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'You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet' is a filmmaker's (almost) farewell

The latest from French legend Alain Resnais ("Last Year at Marienbad") is a nostalgic film that, happily, is not his final work.

A sprawling cast of Alain Resnais regulars takes up space in the director's "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" Credit: Kino Lorber, Inc A sprawling cast of Alain Resnais regulars takes up space in the director's "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet."
Credit: Kino Lorber Inc.

‘You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet’
Director: Alain Resnais
Stars: Pierre Aditi, Sabine Azema
Rating: NR
4 (out of 5) Globes

A movie called “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” directed by a 91-year-old legend can only be read as a farewell. Actually, France's Alain Resnais — who helped create the modernist art film half a century ago with “Hiroshima, Mon Amour” and “Last Year at Marienbad” — is hard at work on another film. But "Nothin' Yet" screams swan song anyway. As it opens, a famous playwright has died. Before his death, he had arranged a reunion for 15 of his regular actors, who just happen to be 15 Resnais regulars, playing “themselves.” And so, much like “Clue,” a group — including Lambert Wilson, Mathieu Amalric and Resnais’ real-life wife Sabine Azema — gather at his gaudy manse. There, they watch a film of a play they once performed when they were younger. The experience causes them to loudly reminisce and, soon, start performing the piece themselves, even though they’re now too old for the roles.

Of cinema’s undisputed masters, Resnais has been the toughest to nail down. He started out as a chilly formalist, but gradually warmed up. His last few films have been some of the loopiest of any major filmmaker. “Wild Grass,” from 2010, is as confounding as “Marienbad,” with characters changing personalities and a delightfully WTF capper. The Resnais of “Nothin’ Yet” is bemused, charming and playful, even as the material teems with regret and nostalgia. The bulk of the film is actually the play within the film, which is actually two plays: “Eurydice” and “Cher Antoine ou l’Amour Rate,” both by Jean Anouilh. The former reimagines the titular Greek myth with a hurt and vindictive Orpheus, who spends part of it strongly considering looking at Eurydice, therefore sending her back to at least a figurative hell.

There’s real pain in the material, plus the occasional gnomic one-liner. (“One mustn’t believe too much in happiness,” one says, almost as a joke.) But the tone isn’t one of heaviness. It’s charming, light, vaguely goofy. Segueing between the real and the theatrical, between actual actors and their on-screen incarnations, it's so busy that Resnais' own voice winds up deliberately obscured. This isn't a naked confessional; even the dead playwright turns out to be early middle aged, not in his 90s. Whether the fact that his real-life wife is playing a hurtful Eurydice has anything to do with his own life isn't clear, but it doesn't matter. At the end, it's just great that he's still working, and firing on all cylinders.

 
 
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