Starring: André Dussollier, Sabine Azéma, Mathieu Amalric
Directed by: Alain Resnais (“Smoking/No Smoking”)
Written by: Laurent Herbiet (“The Colonel”) and Alex Reval (debut)
To say the art-house romance “Wild Grass” (“Les Herbes Folles”) is a confounding piece of work is an understatement. Acclaimed French director Alain Resnais (“Smoking/No Smoking”), who turned 88 years old this past June, has created a fantastical and intimate narrative that might have been more effective if his carefree style wasn’t so meaningless at times.
Upon finding a red wallet in the parking lot, Good Samaritan Georges Palet (André Dussollier) turns it over to the police so they can contact its rightful owner. In most cases, this is where the story would end for any one else in the same situation, but not for Georges. A bizarre infatuation to the woman whom the wallet belongs begins and is too intense to ignore.
The obsession Georges has for Marguerite Muir (Sabine Azéma) isn’t necessarily the type anyone would get a restraining order for. Georges comes off as genuine and kind, but becomes an annoyance to Marguerite with his constant phone calls and letters. Even when he crosses the line and slashes her tires there’s never a sense Marguerite can’t handle her suitor’s strange advances.
Honestly, there’s no real reason why Georges becomes fascinated with Marguerite (it definitely can’t be for her frizzy red hair) unless you take a deep-seated approach and dissect the movie title itself. Georges is married to an attractive younger woman and seems happy enough, but his need to inject himself into Marguerite’s life has more to do with surrendering his heart to a force more powerful than himself than actual love. As the saying goes, “The heart wants what the heart wants.”
Despite the interesting metaphors the film experiments with, “Wild Grass” can’t stand on its own merit. It feels like an inferior version of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 masterpiece “Amélie” with its excess of descriptive narration and whimsical imagery. Director Resnais is excellent at capturing the observational portions of his story, but is graceless when making random choices. It’s like someone taking a scenic route and getting lost on the way.
By the end of the film there have been so many tonal changes we’re not sure exactly what message, if any, Resnais has made clear. “I wanted to talk to you about everything and nothing,” Georges tells Marguerite at one point in the film. What’s funny is that Resnais has shown us the same thing.