May 19, 1960 [Hiroshima mon amour]

In Hiroshima mon amour Alain Resnais dismantles the last fifteen years, picks through the pieces, finds only two people more or less intact, and walks them through Hiroshima in a daze of memory and amnesia, disjunction and commingling--OK, the old ploy, the convenient dualities game; but for God's sake what else is left? Global schizophrenia is driving us all mad--no, that's not right: If we have schizophrenia, we're already nuts, and should not be trusted with the sharp objects of analysis and explanation, let alone apologetics.

--So Resnais works with what we can trust, that which is contrary. The French actress finds herself drawn to Hiroshima--its radioactive dust clinging to her skin until she is back in Nevers--a sad play on words, French to English--the Loire beautiful, and Bernadette buried there, the one who wanted to love more than live. And when the actress loved, it was a German soldier, so she was shaved and tossed in the cellar, where she lived on saltpeter and despairing love--and hate. And her lover today is a Japanese architect--building things, you see, in his home town, where the tourists go to weep. They are both from cities famous for their tombs--so why not go mad?

I'm glad I haven't seen Resnais' film on the concentration camps--and should I be ashamed for that? In Hiroshima mon amour the city goes from sunshine to retiring midnight and beyond, the restaurant all but deserted, the sound turned low on everything. I wanted it to end there, with words unspoken, the calm night modest, turning her head away from us, her shoulder soft in the dim light. But oh no: We must remember every step of our descent, and pass that moment when we wonder if we're mad--to the point where we forget we wondered, and can't tell.

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