No Straight Romance
Director Alain Resnais, aged 87 at the time of the release of Wild Grass, knows exactly what he's doing, which makes his latest film all the more fascinating and, frankly, maddening. Not beholden to storytelling conventions in the slightest (in case anyone needs a reminder, this was the man who made Last Year at Marienbad), Resnais exercises his right and well-earned freedom to play with ideas that don't need to lead anywhere, instead manifesting themselves as memorable moments of observations, whimsy, reversals, and humor.
There is a story here: elder fellow Georges (André Dussollier) picks up the stolen-and-discarded wallet of dentist Marguerite (Sabine Azéma) and fancies that the act of returning her property may lead to... well, something exciting. A romance, maybe? (He's married, but that doesn't seem to bother him.) He ends up awkwardly stalking her, which disturbs Marguerite, of course, until the tables are turned and she finds herself unable to let go of her own fascination. Before anyone gets the wrong idea, a straight romance is definitely not where this film is headed -- more accurately, we follow these characters as they stumble along the plot as if they know what the goal should be but don't have a map for it. They act rather randomly and unreasonably, driven by something that could be described as passion if the events weren't so confounding.
Resnais is having fun here, possibly at the expense of audiences who demand tradition, though the purveying mood is one of amusement rather than of malice. His scenes are thoughtfully composed with bold uses of color, emphasizing an artificiality. Wild Grass could be called a very "conscientious" film -- I might've found it more embraceable were I able to get lost in it, the way I can with the dreamlike Marienbad. As it is, Wild Grass reminds the viewer over and over that these characters are doing things on the whims of what can only be a writer, less interested in the animal logic of people than with their capability for, shall we say, animal illogic.
(Released by Sony Pictures Classics and rated "PG" for some thematic materia, language ad brief smoking.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.