A landmark in the world cinema, L’année dernière à Marienbad (1961) is a movie you either love or hate. The first time I saw it I can’t say I liked it and didn’t quite know what to make of it, but the second time I loved it. If you haven’t seen it yet, my advice is not to read any reviews until you watch it, because this is an art-house movie, the kind of film everybody understands differently. Director Alain Resnais lets his viewers create their own film and that’s the beauty of it.
Much has been said about Last Year at Marienbad, but, to my surprise, so little about the amazing costumes Coco Chanel designed for Delphine Seyrig, although she remained uncredited in the film. The baroque decors (the filming took place at two castles outside of Munich, Nymphenburg and Amalienburg) served as an impressive frame for the elegance and exactitude of Chanel’s dresses. Delphine’s wardrobe is so sophisticated, yet so light in details: layers of tulle, wisps of chiffon, delicate lace and dramatic feathers (those sensational white feathery peignoir and black cape), as if especially created to drift unnoticed through the sumptuous corridors and gilded rooms and the architectural, majestic gardens.
In the sea of black (there had to be a few little black dresses) and white there is also a Chanel metallic suit with three-quarter sleeves and another shimmering outfit. The avand-garde clothes are a beautiful mixture of the ’20s and ’60s fashion, but unfortunately I couldn’t capture all the details to show you the extraordinary craftsmanship of Chanel’s couture creations.
Looking at the accessories, one must notice the Chanel leitmotifs throughout the film: two-toned shoes with kitten heels, chain belts and costume jewelry.
Alain Resnais was taken by the sophistication of certain silent movies, like Pabst’s Pandora’s Box (1929) starring Louise Brooks. This was the inspiration for Delphine’s make-up, for example her lips were painted the same way it would have been done in the ’20s. At the director’s request the entire team watched Pandora’s Box, including the hairstylist, who more or less had to copy Louise’s hairstyle for the female character. But Delphine had cut her hair unknowingly and they had to come up with something different, the famous ‘Marienbad hairstyle’, which was copied by women all over Europe and America.
Regardless of what impression it leaves you, the cinematography, narration and fashion in Last Year at Marienbad continue to be a reference for filmmakers, photographers and designers alike.