Hiroshima mon amour is one of the earliest French New Wave films, it came out in 1959 which was the same year François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows came out but the films couldn’t be any different. However the very first French New Wave films were early films by Claude Chabrol who would have perhaps the most varied career of any director of the movement in the amount of films he made and varying quality of them. Hiroshima mon amour‘s director Alain Resnais had already made a name of himself with his earlier documentary on the holocaust Night and Fog.
The premise of Hiroshima mon amour is a relatively basic story of a French actress played by Emmanuelle Riva who is shooting a film in Japan. She meets a young Japanese architect and they form a passionate but ultimate doomed short relationship. The film uses flashbacks in still a totally innovative way despite being nearly 60 years old and tell both the man and woman’s backstories but also the story of effects of the bomb on Hiroshima. It’s mostly told through the woman’s point of view who is reflecting on the relationship.
Resnais’ work often deals with memory and the fractured nature of memory and this film is no exception. He would take his interest in dreamlike memory to extreme lengths in his next film Last Year at Marienbad which stills remains one of the most baffling films ever made to critics to this day. The cinematography was done by Sacha Vierny who would become Peter Greenaway’s director of photography during his heyday in the ’80s and ’90s.
Hiroshima mon amour remains one of the most pivotal works of the French New Wave. It would spawn the more politically conscious left-bank movement which included filmmakers like Chris Marker. Emmanuelle Riva gives perhaps her finest performance in her still on-going career and is interviewed on the disc about her experience on the film. Hiroshima mon amour remains one of the defining statements on love, loss war, destruction and memory ever committed on celluloid.