Wild Grass

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 December, 2010, 12:00am

Wild Grass
Andre Dussollier, Sabine Azema, Anne Consigny, Mathieu Amalric
Director: Alain Resnais

Alain Resnais was 87 when he made Wild Grass, but it hardly shows. Based on Christian Gailly's novel L'Incident, the veteran French filmmaker's 20th feature is an inventive romp that instills intrigue and plentiful visual experimentation into what on the surface appears to be a comedy about the obsessions of two middle-aged eccentrics.

After picking up a lost wallet on the street, the seemingly ordinary and happily married Georges Palet (Andre Dussollier) finds himself infatuated with its owner, Marguerite Muir (Sabine Azema), a dentist who counts flying vintage planes as her main hobby.

The first half of the film sees Palet bombarding Muir with letters and phone calls. His fixation forces Palet to revisit an episode from his past - with hints about it possibly being something criminal. A visit from two police officers (the remarkably deadpan Mathieu Amalric and Michel Vuillermoz) reverses the relationship, and it becomes Muir's turn to pester Palet endlessly for attention.

Lightweight as the plot might sound, Wild Grass is best seen as a mood piece resembling a midsummer night's dream. The story unfolds with the constant aural presence of a narrator (Edouard Baer) as if Resnais is presenting the narrative as an improvised product of this unseen individual - threads suddenly come to a halt and are revisited from another perspective.

It's valid to ask why, for example, Palet's wife (Anne Consigny) doesn't react that much to her husband's obsession. It's equally justified to question Muir's sudden mental collapse, which leads her to neglect nearly all her professional duties as she embarks on an intense, stalker-like existence.

Such incoherence, however, is amply compensated by Resnais' trademark off-kilter cinematic tropes, from the reverie-like dolly-shots of a pillar-strewn arcade (a reprise of that contemplative sequence of a manor's ceilings in Last Year in Marienbad) to the rapid-fire editing which breaks up the detectives' interrogation of Palet. It's such mastery in subverting screen norms that makes Wild Grass as much a surprise as the subject in the film's title - the vegetation which sprouts from the cracks of pavements and walls. Resnais has again delivered an interesting work, if not a masterpiece.

Extras: trailer, documentary.