate transfer of the film. Even though it runs only 31 minutes, Criterion apparently decided that any additions would be either a distraction or inappropriate and released just the solitary film (though at a lower price of $14.95). The extras are similarly sparse: There's a brief radio interview with Resnais and a set of short but worthwhile biographies of all the collaborators (which included future director Chris Marker and cinematographer Sacha Vierny). Night and Fog certainly would have benefitted from a historian's commentary or even an essay but neither are included. One worthwhile option, though, is to view the film with a music-only track which makes it easier to note Resnais' editing strategies, contrasts of screen direction, and uses of massed people and objects. By contrast, Hiroshima Mon Amour is an intimate film, featuring basically only two characters though their interactions in public spaces and various flashbacks make this anything but a theatrical dialogue. Resnais worked from a script by Marguerite Duras, one of the key writers in the Nouveau Roman movement who later became an acclaimed director (India Song). Again contributing is cinematographer Vierney, composer Georges Delerue (who did orchestrations for Night and Fog) and others. Hiroshima Mon Amour focuses on a French actress (Emmanuelle Riva in her first credited role) who goes to Hiroshima to play a nurse in a film "about peace" and has an affair with a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada, a veteran of Naruse and Ichikawa films and later one of only two major characters in Woman in the Dunes). The temporary couple talk, plan and discard various possibilities about their future while digging out revelations from their past. This sort of thing can be parodied as "French art film" but it's important to remember that the goal isn't naturalism and it isn't the flowing dialogue that's often presumed to be observable in real life but actually isn't (Do you know anybody who talks like a Mamet or O'Neill character?). Certainly "poetry" would be a misleading word--this isn't Shakespeare either--but it does hint at the kind of heightened awareness that Resnais and Duras are attempting. This approach drives Riva and Okada to subtly understated performances that wiggle into the characters and their formation. Instead of fully formed characters presented to us, in Hiroshima Mon Amour we watch them struggle to form themselves, to define new relations without a map. But the film opens into a wider political world with the grimly unforgettable documentary footage of the Hiroshima bombing victims peppered through much of the first half-hour. The interplay of individual to society, random to intentional, language to image, and health to sickness makes this a complex sequence, the more so due to some of the footage being obvious but unmarked re-creations (undoubtedly another deliberate tactic at exploring another type of memory created by documentaries). Criterion's DVD features a sharp transfer of the film that captures the various textures and subtle lighting. Putting the film into context is an audio commentary by historian Peter Cowie, video interviews with Resnais and Emmanuelle Riva, and a version of the screenplay annotated by Duras herself. A thick booklet includes an essay by critic Kent Jones, brief Duras prose sketches, and a reprint of a 1959 roundtable discussion by the Cahiers du Cinema staff that's as insightful as it is peculiar. For more information about Hiroshima, Mon Amour and Night and Fog, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Hiroshima, Mon Amour, go to TCM Shopping. To order Night and Fog, go to TCM Shopping. by Lang Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

This film pioneered the use of jump cutting to and from a flashback, and of very brief flashbacks to suggest obtrusive memories.

Eiji Okada (playing Lui) did not know any French and was coached in pronouncing each syllable and memorized that order.

Miscellaneous Notes

Voted One of the Year's Five Best Foreign Films by the 1960 National Board of Review.

Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Foreign Language Films by the 1960 New York Times Film Critics.

Co-Winner of the International Critics Prize and Winner of the Film Writers Award at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival.

Released in United States Spring May 1960

Released in United States on Video July 1987

Released in United States June 1, 1990

Shown at Pacific Film Archive (A Producer's Vision: Anatole Dauman) in Berkeley, California June 1, 1990.

Feature directorial debut for Alain Resnais.

Georges Delerue's score for the film consists solely of the music heard on the jukebox.

Film's flashback editing technique revolutionized the cinema's means of interpreting subjective memory.

Shot between September-December 1958.

Released in United States on Video July 1987

Released in United States June 1, 1990 (Shown at Pacific Film Archive (A Producer's Vision: Anatole Dauman) in Berkeley, California June 1, 1990.)

Released in United States Spring May 1960

Voted Best Foreign Language Film of the Year by the 1960 New York Film Critics Association.