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JE T’AIME JE T’AIME (review)

Je-T'aime,-Je-T'aimeJE T’AIME, JE T’AIME
Written by Jacques Sternberg
Directed by Alain Resnais

Starring Claude Rich and Olga Georges-Picot

Last March saw the death of Alain Resnais, one of France’s most prolific filmmakers in the history of narrative and documentary cinema. Originally working as an editor for French New Wave filmmaker, Agnes Varda, Resnais branched out from editing and began his journey as a director. Though he directed films for 50 years, he is remembered by most for three films: NIGHT AND FOG, HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR, and LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD. One of his first short documentaries, NIGHT AND FOG, gave viewers a bleak and disturbing look at an abandoned concentration camp, and is one of the most acclaimed documentaries ever shot. A few years later, in 1959, he would premier what is perhaps his most well known film, HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR, which was famous for mixing narrative and documentary elements. It told the story of Elle (Emmanuelle Riva of 2012’s AMOUR), an actress who falls in love while filming an anti-war film in Hiroshima. The film famously intercut her story with real documentary footage from the aftermath of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings. Finally, the last film that many remember Resnais for, 1961’s LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, is perhaps Resnais’ most unique and difficult film. It puzzled audiences around the world with its entirely ambiguous story of a hotel, and a man and a woman who may or may not have met there the year before.


While Resnais is remembered by most for these three early films, he would go on to direct many excellent films throughout his long career, producing greats in each decade, such as 1984’s LOVE UNTO DEATH and 2012’s YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET. Among these great under-appreciated films is 1969’s JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME, which unfortunately has been very difficult to see for the past couple of decades. With a gorgeous, newly struck, 35mm print making the rounds at art-house cinemas, including Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox, audiences will finally get a chance to see this excellent gem from one of France’s most underappreciated filmmakers.

Essentially, the story is extremely simple: After recovering from an attempted suicide, Claude Ridder (Claude Rich) is selected to be the first human to participate in a time travel experiment. After reluctantly agreeing to take part, Claude learns that he will be sent back a full year, and only for one minute’s time. While Claude is promised that the experiment was fully successful on the mice it was tested on, we later learn that this is not entirely true. After becoming comfortable in the strange time machine, which resembles a giant human brain, Claude is sent back one year to a beach in Brittany. As this is all too simple for an Alain Resnais film, the time machine obviously malfunctions. Claude begins to experience memories from many years of his life, jumping back and forth throughout the past. The majority of the film is made up of Claude’s time jumping, with the scenes ranging from around twenty seconds to two minutes. With each of Claude’s memories, we learn something new about his character. His relationship with his deceased girlfriend, Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot) is heavily explored, and through their relationship we see the mystery of Claude’s mind and suicide attempt unfold.


Like many of Resnais’ cerebral films of the 1960’s, JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME was ahead of its time. Upon its initial release in 1969, most critics dismissed the film. Had this film been made in the past few years, it surely would have met worldwide critical acclaim. To no surprise, Michel Gondry has cited Je JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME as an inspiration for his Academy Award-winning film, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, which also featured its protagonist travelling throughout his memories. In a way, JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME is more of an experience than it is a film. Resnais handles character development in an entirely unique way. In the film we see Claude change as his memories move forward, and then see the changes undone as his memories travel backwards. JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME is the kind of film that demands multiple viewings. Like the film itself, Claude is a puzzle, and we must see his memories more than once to put him together. And while multiple viewings might be difficult for most, you must at the very least experience it once.

JE T’AIME, JE T’AIME screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto on Thursday, May 15, at 6:30 PM as part of the TIFF Cinematheque Special Screenings series. Click here for tickets and see below for other featured titles in the series.

4.5 sheep




Je t’aime, je t’aime

dir. Alain Resnais | France | 1968 | 91min. | PG

Thursday, May 15, 6:30pm




dir. Michelangelo Antonioni | Italy | 1960 | 143 min. | 14A

Thursday, May 15, 8:45pm

Tuesday, May, 20, 6:30pm



Voyage in Italy

dir. Roberto Rossellini | Italy | 1953 | 85 min. | 14A

Saturday, May 17, 4:30pm




dir. Nagisa Oshima | Japan | 1969 | 97 min. | 14A

Sunday, May 18, 4:00 pm

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