Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959). Alain Resnais' landmark film (from a script by novelist Marguerite Duras) was considered by some the first truly modern movie of the sound era. Originally commissioned to create a documentary on the atomic bomb, Resnais opted to instead confront the subject's weighty history through fiction. (He had earlier captured some of the anguish of the Holocaust in his poetic, terrifying short documentary Night and Fog, and some of that movie's strategies are deployed in Hiroshima).
The movie's unsettling first reel takes in sights, footage, and artifacts from a museum erected in Hiroshima to commemorate the bombing. Over this harrowing travelogue we hear a conversation between two people, whom we figure out are a French woman (Emmanuelle Riva), who is confronting the horrors of what happened at Hiroshima, and a Japanese man (Eiji Okada) who gently but implacably insists that she has seen nothing. The movie then seems to switch its focus on the affair between these two figures, a French actress in town to shoot a historical war drama and a Japanese architect who has his own memories of the war.
Giovanni Fusco's score (a piano piece in the film's aching final third struck me as one of the loveliest pieces of music I've ever heard in a movie). In a movie that puts so much weight on its music and sound design, the clarity this DCP brings to those aspects should not be overlooked in a perhaps knee-jerk movement to condemn its medium.
Hiroshima Mon Amour opens Friday, October 31, 2014, at the Vogue Theatre, 3290 Sacramento St., S.F. (415) 346-2288. David Robson holds a degree in theatre from the University of Virginia. He is the editorial director at Jaman, a website that offers a smarter search for new movies to watch on line. David blogs irregularly at the House of Sparrows, but is often too busy seeing movies to write about them.