Watch Alain Resnais’ Short, Evocative Film on the National Library of France (1956)

French New Wave film­mak­er Alain Resnais, who died at the age of 91 last week, changed cin­e­ma for­ev­er with a string of intel­lec­tu­al­ly rig­or­ous, non­lin­ear mas­ter­pieces like Hiroshi­ma Mon Amour (1959) and Last Year at Marien­bad (1961). Both films are about Resnais’s two obses­sions – time and mem­o­ry. Hiroshi­ma is about a doomed rela­tion­ship between a French actress and a Japan­ese archi­tect who are both haunt­ed by the war. Marien­bad is an enig­mat­ic puz­zle of a movie that sharply divid­ed audi­ences – either you were mes­mer­ized by the movie or you were bored and infu­ri­at­ed by it. For bet­ter or worse, Marien­bad influ­enced gen­er­a­tions of fash­ion pho­tog­ra­phers; Calvin Klein’s Obses­sion ads were direct­ly influ­enced by the film.

Resnais got his start just after the war mak­ing short doc­u­men­taries. His best known is Night and Fog (1955), a med­i­ta­tion on both the Holo­caust and the mem­o­ry of the Holo­caust. And above you can see anoth­er one of his doc­u­men­taries – his 1956 short Toute la mémoire du monde (All the World’s Mem­o­ries). It was put online by Cri­te­ri­on.

While the movie beau­ti­ful­ly shows off the labyrinthine expanse of the Bib­lio­thèque nationale de France – its vast col­lec­tion of books, man­u­scripts and doc­u­ments along with her­culean efforts to com­pile and orga­nize all of its infor­ma­tion – the film becomes a rumi­na­tion on the lengths that human­i­ty will go to keep from for­get­ting. The film fea­tures some gor­geous cin­e­matog­ra­phy by Ghis­lain Clo­quet and a sound­track by Mau­rice Jarre. Check it out.

Toute la mémoire du monde will appear in our col­lec­tion of 200 Free Doc­u­men­taries Online, part of our larg­er col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Young Jean-Luc Godard Picks the 10 Best Amer­i­can Films Ever Made (1963)

Meetin’ WA: Jean-Luc Godard Meets Woody Allen in 26 Minute Film

The Film­mak­ing of Susan Son­tag & Her 50 Favorite Films (1977)

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

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