I’m a sucker for contemplative sci-fi as well as time travel flicks. I’m also a huge Alain Resnais fan. When Kino announced that they were releasing a restoration of his 1968 sci-fi, time travel feature Je t’aime, je t’aime, it was a cause for celebration. At least for me, anyway. Resnais’ career has really defied categorization from his early documentary work to his work alongside his French New Wave contemporaries and all the way up to his very theatrical work of the past few years, leading up to his death in 2014. His career is vast and, arguably, without peer. And Je t’aime, je t’aime may be his most iconoclastic work.
The basic gist of Resnais’ very playful sci-fi film is that a group of scientists have developed a machine capable of time travel, although it has only proven to transport mice so far. Naturally, they need a human to test it out. They find one in Claude (Claude Rich), who agrees to go back in time one year for the duration of one minute. And then everything goes wrong, as it usually does, leaving Claude to repeat moments of his life perpetually. It’s pretty bonkers stuff, sort of like a Francophile, all-too-60s version of Groundhog Day.
What really sets Je t’aime, je t’aime apart from the vast majority of time travel (and arguably sci-fi in general) is how much of an emphasis is put on romance. Most of what Claude has to repeat in his newfound time loop, concerns his ex, Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot), which is bittersweet and poses questions of loss, possession and – obviously – time. Visually, the film is a treat. With a pop-art aesthetic and a variety of effects used to portray the repetition and/or disruption of time. The structure is likely to be the most alienating aspect but it is, after all, from the man who gave us Last Year at Marienbad. However you choose to approach it, Je t’aime, je t’aime is sincere sci-fi cinema with a romantic slant from one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live. I mean, why wouldn’t you watch this?
This release is of the recent restoration done by Eclair. The result of the 2K scan and work done to restore the film is rather exceptional. The grain structure is organic, blacks are deep and colors are vibrant. I couldn’t see any overt damage or compression issues either. This is really clean, very filmic, and an altogether top notch job by Eclair and Kino. Audio is in the form of a DTS HD MA 2.0 track and fares just as well. The score and dialogue are balanced and everything is clean and faithful to the source.
Supplements start with a nice booklet featuring an essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum both about the film and Resnais himself. It’s a great read, but do so after viewing the film. The rest of the supplements are basically all interviews, in various ways. The first is a video interview with Claude Rich which runs about fifteen minutes. It discusses making the film, working with Resnais and the content of the film itself. Next is an audio only interview with Resnais that runs thirteen minutes and goes a lot more into the history of the production, it’s a very worthwhile listen for Resnais fans. Lastly, there’s an archival piece where screenwriter Jacques Sternberg talks with film historian Francois Thomas about the film, concerning mainly the content of the story.
Je t’aime, je t’aime has long been rather hard to see and has existed mostly as a curiosity in Resnais’ career. Thanks to the restoration of Eclair and this Blu-ray release by Kino, it’s finally here and available in all of its glory. The film itself is a clever attempt at mashing up romance and sci-fi within the veneer of a time travel story rendered gorgeous and playful by Resnais, and the disc features a stunning A/V presentation complemented by some very worthwhile supplements. Highly recommended.