Saturday, July 31, 2010

Wild Grass (Les herbes folles)

Alain Resnais' "Wild Grass" references its title in (as my friend said) its "pacing." It goes in spurts, some longer than other, often cutting itself off with a blank screen. It has offshoots of (as my friends said) "randomness" to represent this as well. It also has a very, very annoying main character in Georges Palet (André Dussollier), who recalls the main man in "The Seven Year Itch" in his (as my friends said) "obsessive" preoccupation with a woman. His thoughts are not only heard, but there is also a narration that has been suspected by critics to be his that overlays as well. The rhythm and the lead are the film's main problems, and they lead to other ones (including perhaps the seemingly problematic way that that the other characters are seen).

We are first greeted (after some buildings and grass) with a detailed narration of Marguerite's (Sabine Azéma) actions leading up to an "incident" (which is the namesake for the novel that this film is an adaptation of, "The Incident" by Christian Gailly). This happens to be her buying of shoes before she gets her bag and, more importantly, wallet stolen from her. The rollerblading thief apparently leaves it in a faraway parking garage after making off with the money, and this is where Palet finds it. He is driven to call the woman to tell her he's found it, and when she doesn't pick up, to take it to the police station. This is no simple drop, though. He deliberates about it with cop Bernard (Mathieu Almaric) at his side, for one. He also feels imbued with an extreme interest in this woman (partially because, as other critics, IMDb, and sort of the film itself said, she has an interest in planes like he does), one that made me want to groan furiously, as these sort of things are incredibly (as my friend said) cheesy.

As my friends said, Palet has some sort of problem, as he often goes as far as wanting to kill women for not tucking their panties in. He's also promiscuous, as he has the hots for many women, despite having a beautiful wife (Anne Consigny). He's (as they say in the film) "awkward," abrasive and (as my friend said) an "asshole." He doesn't know exactly how to interact with Marguerite. She also doesn't know how to act with him, and needs a sort of male interpreter, who is Bernard the cop.

The film is populated with many (as others said) "fantasies," just like in "The Seven-Year Itch." They're not always quite that (as my friend said) "lame," but sometimes they are. I understand their purpose, but I wish that ways would be found around them. I know, as critics such as Scout Foundas (who called the film "a lucid, luxuriant dream") have said, this is part of the film and its intent, but it's very tiresome.

Like "Seven-Year Itch" found a redeeming quality in Marilyn Monroe, "Wild Grass" has Eric Gautier's amazing cinematography (that I believe Resnais or the interviewer said in a Film Comment interview was "glossed"), especially in (as Nick Davis and my friend said) its "colors" (in this way it echoes the style of a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film, as does the film itself in other ways). If the film hadn't had this to save it (as well the non-jazz sections of Mark Snow's score), there wouldn't be a thing to watch it for.

As my friend describes it, the film sort of "breaks down" towards the end, as (as IMDb poster yris2002 said) it gets "absurd and incomprehensible." The very ending (described Glenn Kenny as "worthy of the final minutes of "2001") is so insane in its abruptness and (as yris2002 said) sheer "absurdity" that I sort of understand it, possibly as an offshoot or something resembling "2001". Then again, one of my friend says it could just be Resnais tacking on "B.S." It will leave many howling with laughter, before it leads into the amateurish done credits that are pretty much appalling for a Cannes Official Competition film. It is one of the worst films of the 2009 edition of the festival. Resnais won a Special Lifetime Achievement award at that time, placed to offset this film's inability to win anything and as a way to, as critics and other festival programmers have done, cover his ass. Because, while it does have a couple of (as they say) "nice moments" and good technical features, "Wild Grass" is a film that (recalling what my friends noted) "crashes like a plane." C-


S M Rana said...

The world is certainly overpopulated where movies are concerned and you render a public service by short-shrifting a good number of avoidable ones. One might have hoped for better from the great Resnais. Scorcese, Godard, Resnais--one can't go by brand names when it comes to films!

Nick Duval said...

I would agree.

That's also true with distributors (like when IFC Films released possibly the worst film of the 2009 Cannes competition, "Looking For Eric") and also with the Cannes Festival, which features a good number of mediocre films every year (although it does have excellent ones, too).

Stephanie said...

Thanks for the honest review. This sounds like an unpleasant, creepy character, but the film could still be interesting if it were handled well. Come to think of it, one of my favorite movies -- As Good As It Gets -- is about an unpleasant, creepy character. :-)