Je T’Aime, Je T’Aime (1968)

Je T’Aime, Je T’Aime (1968)

“I love confusion — things that change.”

A suicidal man (Claude Rich) is taken from the hospital to a secret laboratory, where a team of scientists send him back in time to relive a minute of his life — but instead he’s caught in a back-and-forth journey between the lab and his memories of loving a woman named Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot), whose death he feels guilty about.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Alain Resnais Films
  • Flashback Films
  • French Films
  • Science Fiction
  • Suicide
  • Time Travel

Peary lists nearly all of French director Alain Resnais’ pre-1987 feature-length films in his GFTFF, from his debut, Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), to Life Is a Bed of Roses (1983) — but I’ll start by jumping in with a review of his fifth title. Je T’Aime, Je T’Aime falls exactly within the paramaters set forth in Wikipedia’s description of Resnais’s work as “frequently explor[ing] the relationship between consciousness, memory, and the imagination” — and, given that Resnais was known “for devising innovative formal structures for his narratives,” it’s no surprise that this movie jumps back and forth in both time and genre. It begins as a mystery-filled sci-fi flick (what are these scientists up to — and why is Rich so willing to go with them to their laboratory?):

… but eventually shifts towards a non-linear exploration of (Rich’s) memory, guilt, and sense of reality. Certain random scenes from Rich’s past are replayed repeatedly (i.e., a snippet of his snorkeling adventures on the beach):

… while others are merely flashes of conversations or glimpses into his life at work or play:

We never fully understand what happened with his lover Catrine, who was clearly depressed:

… or whether Rich will successfully return from his experimental jaunt through time. It seems he’s stuck in a series of loops — much like his own obsessive thought-process — and we don’t know what’s ultimately in store for him. Your appreciation of this film will depend entirely on your interest in avante garde cinema — i.e., stories more concerned with exploratory impressions and philosophical wonderings than with anything resembling a logical trajectory; though to Resnais’ and co-screenwriter Jacques Sternberg’s credit, the entire affair does cohere.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • A unique storyline and narrative approach

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look for its historical relevance. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Je T’Aime, Je T’Aime (1968)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    Unfortunately, the premise of the film is much more interesting than the way it’s eventually worked out as a shooting script. Rather than what it ends up being (more of a mood piece), it could have been more compelling had it been fleshed out more realistically. A large part of the time-travel conversations are, alas, an unfortunate combination of poetic and absurdist (and, yes, we have no easy time keeping up with what goes on; it becomes not so much a challenge as much as irksome – unless you are really up for the kind of brain-tease that’s particular to this film… which I wasn’t, really).

    Still… several decades later, the film was a noticeable influence on Michel Gondry’s ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ – which (while not a remake) takes a similar approach to playfulness with time and benefits from scenes that are (thankfully) much less poetic and more along the lines of the ways that people actually talk. It becomes a rich experience for viewers because it’s not distancing in its effect.

    ‘Je t’aime’…’ gets to be something of an endurance test as it goes along – and ‘Eternal…’ is quite wonderfully the opposite.

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