Je T’aime, Je T’aime

A French time-travel treat

JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME (Alain Resnais). See listings. Rating: NNNN

In 1968, Alain Resnais – the French auteur whose Night And Fog, Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year At Marienbad carved out their own little corner of the French New Wave – made a time-travel movie about a man who comes unstuck in his own romantic history.

With a modest budget and a subtly antic spirit, Je T’Aime, Je T’Aime is the polar opposite of Chris Marker’s La Jetée, another key work of Gallic sci-fi from the era – but don’t worry, it’s easy to tell the two apart. Only Resnais would devise a movie where the chamber that projects its occupant back into his own past looks like a giant head of garlic.

That occupant is Claude Ridder (Claude Rich), a newly discharged psychiatric patient who’s selected for the experiment after a failed suicide attempt. The plan is to send him one year into his own past for exactly one minute, but in no time at all he’s skipping through the entirety of his relationship with lost love Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot).

Made in 1968, the film feels weirdly contemporary – and not just because there’s a scene where Claude is forced to endure a cab driver’s rant about getting rid of streetcars to improve city driving.

I can see its first 20 minutes, which guide Ridder and the audience through the time-travel concept in an almost mundane fashion, playing out identically as the starting point for a present-day time-travel indie. Things would have to be radically different after that, because Michel Gondry drew heavily on Renais’s melancholy time-shifting for Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.

The film screens Thursday (May 15) at the Lightbox as part of TIFF’s Special Screenings series, which wraps up this week with Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (also May 15, and May 20), Roberto Rossellini’s Voyage In Italy Saturday (May 17) and Nagisa Oshima’s Boy Sunday (May 18). See listings.

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