7.5/10
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Muriel, or The Time of Return (1963)

Muriel ou Le temps d'un retour (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 13 March 2007 (USA)
In the seacoast town of Boulogne, Hélène sells antique furniture, living with her step-son, Bernard, who's back from military duty in Algiers. An old lover of Hélène's comes to visit - ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Jean-Pierre Kérien ...
Alphonse Noyard
Nita Klein ...
Françoise
Jean-Baptiste Thiérrée ...
Bernard Aughain (as Jean-Baptiste Thierrée)
Claude Sainval ...
Roland de Smoke
Laurence Badie ...
Claudie
Jean Champion ...
Ernest
...
L'homme à la chèvre / The Goat Man
Martine Vatel ...
Marie-Dominique, aka Marie-Do
Julien Verdier ...
Le loueur de chevaux / The Stableman
...
Robert
Nelly Borgeaud ...
La femme du couple d'acheteurs
Catherine de Seynes ...
Angèle
Gaston Joly ...
Antoine, le tailleur / Antoine the Tailor
Gérard Lorin ...
Marc
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Storyline

In the seacoast town of Boulogne, Hélène sells antique furniture, living with her step-son, Bernard, who's back from military duty in Algiers. An old lover of Hélène's comes to visit - Alphonse - with his niece Françoise; he too is back from Algiers, where he ran a café. Bernard speaks of his fiancée, Muriel, whom Hélène has not met. The narrative, like memory and intention, is jumpy, the past obscured by guilt, misperceptions, and missed possibilities. Appearances deceive, things change. As Hélène and Alphonse try to sort out a renewal, everyone seems off-kilter just enough to hint that all cannot end well. Can anyone know another? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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From Alain Resnais, Creator of "Hiroshima Mon Amour" and "Last Year at Marienbad" See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Release Date:

13 March 2007 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Muriel, or The Time of Return  »

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Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When polled by the AFI filmmaker Randa Haines named "Muriel" as her all-time favorite film. See more »

Connections

References Shoot the Piano Player (1960) See more »

Soundtracks

Sujux Day
By Georges Delerue
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User Reviews

 
Ladies and gentlemen, the undisputed star of Muriel is... the editing.
15 December 2006 | by (Rome, Italy) – See all my reviews

I had never seen an Alain Resnais movie before. Despite the fact most of my IMDb friends had told me to start off with Hiroshima Mon Amour, I was more drawn to Muriel and chose it as my first taste of Resnais. In a nutshell: it was far more interesting thematically and cinematographically (also on a purely technical level) than it was enjoyable. I'm still very glad that I saw it, though. The most fascinating aspect of it was without doubt the montage, or editing. Rather than directing or acting, or even the screen writing, it was the editing that had the lion's share of the movie, as if it were its star. I cannot think of another movie where this is quite as apparent. Some of Muriel's style of editing felt like machine-gun-fire, being so relentlessly fast and aggressive in parts, but it was in my opinion very powerful and efficient in leaving an impression of "mental flashes". This emulated the nature of memory, which is the theme at the heart of an otherwise grim and pessimistic movie. Yet this darkness is masked by an appearance of everyday banality in a provincial town, making it all the more depressing, since it's easier to relate the melancholy at its core to one's own, everyday existence. Not for nothing, the movie was also set in winter, and nothing is quite as melancholy and nostalgic as a sea-side town off-season.

The last 10 minutes of the movie, more or less from the "revelation" at Hélène's Sunday lunch right to the moments in which the word "Fin" (The End) appeared on the screen, were the most powerful bout of cinematic caffeine I've experienced in a while. Until that moment I was starting to worry that the film was going nowhere too specific, or at least not somewhere that I understood or knew. Then came the final emotional earthquake, redeeming the movie tenfold, and I was virtually just as shocked as most of the characters in it.

OK, I'll admit I wasn't overly enamoured of the acting. With the exception of Delphine Seyrig playing Hélène, who succeeded in convincing me with her interpretation of the character as well as making me feel sympathetic towards her, the other players left me virtually cold. For a while I thought I'd like Nita Klein playing Françoise, then I started thinking that her character was pretty much redundant and should have been far more marginal than it actually was (and what was going on between her and Bernard anyway? That felt like a contrivance). Since I mentioned Bernard, played by Jean-Baptiste Thierrée, let me say that he was the character I was least convinced by. Quite frankly, I wasn't partial to the way the actor chose to bring him to life at all. Yet he and his drama - the traumas he'd experienced during the Algerian war, his witnessing the torture of an Algerian girl, the titular Muriel, which scarred him for life - was probably the heart and kernel of the movie! Jean-Pierre Kérien playing Alphonse, is the player that most viewers here seem to criticise. In my view there wasn't much else he could have done with the character, seeing as he was mostly a pretext for Hélène's tragedy. But in the last ten minutes of the movie Alphonse's raison d'être comes sharply to the forefront, thanks to the shocking revelation previously mentioned. It was Bernard that I expected more from acting-wise, I guess. Furthermore, the soundtrack was occasionally strident and annoying, perhaps trying to be an aural version of the editing. But while it worked on a visual level, the music's jarred quality was ultimately grating.

However, for the courage with which the movie tackled subjects which are best rendered in a novel form, for its successfully experimental editing, as well as its genuinely moving ending, I'll still award Muriel a pretty high score: 7.5/10 (it would have been 8 if the acting, not just from Seyrig, had been more accomplished).


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