Premièred at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival mere weeks before its director's sudden death at 92, the final film by master filmmaker Alain Resnais (Hiroshima mon amour, Last Year at Marienbad, Muriel, Mélo, Providence) marks his third adaptation, penned by Laurent Herbiet and Alex Reval, of a work by the English playwright Alan Ayckbourn (following Smoking / No Smoking and Private Fears in Public Places).
When the eponymous George Riley, never seen on-screen, discovers he's been diagnosed with a terminal illness, a circle of friends (played by such powerhouses as Sabine Azéma, André Dussollier, and Hippolyte Girardot), rally and spur him to take part in a play (another Ayckbourn work: Relatively Speaking) with the hope of enriching his final months. Soon after, however, George regains his life-force with full verve, and reattracts the women in his group, threatening their own domestic stability.
With hyper-stylised sets nominally located in a fantastical Yorkshire; scene changes announced by cartoons by the French illustrator Blutch; and even an animatronic mole, which critic Cristina Álvarez López describes in her accompanying essay as "not just a merciless metaphor of George winning over death and returning victoriously to life, not only a sharp comment on the general, patronising attitude toward those who are ill [but] also the best example of how fearlessly Resnais approaches the issues of life and death: as a matter of serious playfulness, of charged lightness." It is that charged lightness, ever-present throughout Resnais's body of work, that makes Life of Riley (Aimer, boire et chanter, or To Love, Drink, and Sing) such a thrilling testament. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to release Alain Resnais's (unintentional) swan song in a Dual Format special edition.
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