Marie writes: Widely regarded as THE quintessential Art House movie, "Last Year at Marienbad" has long since perplexed those who've seen it; resulting in countless Criterion-esque essays speculating as to its meaning whilst knowledge of the film itself, often a measure of one's rank and standing amongst coffee house cinephiles. But the universe has since moved on from artsy farsty French New Wave. It now prefers something braver, bolder, more daring...
Since Moses brought the tablets down from the mountain, lists have come in tens, not that we couldn't have done with several more commandments. Who says a year has Ten Best Films, anyway? Nobody but readers, editors, and most other movie critics. There was hell to pay last year when I published my list of Twenty Best. You'd have thought I belched at a funeral. So this year I have devoutly limited myself to exactly ten films.
"We're Jews. We have that well of tradition to draw on, to help us understand. When we're puzzled we have all the stories that have been handed down from people who had the same problems." -- Mimi
"Mere surmise, sir." -- Clive
Larry Gopnik didn't do anything. In the whole movie he doesn't do anything. Not much of anything, anyway. He just wants to understand what is happening to him. So, every time he protests that he didn't do anything, he's really asking a related question: "What did I do to deserve this?" Joel and Ethan Coen's "A Serious Man" is an x-ray of Larry's life, but even the title doesn't respect him. It's a reference to another man, Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed), who is passive-aggressively taking over Larry's wife life. To add insult to injury, it seems to be a fait accompli -- just came at Larry out of the blue. And Larry, remember, hasn't done anything.
Larry (Michael Stuhlbarg) lives in a Minneapolis suburb, circa 1967-70 (between "Surrealistic Pillow" and "Santana Abraxas"). It is a flat world without curbs, without fences, without boundaries. The streets and the lawns and the houses all kind of run together, and it's hard to tell which is which. His neighbor's mowing crosses the invisible property line, infringing on Larry's grass. The TV antenna on the roof picks up all kinds of things out of the air, but "F-Troop" is not coming in clearly on channel 4. And Larry himself is becoming indistinct, as if he were breaking up and fuzzing out like the television picture.