23 October 2009

Wild Grass

Directed by: Alain Resnais
Written by: Alex Reval & Laurent Herbiet
Full credits at IMDb

The elderly behave like adolescents in Wild Grass (Le Herbes Folles)—that goes not just for the characters, but the director as well. Based on a novel by Christian Gailly—of which the film is so enamored that it relies a bit too heavily on voice-over—the movie revolves around Georges (Andre Dussollier), who recovers a stranger’s stolen wallet and becomes pre-occupied with the owner, Marguerite (Sabine AzĂ©ma), so much so that he starts acting like a 14-year-old boy: he panics over calling her; mails her a letter, changes his mind, and tries to get it back from her mailbox. But soon his puppy crush turns to malicious infatuation, and the film becomes A Comedy of Unhealthy Obsession: he’s leaving rambling messages on her answering machine, sending letters whose pages add up to small stacks. She eventually enlists the police (including Mathieu Amalric) to repel his attentions, after which she becomes interested in him and the obsession begins anew, from the opposite direction.

Renais, an elder statesman of the New Wave who attended a post-screening press conference dressed in an overcoat that recalled another Alain—Monsieur Delon—clearly thinks that’s a bad idea: as her curiosity develops, he fills the screen with red lights, flashing sirens and red-painted sets. Generally, he directs the film with a bubbly and flamboyant style, evoking a youthful Godard or, more contemporarily, Christophe Honore at his exuberant best. Fantasies play out in clouds on the side of the screen, like comic book thought-bubbles; a woman closes a sliding door and reopens it a moment later in a different outfit. The free-spiritedness reflects a love for the old-fashioned magic of moviemaking and filmgoing—as does the occasional use of Franz Waxman’s Twentieth Century Fox theme music. On the surface, Wild Grass is about obsessive romantic love; a bit deeper, it’s about an elderly cineaste’s obsession with the movies. Grade: B+

A dispatch from the 2009 New York Film Festival.


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1 comment:

Richard said...

Just read your review of Wild Grass having seen it today and your review simply nailed it -- but, though it is beyond pretentious and bizarrely incoherent at times, it is Resnais trying at 88 years old to make a whimsical film (and the air conditioning was superb on this 90+ day here in Manhattan) and Georges' wife (who I thought was his daughter) not to be confused with his daughter who comes for an indoor BBQ was way too young for him giving him all those "honeydew" requests to paint this awning and mow the lawn, etc....and why would the policeman recognize him or was that part of his schizoid bipolar personality that led him to erupt on occasion and the two cops were right out of the keystone cops or a British Ealing Studios film --and I assume (and maybe s I shouldn't assume) that the ending is a sort of a tribute to Truffaut's Jules and Jim with a murder/ suicide in a plane this time rather than a car --very bizarre film but love that people like Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Davos take these small parts --something you will rarely see in an American film