Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959): Alain Resnais Oscar-Nominated Masterpiece, Starring Emmanuelle Rive

Alain Resnais’ highly acclaimed film, Hiroshima, mon amour, is a thoughtful, contemplative and lyrical chronicle of a French movie actress and a Japanese architect, whose sensual love affair in Hiroshima evokes strange memories of the past, experiences of the presence, and thoughts for the future.

It’s one of a half a dozen films, alongside two other stunning debuts, Francois Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows” and Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless,” which launched the French New Wave, a movement that revolutionized world cinema in its innovative approach to narrative, style and even audiences.

For some, Resnais’ feature debut, from a screenplay by Marguerite Duras, was the most startling film to emerge from France since WWII. It tells the story of a noted French actress (Emanuelle Rive) who visits Hiroshima and falls into an affair with a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada). But the setting evokes painful memories of her first lover, a German soldier who was shot on Liberation Day.

Addressing forgetfulness, the subjective nature of time, and the imminence of death, Resnais developed a unique editing style and narrative structure. Remarkable in theme and structure, “Hiroshima, mon amour” examines the relationship between time and memory in the context of a terrible atrocity. Resnais maintains the counterpoint between past and present by continuously shifting the narrative mode from the objective to the subjective.

Resnais’ work has been described by some critics as important in the evolution of cinema as a distinctive art form, on par with the qualities of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.

Jean-Luc Godrad, a contemporary of Resnais, once described it as “Faulkner plus Stravinsky.” Perhaps the film’s most significant quality is that, within the narrative audacity and beauty of its composition, it remains a very moving love story.

One of the films that launched the French New Wave, “Hiroshima, mon amour” received the International Critics Prize at the 1959 Cannes Film festival.

Oscar Alert

Oscar Nominations: 1

Story and Screenplay (Original): Marguerite Duras

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The Oscar in that category went to Billy Wilder and I.A. L. Diamond for “The Apartment,” which also won Best Picture and Best Director.

French film with English subtitles

Running Time: 88 minutes