Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wild Grass (2009, Alain Resnais)

Well, now that that’s out of the way… After the lovely and relatively straightforward Not on the Lips and Private Fears in Public Places, Resnais is back to the head-scratchers of old with his latest film, Wild Grass. I suppose that what really perplexed me about this is how little I was prepared for it. Perhaps it was the other recent Resnais works, or maybe it’s just my general experience with aged filmmakers, but I was blindsided how strange a moviegoing experience this was. What’s more, the opening minutes of the film do almost nothing to prepare one for the rest of it- the first couple of scenes, in which Resnais’ eternal flibbertigibbet-muse Sabine Azema heads to her favorite shoe boutique to buy new shoes for her oddly-shaped feet only to have her handbag swiped immediately after, could have led off any number of whimsical rom-coms.

From that point, Resnais only gradually reveals how odd things are in the film’s world, beginning with his use of voiceover narration to describe the sinister thoughts (fantasies? Memories?) of male lead Andre Dussolier. Eventually, Wild Grass reveals itself as one of the fou-est tales of l’amour to hit the screen in a long, long time. Most love stories between crazy people de-emphasize how deeply troubled they are in favor of warm-fuzzy sentiments about misunderstood loners finding each other, but Resnais isn’t interested in sentiment. Instead, he lets Dussolier’s actions become increasingly inappropriate (slashing her tires, for example) before he finally gets a tongue-lashing from the local police and goes back on good behavior. Then, all of a sudden, Azema decides she wants him too, and goes off her own deep end.

What to make of it? I’m honestly not sure. What I do know is that I want to re-visit this movie more than damn near any other I’ve seen so far this year (that it’s bloody gorgeous helps too). Maybe what was needed was for me to sit through it that initial time, to wipe away whatever expectations I might have had for the film. And now that I know better what’s coming, up through that final shift in narrative direction, I should be able to better appreciated what Resnais does. Thus, the rating below should be considered even more provisional than usual.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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