Thrillingly hypnotic and one of the strangest artifacts of cinema history, the voluptuous Last Year at Marienbad returns to Film Forum in a deluxe b&w 'Scope print—and with it, the opportunity to play the game of mood versus meaning. Which side are you on? Naturally, you don't really have to choose; there's no Inland Empire without this film (Lynch's most recent shoot for Gucci is almost an homage), no Suspiria or Russian Ark. As the unnamed characters strike haute couture poses in a gorgeously decaying grand hotel, you'll also be reminded of those Calvin Klein Obsession ads and your own private nightmare of the most pretentious movie ever made. Is it this? Maybe. And still, no other film has affected fashion as deeply.
Sift through Alain Robbe-Grillet's mystifying anti-narrative, just this side of melodrama, at your own peril. Doing so will attract bearded college professors and other flies to the exquisite corpse. Nor will performances carry the day; lust object Delphine Seyrig is hired to look stunning and do little else, a task at which she excels. Rather, the lure here is total style—style that carries a secret significance. All of these beautifully cut clothes, pomaded hairdos and sparkling jewels serve to encase a desperate fear: an embalming, a purgatory. The pipe-organ score shrieks and you realize that Marienbad is closer to silent horror than you might think. Its characters obsess over the past because they know they'll never be as perfect as they are right now. (Opens Fri; Film Forum.)