From “Mulholland Drive” to “La Page blanche”, when cinema loses its memory

A GLANCE FROM PIERRE MURAT – A future to draw in “La Page blanche”, a past to reconstruct in “Revoir Paris”: amnesia has often inspired the seventh art and its characters in search of meaning. Overview with five memorable films.

She sits down on a bench and pffou, her memory flies away. Thanks to her identity card, she knows her name, where she lives, but nothing more. Ah good, she works as a saleswoman at Gibert? Oh, she’s having an affair with her department head? Ah good, she could be caustic, mocking, mocking with certain colleagues? Éloïse (Sara Giraudeau) doesn’t like what she discovers about herself. What if this memory loss allowed her to start her life over, to become what she should have been, what she wanted to be?…

Amnesia can be the pretext for comedies like The Blank Page by Murielle Magellan (released August 31). Or dramas like the one that Virginie Efira saw in See Paris again by Alice Winocour (in theaters September 7). Mia was in the café, place de la République, where a terrorist opened fire one rainy evening. Moment that has completely faded from her mind: it is, therefore, a real investigation that she begins, three months later: where was she, with whom, until when and why…

Amnesia, in the cinema, is too often the intriguing pretext of interchangeable thrillers. A quick reminder of some more ambitious films…

“Mulholland Drive”, by David Lynch (2001)

Arguably the best Lynch. The most disturbing, too, since memory becomes a character there. A danger. A threat. Rita (Laura Harring), memories gone, takes refuge with Betty (Naomi Watts), an actress who has just arrived from Australia. Both try to reconstruct what has disappeared. But wouldn’t the evaporated traces of heroine no. 1 be aroused by the unconscious of heroine no. 2? In an America as fluctuating as an endless nightmare, the filmmaker pays homage to Hollywood and to the dark filmmakers – Hitchcock, Aldrich – who made it famous. He also enjoys driving moviegoers crazy by offering their intelligence psychological and psychoanalytical treasure hunts. That they can take seriously. Or not…

Laura Harring and Naomi Watts, in “Mulholland Drive”, by David Lynch, 2001.

Les Films Alain Sarde/Asymmetrical Productions/Babbo Inc

“The Man Without a Past”, by Aki Kaurismäki (2002)

“We should all lose our memory at least once in our life” : this is the advertising slogan of The Blank Page by Murielle Magellan. It could have been that of the great humanist that Aki Kaurismäki has always been. Because it is the fraternity that his hero finds among the destitute who take him in: ” How much I owe you ? », he says to the fisherman who buys him a drink. “If I roll in the gutter, one day, you will pick me up! », responds the other. As always, we drink a lot at Kaurismäki. We yell a lot, we fight, sometimes, and we love each other madly, all the time. Faced with the world that the filmmaker contemplates with anguish – this galloping capitalism, this disappointing communism – there remains a utopia to achieve: kindness. This is understood by his nameless hero (Markku Peltola) and the Salvation Army soldier (Kati Outinen) who comes to his aid. In the bare, refined style that is his, and the black humor at the heart of the most serious events, the filmmaker observes his two characters stagger, stagger. But – the main thing in his eyes – to move. Moving forward again and again…

Markku Peltola and Juhani Niemela, in

Markku Peltola and Juhani Niemela, in “The Man Without a Past”, by Aki Kaurismaki, 2022.

Sputnik Oy

“Memento”, by Christopher Nolan (2000)

He wants to kill his wife’s killer. Problem: he doesn’t remember anything immediately after having experienced it. He starts his life over again every minute, in a way… So Lenny (Guy Pearce) photographs everyone and everything, as if he wanted to accumulate proof of his existence. And on his body, he tattoos the main events of his past, to be sure that he existed… How can you trust others when you can’t believe yourself? Impossible, of course! This is demonstrated by this totally paranoid film, constructed like a puzzle, where a suspicious lamb experiments at his expense with the formula popularized by Plautus, Pliny the Elder, Rabelais and Montaigne: ” Man is a wolf to man “… Christopher Nolan’s fame came to him through successful blockbusters (The Dark Knight, 2008) or pretentious (Interstellar, 2014 ; tenet, 2020). We will always continue to prefer it, brilliantissimo, in exercises at the Memento where he played with time without getting lost in it.

Guy Pearce, in

Guy Pearce, in “Memento” by Christopher Nolan, 2000.

I Remember Productions

Trap for Cinderella, by André Cayatte (1965)

A bit like Sara Giraudeau in The Blank Page, she hates the being she was. But who was she exactly? “Do”, namely Dominique: rich, celebrated, unbearable? Or “Mi”, namely Michèle: poor, downgraded, victim? Was she Do? Has she become Mi? Did Do want to get rid of Mi? And if it was Mi who had wanted to kill Do?… We didn’t expect André Cayatte, specialist in thesis films, in the psychological torments, skilfully distilled by Sébastien Japrisot in his novel. He gets out of it, if only by the sensual confusion he manages to create between Do and Mi, but also between Do, Mi and the manipulator embodied by Madeleine Robinson… This multiple role remains the pinnacle of his career. by Dany Carrel, unfortunately little sought after by great directors (apart from Julien Duvivier in Pot-Bouille, in 1957, and Henri-Georges Clouzot in The Prisonerin 1968)…

Dany Carrel, in “Piège pour Cendrillon”, by André Cayatte, 1965.

Dany Carrel, in “Piège pour Cendrillon”, by André Cayatte, 1965.

Gaumont International/Jolly Film

“Such a long absence”, by Henri Colpi (1961)

A screenplay by Marguerite Duras. In a deserted cafe, they dance slowly to the sounds of a sad waltz, broadcast by a jukebox. She (Alida Valli) is the boss. He (Georges Wilson) is this husband, long gone, become an amnesiac tramp whom she recognized right away. They barely move, in each other’s arms, he almost frightened, she on the verge of tears. The waltz ends. He still doesn’t understand why she made him come, why she invited him to dance: “You are a nice woman! », he said to her before fleeing… It’s the most beautiful scene of such a long absence by Henri Colpi, the only filmmaker who was able (even if she claimed the opposite) to make Duras better than her… Highly rewarded – Louis-Delluc prize and Palme d’Or at Cannes 1961 – the film remains totally unknown , still. The staging is sublime, however, which plays on the silences, the looks. Over time, too, with long tracking shots à la Resnais, stretched to infinity. Who will one day do justice to Such a long absence ?

Georges Wilson and Alida Valli, in

Georges Wilson and Alida Valli, in “A Long Absence”, by Henri Colpi, 1961.

Cine Lyre/Action Cinemas


The blank page, by Murielle Magellan. Already in theaters.
See Paris again, by Alice Winocourt. In theaters September 7.

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From “Mulholland Drive” to “La Page blanche”, when cinema loses its memory