Alain Resnais fuses art forms in new comedy at Berlin festival

Mon Feb 10, 2014 4:26pm EST
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By Sarah Marsh

BERLIN (Reuters) - At 91-years-old, veteran French filmmaker Alain Resnais shows no sign of letting up his experimentation, drawing on theatre, graphic illustration and cinema in his whimsical comedy "Life of Riley" that premiered at Berlin's festival on Monday.

In his third adaptation of a play by Britain's Alan Ayckbourn, the lives of three couples are shaken up by the news their good friend George Riley is ill and has just months to live.

The news rekindles old emotions, and the three women start fighting to look after George in his last weeks and accompany him on his last holiday, creating unexpected and tragicomic tumult in their middle-aged, respectable relationships.

Through George's imminent death, they all seem to come alive. As Kathryn, played by Resnais' wife Sabine Azéma, says - it is as if George, the invisible character around which all revolves, had a scheme in mind.

Actress Sandrine Kiberlain, who plays George's estranged wife, told a news conference in Berlin that the French title of the film, "Aimer, boire et chanter" (to love, drink and sing), "reflects the message of let's live our lives to the full".

Resnais, a doyen of French cinema who found fame in the 1950s with hits "Hiroshima mon amour" and "Night and Fog", was too ill to make the screening in Berlin but remains true to form on creativity.

Punctuated by graphic illustrations of the houses where the characters live and panoramas of the English countryside, the action takes place in an artificial, cardboard cut-out studio world, underscoring the film's theatricality.

The characters themselves are amateur actors rehearsing scenes, presenting the viewer with a play within a play.   Continued...

Cast members Sabine Azema (L) and Hippolyte Girardot pose during a photocall to promote the movie "Aimer, Boire Et Chanter" (Life of Riley) at the 64th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 10, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter