Three things to know about… Melo

Alain Resnais and his favorite actors Sabine Azéma, Pierre Arditi and André Dussollier are honored this evening in Place au cinema, presented by Dominique Besnehard on France 5.

The fifth adaptation of a play by Henri Bernstein

Melo depicts a violinist who invites one of his virtuoso friends to dinner without suspecting that he and his wife are going to fall passionately in love with each other. Its director Alain Resnais here adapts a play written by Henry Bernstein (who was also the boss of the Théâtre du Gymnase between 1926 and 1939) in 1929. Long before him, Paul Czinner was the first to bring it to the screen and this three occasions. First in 1932 when he took over the cast of the play – Gaby Morlay in the lead – before signing a German version in the process, Der träumende Mund then to return to it in 1937 with an Anglo-Saxon version, disturbing love. And, in 1953, it was the turn of the Slovak Josef von Baky with The Broken Dream and Maria Schell (who, three years later, won the interpretation prize in Venice for Gervaise). In taking on this piece, Alain Resnais for the first time crossed paths with theatricality and cinema, an aspect that would be central to the rest of his career.

A pivotal film in the career of Alain Resnais

Melo arrived at a particular moment in the career of Alain Resnais. After the box of My uncle from America in 1980 (and its 1.3 million admissions), it had just experienced two setbacks in a row in theaters. first with life is a novel and 300,000 admissions in 1983 then Love to death and its 350,000 spectators a year later. But he approaches this kind of challenge by keeping his confidence already at work in his previous film: Pierre Arditi-Sabine Azéma-André Dussollier and Fanny Ardant. Melo will manage to rise above half a million tickets sold but will especially experience a few months later a very happy Cesar ceremony. Certainly the trophies for best film and director came to reward Therese by Alain Cavalier but Melo left with two statuettes: Sabine Azéma as best actress, notably against Béatrice Dalle (37°2 in the morning) and Juliette Binoche (Bad blood). And Pierre Arditi in second role opposite Jean-Louis Trintignant (The woman of my life) or even Jean Carmet (The fugitives). In his career, Resnais won 3 César for best film (Providence, Tuxedo/ No-tuxedo and We know the song) and 2 for Best Director (Providence and Tuxedo/ No-tuxedo).

The first of the two Alain Resnais-Marin Karmitz collaborations

It’s the first time with Melo that Alain Resnais was working with producer Marin Karmitz. And in this same logic of challenge, the filmmaker had made an agreement with him to shoot the film in just 20 days, a promise he kept. Yet already a seasoned producer of Padre Padrone of the Taviani brothers, Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1977, of Jump into the void by Marcho Bellocchio (with two acting awards on the Croisette for Anouk Aimée and Michel Piccoli) or even Save who can (life) of Jean-Luc Godard, Karmitz will explain that it was from this adventure that he began to be proud of his work. He and Resnais will work together again on I want to go home in 1989.

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