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Life of Riley

Directed by Alain Resnais

France, 2014

Cornerhouse, 21 March 2015

You would be reluctant to call this film of Alan Ayckbourn’s play an adaptation for the screen, for Resnais retains all the trappings of the stage, or so it would seem.

The characters will look out as they speak, allowing their responses to be seen by an ‘audience’.  There are no doors leading to an outside world; instead the characters enter and exit through a curtain.  Much happens elsewhere, off-stage, and (as with the play) George, the central character, is never seen.  Where cinematic conventions which create a curtailed sense of space – in effect, a stage – don’t exist, Resnais invents them.  Close-ups have an artificial quality.

As for the story, which is all about growing old, accepting ones limitations and coming to terms with death, it is a moving and melancholy one.  And it sheds light on the reason for Resnais’ artistic choices, why they are not only apt but brilliant.  The key point is that it is all about letting go.  The camera, for once, lets go of its pretensions to omnipresence.  It doesn’t see everything.

A beautiful film, the experience of watching it being rather like seeing a cinematic version of Queneau’s Exercises in Style; and it was wonderful also to see Caroline Sihol again – she is such an elegant actress.